Full Feeds Financially Fruitful For Now

Like most online publishers, SitePoint has feeds (RSS and other formats) for most of its content. Also like most online publishers, SitePoint has struggled with the choice of how much content to put into its feeds: headlines only, summaries, snippets or the full content of each item. At the end of the day, we have chosen to strike a compromise, with our blog feeds offering full content while our other feeds (articles, forums, etc.) offer more limited content.

Robert Scoble today spelled out the advantages of full-content feeds. His argument goes like this:

For the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the users of RSS aggregators are the power users, journalists and other information addicts of the world. These people don’t generally click on ads unless they are very, very targetted. So if your revenue comes from advertising, you’re not actually missing out on any significant revenue by providing full content feeds that allow these readers to bypass the advertising on your site. Putting ads in your feeds doesn’t generally work for the same reason.

Taking the cynical view, if these readers aren’t clicking on ads, why should you even want to cater for them? Because they generate traffic for you, that’s why. The same power users who use RSS aggregators also make use of social bookmarking services like del.icio.us, post links on sites like digg, or even editorialize on their own blogs. All of these activities put links to your site in front of the masses of people who do respond to advertising.

In short, make it easy for the information-addicted power users of the world to access your content through their feed readers, and you’ll be buying yourself lots of targetted, click-happy traffic.

The utopian view is that feed readers are moving towards mainstream adoption, and the day that happens this argument will no longer stand up. But Scoble thinks–and I agree–that day is still several years away.

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  • http://www.dustindiaz.com polvero

    I can remember back when my boss told me his reasons against RSS entirely. The idea was that if someone can get content from your site without actually having to visit the site, it would mess up the ad model and in fact they would receive less traffic and the user would be missing out on all the other things the site had to offer.

    This brings up the question of whether or not you’re putting up good content to begin with…

    Anyway, that’s all side track. Offering Full RSS feeds vs limitted summaries only becomes an issue if you’re relying heavily on ads as a source of revenue. Even if you decide to put ads within your feeds, not all aggregators will honor them (Eg. Yahoo! Publisher Network, Google Adsense).

    With feeds becoming more popular, we may need to rethink how pay-per-click is actually going to work in the future.

  • http://www.realityedge.com.au mrsmiley

    Even if you decide to put ads within your feeds, not all aggregators will honor them (Eg. Yahoo! Publisher Network, Google Adsense).

    What is meant by this statement? Honour in terms of paying out click charges?

  • WarpNacelle

    If someone is going to subscribe to a sites RSS feed they are obviously interested in the content it provides. (Exactly why I have SitePoints feeds) so I look at RSS as a way to easily keep your site right in front of somebody and an alert them to come back for more of the content they want. I thinks it’s a very valuable marketing tool for repeat visits.

    It doesn’t make sense to me to have someone be able to read the content on your site without actually having to visiting it.

  • http://boyohazard.net Octal

    Scoble has summed it up nicely. I am definately one of those info addicted power user that only clicks on ads if they are “very, very targetted”

    I subscribe to SP’s blog feeds but I am also on here almost every day and though I haven’t blogged on anything for a while I have editorialised on occasion.

  • http://www.ambientchill.com s|k

    The truth is that people are going to have to find new ways to advertise, and that not everyone one will be able to support themselves with ads. Instead peppering the periphery of your content with random ads, more than likely you’ll have product placement with in the feed of the ad itself. For instance an entire post just about a product that the content producer is paid to shill for. This violates the pay-per-click model, but for high traffic feeds I see this as a viable way to generate revenue. The other thing is: I have so much adblocking software (I don’t even see Google ads) that it wouldn’t make a difference if went to your site or not, I still wouldn’t see the ads.

  • bishfish

    “For the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the users of RSS aggregators are the power users, journalists and other information addicts of the world. These people don’t generally click on ads unless they are very, very targetted.”

    This assumption is made with absolutely no evidence to support it whatsoever. What is worse, is the unstated implication that anyone who is not a computer power user, Journalist, etc., click on ads that are not tightly targeted, because they are somehow less discerning perhaps, or less intelligent? But that is an unsupported assumption, as silly as Mr. Scobles.

    I can find absolutely no evidence to support even remotely the contention that different groups of people react to advertising in ways differnet to other groups – if it is not targetted the message is lost regardless of the viewers situation.

  • http://www.dustindiaz.com polvero

    What I meant by honoring feeds is that they won’t in fact display them in the Feed Readers, eg: They just don’t show them, so there’s nothing to click on.

  • Anonymous

    For instance an entire post just about a product that the content producer is paid to shill for.

    And when they start doing that I’ll abandon their site completely ;)

  • Lee

    Definitely in favor of full feeds! Check out http://www.fullfeeds.com/

  • Val

    Have a look at entopica (http://www.entopica.com/), an online system that allows you to easily access, categorize, share and store your bookmarks online.It is free to join and registration is both quick and easy. Discover a whole new world of social bookmarking.