RSS Kills the Publishing Star

18Jun07
clipped from jeremylatham.com

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It should come as no shock to learn that traditional media is in the middle of an extensive restructuring phase. Revenue that traditionally came in large part from individual subscribers and newsstand purchasers has dropped dramatically after consumers grew increasingly aware of online content sources that offer up news and commentary for free. Today advertising is one of the most important revenue streams that keeps traditional media afloat and [hopefully] profitable. However, what happens when consumers really begin to latch on to RSS as a means to get their content?

Online advertising revenue is based on page views and clicks; Every time a unique visitor refreshes his/her page or, even better, clicks on an ad while navigating through a site, the content publisher (nytimes.com, wsj.com…) is compensated by advertisers.RSS, however, allows users to pull feeds into readers on external platforms like Google Reader. In my own Reader, I monitor news and content updates without ever having to refer to the original publishers’ site unless I want to go directly to a page with the full text of the article, blog, etc. This means, I can either be satisfied with snippets of news and never go to the publishers’ site for the full text or I can eliminate multiple page views by being brought directly to my desired article’s page without fumbling through search or navigation menus. This means I am one user who will either not be generating any page views at all or will generate significantly less than I did in the past. If more people really adopt RSS (a feature publishers not only do not discourage but proactively serve up to web readers) and get use to reading only snippets of news on external sites or going directly to a single destination on a publishers’ sites, I wonder what will happen to the already taxed business models of these publishers.




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