With the advent of RSS ad networks, RSS publishers large and small are being given the opportunity to make money from their musings through advertising for major brands; but are ads appropriate for all types of RSS feeds? "The line between a personal blog and a professional blog is very thin. There are some people who have interesting blogs like people who write about being a mom or dad and get a following. Would Pampers be interested in advertising on that blog? Probably," says Li (and even more so if a network of mom-and-pop blogs were strung together as an ad buy). "In terms of what's entertainment and what's not, in the end it's all Web pages."
While it's unlikely that bloggers with audiences primarily comprised of friends and family will rush to implement an RSS advertising strategy, ad networks may allow them profit nonetheless. "If I'm syndicating to my family only, I think there's no harm in inserting ads into your feeds, even if you have low volume," says Mark Josephson, SVP of marketing and business development for Kanoodle, an RSS ad network. "If you can set realistic goals, like paying for your hosting for the month, and achieve them, then I think it's an entirely logical thing to do."
But RSS advertising is something with ramifications that far outstrip modest goals like these. There are many in this space that believe that the majority of Web traffic will be driven through RSS feeds as the Internet evolves over the next few years. "It'll take six to eight years," says Rafer. "Just as search came out of nowhere in '98-'99 and they own the market now, in six, eight, ten years, search will have subsided in favor of subscription advertising." And once that tipping point has been reached, the sky's the limit for how big the RSS advertising market could get.
Sidebar: Publishers and Advertisers: Maximize Clicks
Because of the opt-in/opt-out nature of RSS feeds, publishers need to be hyper-aware of the expectations of their readers and subsequently cautious in how they implement an RSS advertising strategy. While Feedster emphasizes RSS search, its approach towards advertising around feeds rings true for publishers as well. "What we do is we're conservative. We put in one ad per search feed," says Feedster's Scott Rafer. "We mark it as an ad because if you don't mark it as an ad it begins to look like pay for placement. We also make sure that the ad is not the only thing marked as new in your feed. So if there are no new search results, the ad isn't the only thing the reader sees."
"If a publisher wants to put ads directly into their posts, we think that one ad is likely the best solution. Put the ad at the bottom of the content and start to measure the clickthroughs. We encourage our publishers to put full content in their posts rather than just teasers. It's more engaging and ultimately leads to more clicks which lead to higher revenues," says Kanoodle's Mark Josephson. "If you are serving ads as separate posts, you really have to watch and measure frequency. Start with one or two a day depending on the frequency of your content posts."
For advertisers, Pheedo's Flitter says, "We're seeing that a tell message rather than a sell message works better." He says that effective advertisers describe their products more thoroughly, rather than "Click Here, Buy Now, Sale!!!"-type messages.
RSS feeds also present interesting opportunities for creating channels that are nothing but ads. "Just as people have signed up for the Travelocity-deal emails, they'll sign up for the deal feed," says Rafer. One pioneering developer has taken the initiative to create an RSS feed called Dealazon, which notifies RSS users of deals on Amazon.com.