David Fletcher is talking about advertising in RSS feeds and says:

If some entrepreneurs have their way, it won't be long until RSS feeds are filled with advertisements - just another commercial channel like html, email, etc.  I just don't want them to find a way to force their subsciptions upon me as another spam channel.  Moveable type spam was bad enough and I don't have time to figure out how to block everything.

I've been thinking about this a lot in the last few months (big surprise, right?). I'm of two minds on the issue.

  1. Publishers who depend primarily on advertising to make a living should offer two feeds: a summary-only feed without ads and a full-content feed with ads. That leaves the choice up to the user.
  2. I don't want to have to choose between ad-laden full-content feeds and the pain in the ass summary only feeds. Anyone whose ever tried to catch up on their reading while on an airplane or train gets this.

But if television, radio, print media, e-mail, and the web at large have taught us anything it's that we're going to end up with #1 if we're lucky. Realistically, I expect the majority of publishers not to bother offering a no-ads summary feed.

There's a part of me that's waiting to see how the web-based aggregators like Bloglines react. Do they try blocking the ads? Inserting their own? Charging subscription feeds? Work out revenue sharing agreements with Feedburner and the other RSS ad networks that are sure to pop up?

We'll see.

Maybe I'm just cynical about all this, but something tells me I'm right. I just hope we get to enjoy this relatively ad-free time while it lasts. And I hold out hope that most bloggers will be able to resist the temptation.

Posted by jzawodn at November 23, 2004 09:58 PM

Reader Comments
# Jon Gales said:

Over at MobileTracker I'm serving up RSS ads via Overture/FeedBurner. This is a recent development in the last week or so, but when the ads went into the feed I upgraded it to fulltext. Readers want full text, but now they see text ads. These are targeted, and since I post longer stories, you shouldn't see too many of them in a row (even in a reader like bloglines that puts all the posts in a window).

I am interested in feedback from readers--so far I haven't heard any good or bad, but the feed has grown by a 100 readers or so.

on November 23, 2004 10:21 PM
# Brad Fitzpatrick said:

We had this discussion awhile back in lj_dev.... talking about whether we should start killing ads in RSS feeds (like the ones for The Register that promote books, etc.).

Hairy subject.

on November 23, 2004 11:03 PM
# jim winstead said:

perhaps something that folks like feedburner should be jumping on in addition to the cram-ads-in-rss capability is the manage-paid-rss-subscriptions capability. surely some people would be willing to pay a modest amount for ad-free full-content feeds (not necessarily a tiny micropayment amount, but something in the range that can be profitably processed with the existing credit-card/paypal infrastructure).

on November 23, 2004 11:21 PM
# Neil T. said:

Your idea about only enclosing advertising in full content feeds is a good one. The bandwidth necessary for a feed with 5 items only containing a summary is negligable. And, of course, if you run advertising on your site, then users will see the ads anyway.

I think forcing ads on entries where only the summary is shown is one sure-fire way to make people unsubscribe. Whereas in email unsubscribing can be somewhat less than straightforward, with RSS it only takes a couple of clicks of the mouse and so people are more likely to do it if they're not happy with a feed.

on November 24, 2004 12:51 AM
# justin said:

"Anyone whose ever tried to catch up on their reading while on an airplane or train gets this"

As the years go by, I'm starting to miss the original Pointcast more and more. No multiple different feed types, different news aggregators or apps - just a simple pull client, where i subscribed to channels , the content of which was "pushed" to me (for later off-line reading on the train home...). Simple.

on November 24, 2004 04:57 AM
# Derek Scruggs said:

Google AdSense has been a boon to small publishers. I know some folks who went from near-penniless to making LOTS of money from AdSense. If they ever offer ads in RSS, expect a tsunami. I don't mind ads in the actual content (e.g. FeedBurner's Amazon book recommendations). But RSS items that are nothing more than ads are a turnoff.

on November 24, 2004 09:25 AM
# Gabriel Mihalache said:

It's better than "infomercial" entries where a blogger would publish a tainted review just for the sponsorship... right? As long as the content is honest, I won't mind looking "through" the ads ;-)

on November 24, 2004 12:44 PM
# jasun said:

I'd say it is the more regular readers of a site / news that use an aggregator so keeping the RSS feeds free from advertising will keep those readers using a service that does not include advertising.

I use Adsense on my blog pages, it sometimes helps direct people to other sites in relation to the current post topic but I would not think it would be wise to put anything in the RSS feeds, but if an aggregator service added anything in they it's obviously out of our hands.

People should be given a choice though like with everything.

on November 25, 2004 02:40 PM
# been there already said:

"Wired" has the rep for being this cutting edge publication, and I do enjoy it. But I don't enjoy getting pop-up ads from their full-page RSS feeds, especially since I browse feeds using Thunderbird.

The question is, will Congress consider making pop-up blocking illegal, too?

on November 25, 2004 10:01 PM
# Bryan Oakley said:

Oh please, you're app at my yahoo has been putting ads in feeds longer than anybody. In my other browser I'm looking at a my yahoo
page with a bunch of partial rss feeds and a giant ad banner at the top of the page. And ps if you don't think bloglines business model is going to be the exact same as my yahoo (ads!) then just what the heck did you think it is going to be? If you're answer is we don't put ads in the feed we put it at the top and only show partial feeds, than I say "in your equation the blogger gets nothing and you make all the money by stripping their content". what's better?

on November 26, 2004 05:25 PM
# said:

I think you forgot what pays your salary at Yahoo!- ads. Have your opinion but don't lose sight of the fact that advertisers paid for the car you drive.

on November 27, 2004 08:12 AM
# bill CONWAY said:

Y'all read current Business Week. Web ad invasion
well underway. Protect our blogs!

on November 28, 2004 02:18 PM
# The Wolf said:

I would really love to force feed the idiots who send me 'manhood enlargement' offers their own produce for a year, see how they like their intestines being bombarded with crap!

Isn't it sad... but what can we do? Most people can tell spam right away, but still they send it.


on November 29, 2004 11:36 PM
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