My new column is up over at Inc Technology, a new online publication of Inc magazine. The first article is called “Reducing the RSS Geek Factor.” The point of the article is that as business owners with websites, we can and should do a better job communicating the benefits of RSS feeds to our readers, not just the tech aspects.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a small private lunch with one of the iconic early Internet entrepreneurs. I was surprised to hear him say that nobody uses RSS. Of course, I politely disagreed. The odd thing is that his latest company has a website where consumers do regular searches and probably would subscribe to those searches as RSS feeds if the option were available.
My experience here at Small Business Trends is an example of the rise of RSS. A significant portion of those who read this site do so via Web feeds. There are over 15,000 subscribers that I am aware of for this site — and certainly more I am unaware of. At Bloglines alone, I have 3,601 subscribers for one of the feeds. The other feed has 9,415 subscribers.
RSS subscription levels vary widely by site. Other sites where I participate do not have nearly the same number of RSS subscribers.
The way I judge RSS is in the growth rate of new subscribers. The number of new RSS subscribers on this site is growing faster than the number of email newsletter subscribers (although I still get a nice daily flow of those, too). That makes me sit up and pay attention.
It will be really interesting to see how the recent IE7 launch and the upcoming Vista launch (both of which integrate RSS reading capabilities in and make things easier) impacts the number of people that begin using RSS.
I’m hopeful that thousands of small businesses will start seeing the value of RSS once it becomes easier to use and part of the “default” installation.
I think it has less to do with the site and more to do with the target audience. Your audience — tech-savvy small business folks — are more likely than average to work with RSS. But entire subject segments — kids’ websites, seniors’ websites, entertainment sites, photo sites, pr0n — have very poor RSS uptake.
I used to think RSS was going to really catch on. With the features of IE7, maybe it will, but I think there will always be strong differentiation by subject/audience, and it’s important to consider the technology in the wide view.