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You are here: Home » The RSS Marketing Diary » RSS Advertising » All Not Well in RSS Advertising Land?

All Not Well in RSS Advertising Land?

[new post update at the bottom]

Following my post about Dick Costolo of Feedburner publicly stating that RSS feeds with ads are not losing subscribers, based on the many thousands of feeds Feedburner manages, several publishers stated just the oposite.

First was Todd Cochrane:

"Apparently the CEO of FeedBurner says that people are not un-subscribing from feeds that have Google Adsense ads in them. I am sure they are TRACKING your subscribers very CLOSELY. I talked to several people who have put RSS Ads in their feeds, and guess what, they lost subscribers no specific numbers. More importantly I have been told by at least 6 website owners that are running ads on their RSS feeds that subscribers are not clicking on the Ads! click through is as low as one or two on a 100,000 views."

Then Robin Good added his own comment to the original article:

"I am unable due to the RSS infrastructure I use to tell with precision whether, as a conseuqence of those ads, there has also been a singificant drop in RSS subscribers to my feed. The impression, which could be wrong, is that there has been a drop which is reflected in both overall traffic to the site and in lowered metrics for Google AdSense inventory during those same days."

What's your experience?

[Update#1 2005-06-13]
Richard MacManus joins the debate on the IonRSS blog, stating some interesting observations, but most especially:

"Firstly I experimented with Google Adsense in my RSS feed for about a week and the results were underwhelming. Hardly anybody clicked on the ads and I think the main reason for that was the ads were not at all contextual to the content of my posts. Which kind of defeats the purpose of having ads in an RSS feed - if they're not contextual to the content that people have subscribed to, well of course your readers are not going to click on the ads. So I have to say I was pretty disappointed in the lack of contextuality, especially coming from Google."
"The real issue is that the current implementations of RSS adverts are simply not good enough yet. Ads in feeds need to be much more targetted, much much more contextual, and (perhaps more controversially) I'm suggesting that RSS ads need to be branded closely with the site's content."

I certainly agree with Richard.

But there's much more to his post, so do take a look.

[Update#2 2005-06-13]
Just found this most recent news article from InfoWorld on the topic of RSS advertising and where they are taking it. Well, after two years of RSS advertising experiments, they just released full-text feeds to start serving 336x280 ads from DoubleClick.

[Update#3 2005-06-14]
Robin Good joins the discussion at his blog, wondering RSS is going in the wrong direction with traditional advertising models.

"As I see it, RSS greatest drawbacks, may be due in good part to our stubbornness at wanting to apply old ways of doing things to new technologies. This is often inappropiate and can also lead to many people ending up with a distorted picture of what RSS is and how it is best used."


Interesting post, but I think the data (if there is any) is much too sketchy to be conclusive. There are a couple things to keep in mind as RSS matures:

1. RSS will be dependent on cogent customer-centric strategies, just as in other forms of on- and off-line marketing. To use RSS effectively, marketers will have to employ the same demographic and behavioral analysis to formulate customer personas - upon which customer segments can be matched up to messaging, imagery and content.

2. Relevant RSS content is an advertisement in and of itself. Setting aside Google ads for a minute, content relevancy will probably turn out to be the single biggest driver of RSS readership. Again, just as in other online channels, those marketers that use RSS wisely by publishing smart, timely content to their respective audience will win the battle for customer attention.

3. Customer strategy and relevant content are two legs of a four-legged stool. IMHO, Content Management for RSS - the third leg - will be a critical success factor. Marketers will need to organize their RSS-enabled content libraries in a coherent taxonomy (and eventually ontology) as they do with other publicly consumed information. This will require that RSS Readers are capable of recognizing the taxonomy from publishers and displaying/organizing in a manner that will make sense to the customer.

4. Optimization is the final leg on the stool. The need to measure attention data is vital in any online content delivery system. Online marketers know full well that the first iteration of a campaign gets massaged and tweaked many times throughout its lifecycle. RSS-enabled marketing campaigns will need to leverage the underlying attention data so they too can be optimized to achieve the aims of the marketers.

- SQ

Posted by: Scott Quick at June 12, 2005 7:31 PM

I've dumped several RSS feeds recently because they included advertisements. How can someone take a new technology and turn it into Flea Market of ads? There has to be some level of existence on the Internet where users don't have to be innundated by things they DON'T WANT. Why does everything have to be turned into commerce???

