Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Is RSS Dead?

Is RSS, the backbone of content distribution online, tapped out from broader consumer standpoint?

According to Forrester Research it is:

With only 11% of consumers using RSS, and of the remaining 89% of those who don’t use RSS feeds, only 17% of them saying they are interested in using them in the future, it looks like broadly distributed online content has a dark future.

However, I have to take a different tack then Steve Rubel or Forrester on this.  If I were to survey US consumers right after World War II on whether they think they would use a television, and for those who don’t, do they think they would in the future, I’d probably get roughly the same data back as Forrester got on RSS.

I agree that RSS is a geeky term and most of the broader base of the US public still don’t use RSS readers.

But just like Apple was able to use consumer insights to make music downloads and the mobile internet interesting to the broader public, and Google was able to make search engines decidedly not techie, I think there is a great opportunity for someone to take all the content currently available in RSS format and make it as easy to access as the evening news on TV.

RSS in its current form may not be the answer, but that doesn’t mean we should be reading its obituary.

10 comments

1 The Real Paul M. Banas { 10.22.08 at 12:02 pm }

RSS lives! I don’t know if it was meant to be a consumer application, but it is very strong for it’s original intention of Really Simple Syndication. We at GreatDad use it to power widgets filled with dad news and tips, and also to syndicate our parenting news articles directly into Google news. RSS will be strong until something else replaces it as an easy to use tool. Whether it ever goes beyond a geekster audience is another question.

2 Paul M. Banas { 10.22.08 at 8:10 pm }

@the real Paul M. Banas who does not live in Wisconsin
I agree it’s real simple, but I continually meet very smart people whose eyes glaze over whenever the topic comes up.

I think this is a great opportunity for the Googles, Apples, Microsofts, and Yahoos of this world to sit down with consumers and develop something that makes RSS like falling off a log. Then its relevancy will be able to move beyond the geekster audience.

3 The Real Paul M. Banas { 10.23.08 at 11:43 am }

So, now it’s down to the “real” Paul Banas based on geography. This is a Palin-esque distinctions. We are all Paul M. Banases no matter where we live!

I agree – for consumers, it’s all about how to make relevant in their lives and completely invisible. In marketing speak, consumers want the RSS benefit and less about the technology behind it. RSS makes it easy to put filtered news in people’s hands where they don’t expect it. Think newsfeed on your Wii, or Google alerts on “Paul M. Banas” sent to your phone, or news sites like Topix.com.

I worked at Yahoo when things like this had to all be done manually, and completely invisible to the consumer.

4 Paul M. Banas { 10.23.08 at 9:58 pm }

@The Real Paul M. Banas
Good points. I think Yahoo! could really use your help nowadays. And after them, you can provide advice to the Palin handlers.

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[...] I can’t tell you how wrong-headed so many interpretations of Forrester’s recent report are (Paul gets it right in this link). RSS is not dead. It’s simply buried so deep that most [...]

6 RSS is Dead, Long Live RSS { 08.29.09 at 7:16 am }

[...] and only 19% of those who didn’t had any interest in using it in the future.  Then again, as Paul Banas noted, “If I were to survey US consumers right after World War II on whether they think they [...]

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[...] it really? There is some truth to it. This is just a subjective impression though. Statistics indicated already a year ago that RSS is not really popular. Fred Wilson or rather a commenter on [...]

8 Heidi Cool { 09.23.09 at 5:34 pm }

RSS isn’t dead. It’s actively used by people everyday. It’s just that most of them don’t know they are using it. While it is probably true that only a fraction of us subscribe to blogs and other feeds in RSS Readers that’s only one way to use RSS.

When someone subscribes to a podcast in iTunes it was probably delivered via RSS. When Web designers repurpose content, for instance by listing the lasted blog headlines on the home page of a Web site, they are often using RSS.

Feeds are being consumed but consumers just don’t know what technology is making this happen. On a simpler level many Web users don’t even know what Web browser they are using. They just know that they click something to connect to the Internet.

Given that, it doesn’t seem particularly informative to ask consumers about it. One might as well ask the general public whether string theory will be the unifying theory for physics. Most of us simply don’t know enough about the topic to give reasoned input.

9 Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with 'sketch') { 09.25.09 at 7:08 pm }

First, I really wish people would get the difference between “disinterested” (meaning impartial) and “uninterested” (lacking interest) straight.

Second, you’re quite right about geeky terms. As Shel Holtz likes to point out, most people who use e-mail don’t think of themselves as using “SMTP”. People use RSS without having the faintest idea that they’re doing so.

10 My 2009 Predictions & Recap « Fresh Ground Communications { 11.17.09 at 6:45 am }

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