Fliptop, a new content subscription service, is one of several companies presenting at this week's DEMO conference in Palm Springs. Among a large group of startups, this was one of the first to catch my eye, making me think "wow, I need that!" In short, what Fliptop offers is a simple way to subscribe to a website's content. But unlike traditional RSS feeds, which just offer a direct feed which must be added to an RSS reader like Google Reader or FeedDemon, Fliptop's service provides more features, like the option to filter content by keyword, follow only select topics or categories and the ability to receive email digests of the just content you're interested in.

For Web Publishers

The Fliptop service is available in two formats - one designed for website publishers and another designed for web surfers. The first provides an embeddable button that publishers can add to their site. When clicked, this button prompts the user as to which topics they want to follow. A sports site could set it up so fans could just check boxes next to their favorite team names, for instance. Another option below the checkboxes lets you further refine the content you choose by keyword filters. So, here on ReadWriteWeb.com, for example, you could follow news about "mobile, real-time web, apple" etc. (Keywords are separated by commas).

After picking your options, you click "Next" and then choose how you want to be alerted - either via a traditional RSS feed or by email, Twitter, Facebook, or SMS text. If choosing the email option, you can even configure how often you want to be alerted - once per day, once a week or immediately.

For Consumers

However, you don't have to rely on publishers to begin using Fliptop before you can try it. A browser bookmarklet is available which lets you drag-and-drop a Fliptop button to your web browser's bookmarks. Click the new "Subscribe" button it creates when you're on any page that has an RSS feed (look for the orange icon in the address bar of your browser). When clicked, you can configure how you want to follow that site. At the moment, your only options here are email or RSS.

The service is simple, incredibly easy to use and useful for anyone who feels overwhelmed by their news feeds. (Gadget blog readers, rejoice! This product is perfect for you!).

The only downside to the service as it stands right now is that it requires you to fill out CAPTCHAs when signing up. These spam blocking tools force you to type in the blurry words you see into a text box before confirming your subscription. And if requesting an email subscription, you then have to click yet another confirmation sent to you via email to assure Fliptop that you really did want to subscribe. We appreciate that the company is looking out for us, but two confirmations is at least one too many for what should be a speedier service, in our opinion.

Will Fliptop Make Website Subscriptions More Mainstream?

The real question now is whether something like Fliptop will encourage more people to follow a website's content via an automated mechanism, be it a customized, filtered RSS feed or an email digest. The idea of subscribing to a website directly via an RSS feed is one that, for whatever reason, never quite caught on with the general public. However, those same folks probably use RSS without even knowing it - like when they follow their favorite blog on Facebook, for example. The updates they track there are, in most cases, automated via RSS technology.

Fliptop could potentially reach these same sort of non-technical users too, thanks to its simple terminology (publisher buttons say "follow" not "subscribe"), a clean layout and easily understandable filtering options. Now it's just a matter of waiting to see if any web publishers pick this up and place it on their site.