A recent discussion on kottke.org has got us thinking. It’s unfortunate that not many news sites provide RSS feeds. News-junkies like us would love to fill our RSS readers, like NetNewsWire, with up-to-the minute headlines. Kottke suspects the reason is many news sites don’t see the business case for such a service. He suggests an obvious solution - put some ads in them.
How an ad in an RSS feed might look like, similar to Kottke’s example:
<title>Today’s headlines are sponsored by Generic - unobtrusive apparel</title>
<description>When you care enough to wear the non-descript, you’re ready for Generic clothes. Click here and save $20 on your next purchase:</description>
Once they adopt RSS feeds, it’s inevitable that news organizations will begin using something like this. But you can see the abuse or overuse of these type of ads just around the corner. Peppering your feeds with ads might be OK for some, but it flies in the face of what’s really useful about RSS. When you subscribe to a feed, you do so expecting focused content. To dilute that with unrelated content of any sort seems wrong and needless.
Our advice to news media: Why not turn your classified advertising into a helpful service, like an RSS feed? Let your customers customize the ads they want to see or simply offer more specific choices - (e.g. rss_used_foreign_cars_saab.xml, rss_apts_for_rent_zip_90210.xml). This would more than pay for the deployment and maintenance of free RSS news feeds, and perhaps leave some money left over for, ahem, profits. If news media don’t do this soon, sites like Ebay and Monster are going to beat you to it.
Update (10.10.02) - For more information on RSS, read our FAQ.
Check out PostAClassified.com, they already have a classifieds rss feed.