I'll continue to dump any RSS feed (for the areas I am concerned about - i.e., technology) that try and "sneak" in advertisements. Ads on the Internet simply don't work. Banner ads, Google ads, etc., etc. People simply ignore them -- at least the smart one's do. Ads seem to prey on the same folks that continue to click on email attachments from people they've never heard of.

Posted by: Rod Trent at June 13, 2005 6:05 PM

Scott, I certainly agree with you, and you will see all of these issues addressed in the interview. The first part should go live either today or tomorrow.

Posted by: Rok Hrastnik at June 13, 2005 8:20 PM

Rod, I cannot agree with you. Much research clearly shows that internet advertising in general works. As for Google AdWords, all the marketers and publishers themselves know exactly how it works for them and why they are investing so much money in to it. For direct marketing (consumer products), our experience throughout the 19 countries of Central and Eastern Europe shows that internet advertising is second only to DRTV advertising in terms of generating sales. Furthermore, e-mail in terms of ROI is more effective than telemarketing or direct mail.

Why does everything have to be turned in to commerce? Because most businesses online are here to increase their profits.

Or would you rather pay for content, instead of putting up with ads?

Posted by: Rok Hrastnik at June 13, 2005 8:28 PM

I would highlight that we were very explicitly talking about two different things during our interview. This particular discussion point relates to whether we were seeing subscriber numbers drop for feeds with ads in them. I believe i said (the beauty of full audio interviews it that we will find out soon enough when we can hear it) that statisically, subscribers to feeds with ads in them were continuing to grow at a fast pace. At least for the feeds we're managing. It is an entirely separate issue to consider how well the ads are performing. Obviously, in some cases, they don't perform well at all, and you're seeing people write about that and I've discussed this previously in several interviews as well. Scott's comments here are very well reasoned and thoughtful, and I think thinking like that takes the conversation in the right direction

Posted by: Dick Costolo at June 14, 2005 5:51 PM

[[How can someone take a new technology and turn it into Flea Market of ads?]]

Hmmm... this one makes me wince. While I believe that not all feeds must (or should) carry ads, I do so with the same belief that not all databases must (or should) contain financial transaction.

Technology should be used be used for many things. To suggest that RSS is somehow off limits to businesses that want to earn revenues with RSS, is as silly as saying PhotoShop should never be used to sell anything. SQL is used every second of every day to rotate banner ads, but you don't see passionate (borderline religious) debates about how SQL is part of the feal-market of advertisers.

RSS is an implementation detail - the real topic here is syndication - a mechanism for creating awareness with less effort and greater efficiency. To the restaurant manager that needs to see all the specials at the Seattle Fish Market each morning, an "add-packed" syndication service offers a solution that might give her a competitive advantage. Nothin' but ads will make this person happy - however - thoughts and ramblings about the fishing industry won't help her a bit.

If you don't like the programming, change the channel - vote with your feet.

I think some feeds should be nothing but ads, and conversly, some feeds should be nothing but information. And in between - there are thousands of potential use cases that each make sense, each in a particular business (or personal) context.

We don't include ads in our customer-facing business and personal blogs, but we also don't make a living creating and distributing content. For those that *do* earn incomes through content, they should use ads where it makes sense and be mindful of the potential consequences.

Is RSS advertising alive and well? - you bet it is, but it has a lot of growing up to do -- just as HTML ads did in the late 90's.


Posted by: Bill French at June 17, 2005 6:52 AM

I tell ya... after seeing this feed; Subject: "Google Adsense:Get It!" (http: // and thinking it was more info on what people were thinking about Adsense on lockergnome and I get a %^%#$^$ application form to actually get Adsense. I see many more of these types of ^%&^&&(&^( feeds; I'll definately drop the feed immediately. And this is the first such I have ran across. I hope I don't run across any more. I click on a feed to read news or opinions about the stated subject not a $^&%$^%^&%# AD!!!!


Posted by: RLD at June 19, 2005 7:38 AM

Aaargh!!! Ads in RSS are a no-no. I've just discovered this new phenomena. The whole point of RSS is to get people to come to your site/view your pages. Send me junk over RSS and I'll drop your site from my feeds.

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Posted by: Acura at October 7, 2007 5:05 PM

So, You don't think You can make alot of Money with RSS Ads. How do You think Google-YouTube Video Ads will do ? I'm thinking of using them.

Posted by: Frank Mann at December 16, 2007 3:59 AM

So, You don't think You can make alot of Money with RSS Ads. How do You think Google-YouTube Video Ads will do ? I'm thinking of using them.

Posted by: Frank Mann at December 16, 2007 4:00 AM

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