Media Maze: RSS-Sense

Businesses are always looking for newer and better ways to insinuate themselves into your field of vision. There are so many desires and distractions that now struggle for, and sometimes command, our attention that it has become harder for advertisers to get a piece of it.

It has happened offline over the years, as collections of audiences for vehicles of traditional media have grown smaller.

Since radio brought on the diminishment of magazines, and TV instigated the decline of radio, audiences of the general media landscape have become more dissolute.

With every mutation, the next generation of life form seems to evolve exponentially faster.

This has always been the case with the internet. Sites, search, contextual, behavioral, and blogs are all vehicles for advertising of which marketers can take advantage online.

One of the latest new ways to infiltrate the attention of an increasingly evasive potential consumer that has come to the online media landscape is using RSS feeds into blogs.

The decline of history

By the early 1980s, a well-established cycle of media decline had been established. What this means is that, with the advent of each new medium, it is first seen as something that rests on the horizon; once emerged it is new and "marginal," then it becomes the "next" thing; then mainstream; then passé, and then eventually stabilizes as part of the background of everydayness.

This process seems to go faster and faster with each new day, and on the internet this has been especially so. Though an overused as a metaphor for change, Moore's Law could be said to apply also to the evolution of advertising tactics used online, yielding a doubling of new advertising opportunities every 18 months.

Ads on blogs are one more way of getting in our face, but RSS ads are the latest new species to emerge.

Like skywriting, or sponsored subways, or urinal screens with logos on them, ad-supported RSS feeds are one more means of making use of our "peripheral" attention.

"Feed Me, Seymour!"

One of the companies taking advantage of the growing popularity of blogs and RSS feeds is Feedster, Inc., a two-and-a-half-year old company based in San Francisco.

In essence, what Feedster has done is combine the power of search with the pervasiveness of blogging and turned it into a compelling advertising proposition.

"The origin of the company is as a specific XML search engine," said Chris Redlitz, VP of sales and marketing for the company. Mr. Redlitz knows a little something about innovating new ad models on the web. As co-founder of AdAuction, Mr. Redlitz introduced the community to the notion of open auctions for online ad inventory.

Feedster is an internet search engine and advertising network that provides information to consumers and large internet sites in need of targeted media. Feedster provides a fresh index across over 15 million feeds several times per hour, adding millions of new documents a day.

A person looking for certain kinds of content and information, if they are looking to blogs for that content and information, can use Feedster as a blog search engine. Ads can be served just like they are with other search properties.

Feedster works a lot like Google's AdSense; only instead of sponsored links served having relevance to a search term, a user gets sponsored RSS feeds.

These RSS ads find themselves not only within the confines of the search property, but also within those blogs whose publishers have chosen to subscribe to feeds offered through Feedster.

Feedster has an index of over fifteen million syndicated feeds, including more than 75,000 professionally published sources such as the BBC, CNET, The New York Times, and Wired.

The advertising, much like search marketing, comes off as less intrusive, and they benefit both the originator of the content and the audience.

"Feeds, as they are, are sort of this intermediation of content," points out Mr. Redlitz. Since visitors to blogs, or even those maintaining blogs themselves, never have to go through to the source of the information being linked to, there can be a negative affect on the content source's revenue stream. This kind of opportunity can ameliorate some of that. Publishers of syndicated content can monetize that content by making it available for advertiser association.

A buy works like a mix between a network buy and a keyword buy, with placement purchased on a CPC basis.

The kinds of formats available are a single line of text, embedded text ads that are basically banners with text only, or embedded image ads that are banners with both image and text'

An advertiser can have their ads placed in a blogger's feeds; Feedster can contour their ads to them, but they also have access to the publishing history of the blogs in their network and can serve ads relevant to previous posts just as well as they can serve to new posts.

It's "really no different than a combination of buying keywords and contextually relevant sites," says Mr. Redlitz.

Feedster has initially focused on the tech and IT content category, but by the middle of fourth quarter they expect to have expanded their RSS ad network categories to include all of the usual suspects (arts and entertainment, travel, science, health, et cetera).

There are a few other companies now in this ad space, most notably Google, who has repurposed their AdSense technology to apply to blogs; Chicago-based FeedBurner has a smaller network, but functions very much the same way as Feedster. Pheedo, which is still smaller, has an ad network that makes it easy to get messages into thousands of blogs and RSS/Atom feeds from micro-publishers and large media outlets alike. (Atom feeds are another XML format for personal content publishing that some argue is better and more versatile than RSS.)

This could become the next big thing for blogvertising, bringing the same kind of results a lot of advertisers currently see from their search marketing efforts. Consumers may come to see it the same way they do search marketing: perceiving the links and ads as providing a service that meet people's information needs rather than being another chance to get in your face to get you to buy something.

When done right, there doesn't have to be a difference.

Jim Meskauskas is the media strategies editor for iMedia Connection.

 

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