Preparing for The Death of RSS

While I personally am a big fan of RSS, I stand by my position that RSS is not being adopted by the mainstream population (see the big fat RSS lie) and is therefore a dying technology.

There have been numerous articles about RSS being dead or not. Feel free to engage in the debate if you want. I’m looking at two things: 1. search volume for the term RSS

RSS Search Volume

and 2. where that RSS search volume is concentrated in big, technology-centric metros.

RSS Search Concentration

If your audience is a bunch of  web 2.0 techno weenies who think that getting on the front page of Techmeme is important, then keep following your RSS dream. If that isn’t your audience, then it’s time to start looking at alternatives.

  • The simplest and easiest method is by taking a step backwards into email. Look at companies like Groupon. A large part of Groupon’s success was building locally-targeted email lists for metros across the US. Email may not be as sexy as RSS but it does work.
  • Building a profile on Twitter where you can broadcast new posts is good. Building an account where you can broadcast new posts and old posts is even better. SEO and Social Media audiences get whiny about archive posts but, contrary to their world view, most people don’t spend all day on Twitter and archive posts don’t bother them (as long as the information isn’t outdated). Side note: rebroadcasting old posts is good way to send clickstream data to search engines.
  • Using Facebook as a distribution channel is one I recommend with some trepidation. There’s no denying that people spend a huge amount of time on Facebook, but posting entire articles on Facebook gives the ad impression to Facebook. After doing something like that, you are going to need a very heavy call to action to drag people back to your website.
  • Consider creating separate distribution lists for your content, organizing them by category. Gawker, AOL, Huffington Post, Demand Media, and others of their ilk are not going to get off the page view journalism path anytime soon; in fact, I think they are only going to get worse. If you choose to go that route and publish more than 3-4 articles a day, it’s unlikely anyone is going to read all them. Creating separate lists that allow users to choose what they want and not see what they don’t is a smart idea.
  • Don’t ignore mobile. IMHO everyone should have mobile friendly content at this stage of the game. If you have a passionate audience, an app is the way to go; if not, just serve out a mobile version when appropriate.

The key takeaway here is that there is no one distribution model that will solve all your problems. What you need to do is try as many of them as you can until you find the one that works best. Put your most effort into that channel, but continue to support the others as long as there is enough critical mass to justify the resource investment.

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