Despite what you hear, RSS has not "peaked"

symbol for RSSAn insightful new report from Forrester (What’s Holding RSS Back?) suggests that RSS (Really Simple Syndication) as a tool for marketers is vastly underutilized and that growth of the technology is hindered by ignorance of the public. While RSS use has increased since Forrester first measured it three years ago, it’s still only a staple of just 11% of North American internet users. The report prompted new media PR guru Steve Rubel to declare that RSS “has peaked,” which set off a series of blog postings crying “foul.”

From RSS Usage is Much Higher than 11% to RSS Adoption Stalling Because It isn’t Joe Six Pack Enough, people jumped on Rubel and the report in general. It doesn’t appear, however, that anybody actually read the report, because I don’t find this “peaking” business anywhere.

What I do find is good information, especially for marketers, on how to use RSS to make a difference for themselves. The report does reveal the weakness of the technology in terms of consumer acceptance, but it goes the extra mile by probing open-ended survey questions as to why. People don’t use RSS, because they don’t know what it is, why they should use it, and how it works.

Report author Julie Katz goes on to make three recommendations to address the ignorance:

  1. Advertise syndication as “easy information.”
  2. Create RSS tutorials.
  3. Collect and share customer testimonials.

RSS feed images from the website inquisitr.comFor information-seekers, RSS is a life-changing experience, and let me give you an example of exactly what this report is talking about. My 27-year old future son-in-law is a manager at a GameStop store. He’s an XBOX360 guy and an expert at “Call of Duty.” He wants to make retail gaming his future and is in with a very good company. Thinking that staying informed about the online gaming industry would benefit his career, I asked him a few days ago if he’d ever heard of RSS. He hadn’t, but that’s no surprise, so I walked him through setting up a feed reader and loading it with news feeds from his industry. He faithfully uses it now, and I hear him quoting things he’s read from the feeds. He admits that he is “the guy in the know” at work.

Now he knows what RSS is, why he should use it and how it works. He’s a convert, and his information-gathering life is changed as a result.

The real problem with RSS — and the Forrester report does not get into this — is that traditional media companies and advertisers are the most ignorant of the whole lot. Moreover, there’s no incentive for them to become educated, because they cannot see how to make money by using a consumer pull technology like RSS. The best Steve and I see are feeds from companies designed with one thing in mind: drive traffic back to their portal sites, so they can monetize the page views.

RSS can be so much more, and unlike Steve Rubel, I think RSS is a technology just waiting for the right push from somebody. Besides, it’s used in so many ways by people who don’t even know it’s RSS that it’s hard to make any argument that the technology has peaked.

(Originally posted in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel newsletter)

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  1. […] Despite what you hear, RSS has not “peaked” An insightful new report from Forrester (What’s Holding RSS Back?) suggests that RSS (Really Simple Syndication) as a tool for marketers is vastly underutilized and that growth of the technology is hindered by ignorance of the public. While RSS use has increased since Forrester first measured it three years ago, it’s still only a staple of just 11% of North American internet users. The report prompted new media PR guru Steve Rubel to declare that RSS “has peaked,” which set off a series of blog postings crying “foul.” […]

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