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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

RSS / Atom, feeds and advertising vs feed readers and advertising

posted: Dec 1, 2004 3:39:05 AM

Somebody was talking about sticking ads in RSS / Atom files as a way of making money off some of the eyeballs that used to visit websites, but now read those sites via RSS. This didn't stick to my brain, but then this different thought fell out.

It seems like the future of ads in relation to RSS is not in the files, but in the file readers, aka feed readers. The makers of feed readers will sell advertising (this is something like what TiVo is doing, right?).

Ads in the files will get stripped out by folks who don't want them. And, folks also will use ad-free readers to avoid said ads. But, for anyone who would tolerate or be given incentive to view ads, the point of interaction is in the reader itself.

I'm basically suggesting that the reader is the place to contextually select, visually arrange, and track the ads that are placed. By attempting to control all this with data shoved in the RSS / Atom file, I think, the spirit of RSS is violated.

As I've ruminated about before, one liability of historical RSS is that it's described and hyped in publisher-centric terminology. So, in this vein, advertising is being looked at in relation to the publishers of RSS / Atom files.

But, RSS is powerful because it is reader-centric. And, I think, if folks can tolerate or be given incentive to view ads while they are reading RSS / Atom files, in the spirit of RSS, they'll nevertheless want to have a lot of control along the lines of the ways in which they customize their feed readers or use different readers for different sites or on different devices, etc.

As a business idea, website publishers and bloggers might assert their rights to keep their "feeds" read in an ad free manner, or to otherwise be paid for the permission for ads to be rendered with their contents. I don't know if publishers have strong enough legal rights to assert this legally, but there might be some derivative work copyright protection that could act as a card in the publishers hand.

For the feed reader software creators, they might well preemptively define a business relationship whereby websites with RSS / Atom files can elect to allow ads mixed in with the display of their contents, and the publishers would be paid for that permission with a split of the ad revenue.

There are certainly some uninspiring precedents of reader / viewer hosted advertising (the free version of the Opera browser, and the RealOne media player spring to mind). But, to my knowledge, none of these readers has included ads with a reader-centric (or viewer-centric) service in mind.

Anyway, I don't think folks with RSS / Atom files on their websites are in the best position to figure out advertising with RSS. It's really the business of the readers (human and software).

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trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Jan 17, 2005 8:41:51 PM
title: Aggregation piracy and playlist artistry

More recently, I've also noted how I think the commercial / advertising role will shift from publishers to aggregators in my post, RSS / Atom, feeds and advertising vs feed readers and advertising.

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