Home JupiterResearch Blogging: RSS Readers: Part 3

JupiterResearch Blogging: RSS Readers: Part 3

This is my final post on the JupiterResearch report entitled RSS
Readers: Addressing Market Opportunities with an Innovative News Medium
(here are Part 1 and Part 2). I’ve enjoyed this
chance to analyse the analysts and I’m keen to do it again. I wonder if other Analyst
companies would be willing to do a similar thing?

So in Part 1 I reviewed how the RSS Readers report explained what RSS is and in
Part 2 I talked about the statistics. It only remains for me to look at JupiterResearch’s
recommendations and Key Finding.

Application RSS Integration Will Spur Adoption, but Uptake Will Be Hindered by
Conflicting Formats

That’s the header for the final passage of this report. They start off with the

“Integration of RSS reading functionality into mainstream applications is driving RSS

By “mainstream applications”, they mean Microsoft’s Longhorn – which is “expected to
include a desktop-based RSS reader” – and free browsers such as Firefox. According to the
report, this spells bad news for small vendors: 

“However, the integration of RSS readers into desktop software and the availability of
free online services places pressure on smaller vendors selling RSS applications to
consumers. These vendors must differentiate their products in such a way that the cost is

This reminds me a post that Bob Wyman of PubSub
wrote recently
. He voiced similar concerns, particularly about Microsoft. Bob Wyman

“I’ve regularly argued against PubSub investing too much in aggregator development
since it is inevitable that Microsoft would eventually blow away whatever we

I suspect that PubSub would count as one of the
“small vendors” that JupiterResearch refers to, even though they’re more than a simple
RSS Newsreader. Perhaps PubSub, and other products like it, will be able to differentiate
enough… or perhaps not. It depends on what the 100-pound gorilla decides to do. Either
way JupiterResearch’s warning to small vendors is well justified. 

Excerpted RSS Feeds

The report then turns its attention to Content Providers and recommends that “content
sites should give away only what they need to in order to drive traffic to the site.” In
other words, publish excerpted feeds and not full content feeds. Jupiter’s
position is that RSS feeds are a complement to the web site. 

Of course I think that is a decidedly Web 1.0 view of the world. In Web 2.0 the RSS
feed is more likely to be where the value proposition is, rather than the website. This
will be especially so when RSS goes mainstream, but I think we’re beginning to see this
even now. Admittedly the audience of this report is marketing and business folk, who
still think the Web world revolves around the website. And perhaps it still does from a
B2C perspective, at least until RSS use increases well past the 12% figure that was given earlier in the report (see Part 2 of my

Nevertheless I would’ve liked to see JupiterResearch try and educate people about the
(future) value of the feed – and that it is increasingly replacing the site as the point of
content consumption for users. My point here is that in Web 2.0, RSS feeds are not only a
means of leading people to your website. RSS feeds in many cases will usurp the

Plus there are downsides to excerpted feeds that weren’t covered in the report – for
example it’s less convenient and more time-consuming for your readers, because they have to open a new browser window and wait for images to load etc. That’s not to say
that full-content feeds would necessarily be better than excerpted ones for business
people reading this report, but driving traffic to a website may be just one of a number
of goals for Content Producers. Another goal could be to ensure as many people read your
content as possible, in which case I’d recommend full-content feeds.

RSS Formats

The last paragraph of the report focused on that old chestnut of conflicting RSS
formats. The RSS War – that’s, like, so 2002/03 for us web geeks. But of course for
non-geeks, it’s still an important issue. So I understand why JupiterResearch included
it. They write:

“The key obstacle facing RSS is posed by the multiple standards that exist either
under the RSS moniker or as a replacement technology. The multiple variations of RSS
threaten to fragment the marketplace and hold back the adoption of RSS. Vendors in this
space must come together and support a single standard.”

Once again Microsoft is cast as the Big Bad Wolf, because the report warns that they
or another large player could “usurp control of the standard and push the industry into a
proprietary variant of RSS.”

I agree this is a risk, but frankly there is very little chance that vendors will
“come together” over RSS and sing John Lennon songs around a Foo Camp fire.
Some of them don’t even get invited to Foo Camp! 🙂 RSS 2.0 is now entrenched as the
main RSS format, but there will always be Content Producers that use RSS 1.0 for its
metadata qualities (government departments for example) and there will be more and more
Content Producers that utilise the new tricks Atom has up its sleeves. Vendors of RSS
Newsreaders have to accommodate all of those people, so they’ll continue to support all
the main formats.

Key Findings

Back to the front page and the Key Finding. It’s probably most illuminating if I paste
all the text:

“A JupiterResearch survey shows 56 percent of RSS users are over age 35. Seventy-five
percent of RSS users have used the Internet for more than two years. Vendors of
newsreaders and producers of RSS news feeds must continue to target this audience, while
simultaneously evangelizing the benefits of RSS to less sophisticated Internet

It’s pretty clear then that RSS is still in early adopter phase, as only 12% of online
consumers use RSS feeds according to this report. But the last sentence hints that we are
entering a stage where mainstream users are being introduced to RSS feeds. So the report
recommends to evangalize the benefits of RSS to new people.

This report covered the main aspects of evangalism: touting RSS as an alternative to
email and web surfing, encouraging easy set up and subscription to feeds (e.g. lose the
orange XML button), use excerpted feeds to drive traffic to the web site, and agree on
the RSS 2.0 standard. I don’t agree with all of those things, but for mainstream people
it’s solid – if a little conservative – advice. 

Personally I would’ve liked the report to be a bit bolder and outline some of the
emerging benefits of RSS, in the Web 2.0 world we’re in now. For example: using RSS you can
track topics, personal
information, business data and events (among other

But I guess it’s up to bloggers like me to do that kind of evangalizing! 😉

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