NYTimes.com, Other Web Publishers Increase RSS Adoption
By Kate Kaye
Thursday, July 22, 2004
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As content consumption continues to fragment and 24/7 news cycles are par for the course, more mainstream Internet media outlets are syndicating headlines via RSS, an automated distribution and publishing technology. The New York Times Co.'s NYTimes.com this week broadened its RSS feed offering to 27 categories in the hopes of driving more site traffic, increasing customization and user retention, and building its database of registered users.
"RSS is fairly low cost to implement so we decided to expand the number of feeds," said Christine Mohan, NYTimes.com's associate director of product development. According to Mohan, the RSS feeds generate over one million page views to the site each month.
RSS, an acronym for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, allows lists of information or feeds to be published and distributed to subscribers automatically. There are several RSS aggregators or news reader tools available for use on multiple platforms including Windows, Apple, Linux, and Palm. In February, MarketingSherpa estimated that a quarter of a million users worldwide have downloaded news reader software.
Through RSS technology, users accessing news reader applications can link to regularly updated Times content, and site publishers can add Times headlines and summaries to their own site content. New Times feed categories include Editorials/Op-Ed, Most E-mailed Articles, Magazine and Multimedia, as well as Campaign 2004 and Times on the Trail political coverage. Visitors can now download any and all feeds listed through the RSS section of NYTimes.com or at the bottom of each site page. The feeds will also be promoted at the upper right hand corner of site pages.
Popular sites including The Christian Science Monitor's csmonitor.com, Salon.com, BBC News, MSN Slate Magazine, CBS MarketWatch, Time.com, Wired News, and CNETNews.com all offer RSS feeds of their headlines. NYTimes.com's sister site, Boston.com also began offering RSS news feeds for Logan International Airport's new WiFi service in June.
WashingtonPost.com launched RSS feeds last fall, and while traffic propelled through the feeds continues to grow, the offering remains in the testing phase. "We're really just watching it right now," explained Eric Easter, Senior Manager of Communications at WashingtonPost.com. The publisher plans to promote its feeds through a contest inviting readers to choose the best political blogs; the contest will involve outreach to bloggers credentialed to cover the National Democratic and Republican Conventions.
Still, the term RSS remains gibberish to many of those outside the tech community and so-called blogosphere, where RSS feeds gained popularity by enabling readers of blogs to keep up with the latest posts to their favorite blog sites. Installing newsreader programs is one obstacle for the less tech savvy. And perhaps a more formidable barrier to RSS adoption cited by insiders is a lack of comprehensive directories of RSS feeds. Some, however, do exist, including BlogStreet, a site that lists and categorizes close to 2,000 blog sites enabling RSS feeds, and Syndic8.com, a warehouse for RSS and Atom feeds (a similar technology) that counts 7,725 registered users and 128,647 total feeds. Among Syndic8.com's top most viewed feeds are news headline aggregation site Moreover, techie favorite Slashdot, and Wired News.
In addition to providing feeds of its news content, Yahoo! is currently testing a My Yahoo! feature that enables users to display RSS feed headlines on their personalized My Yahoo! pages. The latest version of the Opera Web browser also now supports RSS feeds in its built-in e-mail client.
"The adoption profile of RSS technology is substantial," Tom Barnes indicated, CEO at Mediathink, a marketing services firm that recently published a white paper entitled "RSS-The Next Big Thing Online." He believes no matter how frequently publishers update their content, they need to think about deploying RSS because they will "have to generate more content to maintain people's attention and maintain meaning."