RSS needs a PR campaign”

As one who studies Postmodernism and believes that this cultural shift is behind many of the changes we’re currently witnessing, I always see red flags when I encounter the word “mainstream.” This is especially so with anything related to the Internet.

Steve Rubel advanced a discussion begun on Amy Campbell’s Weblog about RSS needing a PR campaign. Amy was touting Yahoo’s simplification of the RSS process by providing a one-click solution for people to add feeds to their “MyYahoo” pages.

What I’m trying to say is that most people don’t even know what a blog is, let alone an RSS feed or how to actually utilize an aggregator. I think blog enthusiasts miss this point often. RSS needs a PR campaign. It’s not going to be mainstream, (emphasis added) until it’s simply a button that people can push. Syndication needs to be incorporated into web tools and news sites with less jargon and requiring less technical understanding. Yahoo!‘s taking a step in the right direction.
And Steve — being the PR guy that he is — agreed.
…I urge all bloggers who regularly interface with the media — PR and otherwise — to regularly talk up RSS in your conversations with the press.
My take on this is a bit different, for I think we need to be very careful in dealing with this mainstream.

Firstly, from an anarchical point-of-view, what the heck is “the mainstream?” There is none, and from both a structural and operation perspective, the Internet is definitely anarchical. Why do we insist on dragging Modernist, hierarchical structures into the Internet? Maybe, just maybe, this marvelous communications structure ought NOT be a part of anybody’s “mainstream.” Perhaps it has a life of its own, one that deserves our respect in a manner similar to that of Star Trek’s “prime directive.”

A smart PR friend this morning made the statement to me in an email that “the way that blogs work tends to be fueled by controversy…or…by a ‘name’…or a cause with a group of built-in devotees.” I asked for his definition of the word “work.” The point is that our understanding of such a word depends on our perspective and world view. I contend that the view expressed by my friend is purely Modernist “top-down,” for what he means is that those blogs with controversy, a name or a cause are deemed successful from a mass marketing perspective.

But Postmodernism rejects the idea of the mass market and, frankly, that’s where we’re headed. As Doc Searls says, “There is no market for messages.”

Here’s a radical idea. Why don’t we just let this new medium find itself instead of trying to cloak it in the status quo? I have the same beef with political use of the Internet. Heretofore, in this country anyway, the Web has been used only to feed the mass marketing political monster. Others have proved that it can be used to undercut the political status quo. Why can’t we see that here?

Look, I’m all for blogs and bloggers making money (that’s what this is really all about), and I’d like to see more people educated about RSS. But the Internet is misunderstood and undervalued if only used to further the ambitions and appetites of existing hierarchies. It may be hard for some to believe, but life tends to grow from the inside-out. I want to see that happen with the Web, because I honestly believe the status quo isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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