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08/18/2005

RSS: Geeks Only Please

Jeff just linked to a new Neilson study that reveals only 11% of blog readers use RSS and that a whooping 66% of blog readers don't even know what RSS is.  These figures should be a bit sobering for VCs and the rest of Silicon Valley because not only do 100% of VCs seem to know what RSS is but it seems like 66% of them have already invested in an RSS/Blog related start-up.  Some guys are even apparently trying to raise an RSS themed VC fund.

Fact is, if you wander just a little bit outside of Geek-centric world of tech-related and VC-related blogs what you quickly discover is that RSS feeds are few and far between.  Take political blogs for example.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed that one of the political blogs I enjoy, which also happens to be in the top half of the Top 500 feeds, didn't appear to have an RSS feed.  I contacted the author and asked him if he had an RSS feed and he asked me "What's an RSS feed?".  I explained and told him that since he was apparently using Moveable Type that he should just be able to check a configuration box to generate a feed.  Five minutes later, a small link to his feed (Moveable Type's strange default "Syndicate this Site (XML)") appeared way at the bottom of his blog.  After that we exchanged a couple e-mails in which I encouraged him to consider moving the link up to the top so that he could capture subscribers and to also consider inserting ads into his feeds to generate some more money.   I checked back today and he still just has the single link way at the bottom of his site.

Now remember, this guy is a professional blogger doing numerous posts a day and trying to earn a living off of his blog (and judging by his ranking on the Top 500, doing a better job of that than most), but RSS wasn't even on his radar and even after having the supposed benefits described to him, he hasn't been motivated enough to do much more than the bare minimum.   Thing is, his lack of action is totally rational.  Given that I was apparently the only reader of his highly ranked blog to have ever asked him for an RSS feed I assume he therefore suspects, quite rightly, that spending a lot of time and energy to optimize his RSS feed would be a complete waste of time at this point.

I don't think such behavior indicates that RSS is doomed or that it is a passing fad (in fact it may just indicate that we are in the early stages of something huge and there's still plenty of time left to make RSS related investments), but I do think it indicates that RSS still has a long way to go to mainstream adoption.

Perhaps most importantly, I think it underscores that VCs have to be careful not overestimate near term adoption rates.  Just because something is "hot" within the incestuous and self-centered world of Silicon Valley doesn't mean that it is hot elsewhere or even destined to be hot elsewhere.

August 18, 2005 in RSS | Permalink

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