RSS Advertising: Easy, Yet Widely Ignored

If you were roaming around the Web in 2006, it's likely you read that RSS advertising was the new hot Web trend. But a quick look online today shows that RSS advertising has yet to gain traction. Some publishers take advantage of it while many do not. In effect, neither segment is creating trend-setting waves.

Forrester Research released a reporting October 2008 about RSS in which it found only 11 percent of consumers use RSS. And only one-third of that number actually uses RSS on a daily basis. So in 2009, RSS is still searching for its footing. However, the publishers who want to monetize their feeds can definitely do so. Google and Pheedo are prominent players on the RSS advertising field. Other options include link advertising as is available from Feedvertising. However, Yahoo! closed the doors of its RSS advertising tool in February 2009, as did Feedster in 2007.

RSS advertising Implementation and Control
One thing RSS advertising has going for it is its ease of implementation as a result of advancements in the past three years. Publishers can now simply select an option to include the ads within their feeds with the click of a mouse, through providers like Pheedo and Google. "We sit in the middle of the publisher and end-user. As the feeds pass through, we insert the ads," says Bill Flitter, CEO and founder, Pheedo.

Joel Libava, publisher of the blog "The Franchise King" uses AdSense for Feeds because of its ease of use. "It is just so easy to integrate since Google bought FeedBurner. I recommend it because there are not that many tools out there that can let you put ads up, and just let them do their thing, without always signing in, and changing things around. Set it up once, and it's done," Libava says.

"There are two types of publishers - those who used FeedBurner before [the acquisition by Google] and those who never used FeedBurner," says Steve Olechowski, business product manager, Google AdSense Group, Google. "If you had a FeedBurner feed, the feeds are directed to AdSense. The other group of publishers enters their feeds into AdSense and it sets up the feed on our server."

Publishers have control over what ads are placed in their feeds by using Google's Ad Review Center, as well as by the transparent policy that Pheedo operates. You know where your ads will run with Pheedo because of their transparent site list, says Dave Smith, CEO, Mediasmith. Smith handles the ad campaigns for companies such as National Geographic who uses Pheedo for RSS advertising. "If you advertise with a network or aggregator, you don't know where your ads will run and it's important to know the placement of our ads," Smith says.

Google's Ad Review Center also allows publishers to review all ads that are targeted to their feeds. "For feeds that aren't targeted, we use the Google search engine to match advertising with feeds. To regulate this type of advertising, publishers can block certain keywords," Olechowski adds.

RSS' Successes and Failures
"People who use RSS are engaged consumers. There's a high recall from messaging associated with it because it's a leaned-forward communication," Smith says. "There aren't a lot of advertisers here so we can stand out. And as a result, we get higher click-through rates in RSS than we do in any other media."

The one frustration that Smith sees with RSS advertising is its analytics. He finds there are better reporting analytics with display advertising versus RSS advertising, but says this is changing.

Successful RSS advertising relies on two factors, Flitter says. "The quantity of subscribers and the amount of content that is published are two determining revenue factors. Two publishers could have the same feed size, but the one who publishes more frequently will make more money."

So while bloggers and the tech-savvy crowd were touting RSS advertising three years ago, it looks as if it's one of those technologies that is still emerging. "RSS is something that is growing with publishers, users and advertisers," Olechowski says. "RSS advertising grows with display advertising and its down because of the economy. But it's growing with the number of impressions and number of advertisers."