The Commercialization of RSS

The future of newsfeeds: Trackable RSS.

The biggest drawback to the commercial exploitation of RSS feeds — items from blogs and other websites, parceled up and delivered to users who request them — is that there’s no easy way for the producers of the RSS material to know very much about what their customers are doing with it — even, in many cases, how many people are subscribing. This could all change, thanks to IMN.

IMN, Inc., a ‘direct marketing company’, has come up with a tool (afraid no URL yet available for this) that “transforms an RSS feed from a one-way news stream into a two-way marketing tool that lets marketers and feed subscribers learn from each other”. I’ve read the press release several times and I don’t quite understand how this works, but I think they’re pushing it to call it a “Trackable RSS Feed Capability”.

What I think happens is that the user can click on an item in an RSS feed in whatever aggregator (a program for reading and collecting RSS feeds) which will then take the user to a webpage for the whole document. It’s there, I think, that the tracking bit kicks in. Or as the press release puts it, “Marketers can then use IMN’s content tracking and reporting capabilities to learn subscribers’ preferences, segment them accordingly and then respond with even more relevant and meaningful content that the subscriber will welcome and value.”

All this, the press release says, would involve some significant tracking — read monitoring — of the user’s habits, including giving “each subscriber a unique identifier so that IMN’s reporting engines can track and analyze individual behavior. Marketers can then respond to individual subscribers via the feed, email, or the companion microsite using IMN’s dynamic content capabilities with truly personalized information and messaging based on the learning.” That does sound a bit like the end of RSS as we know it: Anonymous, untainted, anarchic.

I guess it’s inevitable (and somewhat hypocritical of me, given I make use of Amazon’s excellent software to guess what I might be interested in) but I still kind of hope that the pioneering sense of goodwill among the RSS and Blogging community may linger a little longer. But as IMN say, “marketers consider aggregator service subscribers who sign up for RSS feeds highly qualified target audiences.” That, and the fact there’s no spam filters on RSS feeds, make us a very desirable front lawn to park on.

23. February 2004 by jeremy
Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 comments

Comments (5)

  1. Pingback: Lockergnome's RSS Resource

  2. Pingback: PR meets the WWW

  3. Tracking of RSS Feeds is no big deal, if your feed is generated by some kind of server-side script (ie: ASP, PHP, JSP).

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but i’m assuming that MOST newsfeeds are generated dynamically by some kind of server-side script connected to a database.

    For a web developer, it’s a pretty trivial task to build in a tracking system that records ip addresses, types of browser, and times and numbers of hits into a dynamically-generated rss file!

    I know, because I’ve done it!

  4. Tom:

    [[i’m assuming that MOST newsfeeds are generated dynamically by some kind of server-side script connected to a database.]]

    One would think. 😉 But based on my research, that’s not the case. Most systems I’ve come in contact with don’t serve RSS dynamically – instead, they generate static RSS documents. Most weblog tools are in this category. There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach, but for our platform (targeting mostly km solutions for enterprises) we believe a dynamic approach is more useful and embraces the semi-real-time value of knowledge syndication. Plus, our platform supports a permissions context for every item in a feed (i.e., depending on your credentials, you see a feed exactly as it has been permitted to you).

    >>> For a web developer, it’s a pretty trivial task to build in a tracking system that records ip addresses, types of browser, and times and numbers of hits into a dynamically-generated rss file! <<< Agree, but there are likely to be requirements beyond this such as - - did a user view a headline? - how long did they view the headline - some users have multiple readers running on the same feeds - how many of the requests are unique individuals? Some RSS users demand full content eliminating the need to cick through to a web page. Some RSS feeds require security -- not just at the feed level, but at the item level. And then there's feed splicing and other RSS acrobatics needed for marketing purposes and you start to get into the devilish details.

  5. I think when he [Tom] says, “generated dynamically”, he means the same as you. Meaning that the end user doesn’t hand code the RSS but that Blogger, MT, etc. generate the RSS.