HighlyStructured.com is a blog website run by Mike D'Agostino about search engine positioning, online marketing, php/MySQL, tae kwon do, and various other topics.

RSS - When Will It Hit Critical Mass?

December 15, 2005

Over the past year I have been hearing more and more about RSS, RSS syndication, and advertising in RSS feeds. I myself, who I consider to be pretty "Internet-fluent" have only just started using RSS a short time ago. I've been hearing the buzz about it, but it wasn't until I decided to turn my long-running website into a blog website that I started to subscribe to RSS feeds. I also found myself getting into the routine of incessantly checking the websites I usually go to for up-to-date information, news, and general content.

RSS has changed the way I view the Internet. Instead of opening up my browser and either clicking on a link in my favorites list or typing a URL directly into the address bar, I now open my RSS reader and wait for the headlines to come to me. It was a little haphazard and messy at first as I scoured the web looking for RSS feeds and wading through them in my RSS reader. But now, after subscribing, unsubscribing, and getting a general feel for the amount of headlines I can actually go through in a day, I have a lean RSS reader that allows me to easily keep on top of the most recent news.

I would liken RSS to Tivo. RSS allows me to selectively choose which feeds (TV shows) I would like to subscribe to and save them to view at a later date. In this way I've created my own "stations" (intelligently called "channels" in XML) that aggregate content and alert me when new headlines arrive. So, instead of opening my browser (turning on my TV) and hunting for new content (changing channels), I open my RSS reader (Tivo) and read what I want, when I want.

I'm sold on RSS and I'm sure I'll be using it for quite some time to keep current with the latest news on the topics and website I've selected to aggregate content from. The online community who seems to be at the forefront of new technology seems to be sold on RSS as well as it's starting to become common for any type of website (not just blogs) to offer RSS syndicated content. There are even companies that offer RSS analytics software to analyze data from how many people subscribe to a feed to what time of the day they click on headlines. The question remains then, when will the general public start using RSS feeds?

The answer is soon, I predict in the coming year of 2006. Yahoo! has already committed to putting an RSS reader in their webmail client, and it's already incorporated into Google's Gmail service. But the real reason RSS will hit critical mass this year is that RSS has become a new marketing and advertising outlet. Once the advertising industry catches wind of a new outlet, it will hit critical mass and will be used to death by online marketers and advertisers.

As a matter of fact, I'm completely shocked I haven't seen RSS feeds offered on highly trafficed shopping websites. I've only just seen RSS feeds incorporated into some major shopping sites like Buy.com, but not many. And why don't individual retailer sites like RadioShack.com, VictoriasSecret.com, or even Macys.com offer RSS feeds? I see this as a golden opportunity for shopping sites to start syndicating their products and sales! Most of these sites offer email list subscriptions, but why not jump on the RSS bandwagon while it's still young?

This year I believe more and more shopping websites will start offering RSS syndication of their products and sale items which will push RSS into the critical mass. Once shopping sites start offering RSS feeds and the general public learns more about what it is and how easily it organizes data for them (not to mention not having to deal with tons of email), there will be no turning back. It will be interesting to see how RSS transforms once the advertising industry and general public get a hold of it.

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