SXSW Interactive Panel

A few months ago I was asked by Tom Markiewicz, CEO of EvolvePoint, to be on a panel about “Using RSS for Marketing” for the SXSW Interactive Conference coming up March 9-13 and I gladly accepted.

The other panelists include Bill Flitter of Pheedo, Greg Reinacker of NewsGator, and John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. All of them are with RSS and marketing companies, which should make for good conversation.

Last week saw the launch of Yahoo! Pipes, an “interactive feed aggregator and manipulator,” followed by lots of enthusiasm from the tech community. The reality of mashing up, mixing, filtering, sorting and combining data sources into a unique output has just been made easier. See Tim O’Reilly’s post, Pipes and Filters for the Internet.

In preparation for the panel, I’m soliciting your feedback and insights on topics related to RSS to help shape our discussion. A quick scan of the current eHub entries in the RSS category shows 109 services. I’ll be pulling these out and paring them down into logical groupings.

Of course, the technology is only part of the equation. As I brainstorm the myriad of other issues related to RSS, I’ve started making a general list. It’s by no means comprehensive. I hope you’ll provide other topics in the comments below or through my contact form. Once I’ve gathered enough ideas and resources, I’ll document the feedback in some form online (wiki perhaps) and continue discussing with the panelists.

– RSS readers
– Aggregators
– Microformats
– Browsers and RSS
– Mobile

– Adoption of RSS by mainstream
– Data remixing with new apps (Pipes and Plagger)
– Multimedia RSS trends (podcasts, vidcasts)
– RSS as direct broadcast
– Placelessness of data

I’m also looking for case studies or research around:
– Feed traffic vs site traffic trends
– Benchmarks and best practices

I’m curious, what have you done with your site or company to advantage RSS? What RSS services are you currently using and how has it benefitted you? What trends in RSS are you noticing?

I haven’t been to SXSW in a few years. The last time I was there, I was lucky to have my artcodes/ADD project as a finalist in the weblog category. This time, I’m really looking forward to being more involved and interactive. I posted over at Ideacodes that Max and I will both be at SXSW. Please send us a note if you’d like to meet up as we hope to plan a social get together while we’re in Austin. Lots of our friends and clients from SF will be there as well so it should be a good time.

Look forward to your thoughts.

UPDATE: March 31: You can catch a podcast that our panel did prior to SXSW in this episode of John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing podcast: Using RSS in Marketing Podcast (or via direct mp3 download here).

I really enjoyed the SXSW panel. You can see some posts by attendees here:
Panel: Using RSS for Marketing at EchoSXSW
SXSW: Using RSS for Marketing at Read/Write/Web

My photo set from SXSW:


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Denis Papathanasiou
February 12, 2007 at 6:41 am

About half of our users at monitor feeds with a transaction in mind (i.e looking for a place to rent/buy, looking for a job, an airfare to a specific city, etc.).

The other half is monitoring news and gossip, split roughly evenly among technology, celebrity/entertainment, and sports.

One surprise is that “mainstream” news (i.e. the top stories on Reuters, AP, CNN, etc.) is not of interest to most users.

Another surprise is the number of people tracking sports news with a specific player in mind; we found out that most are following news on their fantasy league players, and want to know the minute their players are injured, benched, etc. (it’s a surprise to us because we didn’t realize how big the whole fantasy sports phenomena is).

February 12, 2007 at 7:00 am

* Current trend I’m noticing is LESS rss available on sites. A lot of sites are fighting for traffic and by providing your users with rss feeds to their content, users don’t really need to go back to the site. Of course there are various techniques one could implement (ie only display short blurb descriptions, etc). The other side of the coin is if you don’t provide the RSS feed the user may never ever come back to your site cuz they didn’t add it to their reader and now you’re outa site outa mind.

* For most apps I build I employ “FFE” feed-for-everything but only provide a link back to the data with may s truncated description. I don’t provide a complete description for the rss feeds for my apps but if they want to read more(or execute some kind of action), they need to click on that link and come back to my site.

* Adoption of RSS by mainstream won’t happen anytime soon. RSS success will have to be transparent -> a great example is “add this news to your my yahoo homepage” but saying “add rss feed to your my yahoo homepage” means nothing to the majority of people outside out industry. My dad asked me what a blog was on saturday and I showed him a few sites and then I showed him rss feeds and rss readers. He didn’t quite get it at first. I finally went with the “its like an excel document of data which you subscribe to and any time that document is updated you get a new message in your inbox with that new data” – and then he understood it.

* Maye discuss Atom feeds vs RSS. Just something to consider.

* Also, what about the future of two-way RSS, also knowns as SSE.

Good luck. I really, really wish I was going to SXSW. Anyone have a way for me to get there on the cheap?

Matt Collinge
February 13, 2007 at 10:15 am

Interesting comments Kevin. It’s a fine line of allowing people to be notified of new content, and driving them to your site when there’s something they’re interested in. Providing a summary or truncated article would seem to give you the best of both worlds.

The key issue I’m facing in getting users to adopt RSS in the workplace is the fact that RSS is poorly integrated into older web browsers.

With a majority of the workforce running IE6 you have to provide an install kit for a decent reader (and rights to install it). Subscribing to a feed then requires them to hunt down a link on the page, copy the shortcut, and paste it into the reader; it’s far too convoluted.

IE7 and Firefox are starting to make people’s lives easier, but I they require a browser to be permanently open. Once a reader is built into the OS (e.g. like the sidebar widget in Vista) then maybe normal users will start to using them.

Joe Flood
February 21, 2007 at 10:43 am

I look forward to seeing your presentation at SXSW.  The biggest challenge RSS faces for marketing is how to explain it in a way that a non-technical audience can understand.  I was on a panel once describing blogging to an audience of freelance writers.  They got the idea of blogging, being writers, but RSS was hopelessly confusing to them.  They didn’t understand the acronym, how it worked, or why it was useful.  I called RSS “subscribing to a web site” which they seemed to grasp.

Perhaps the difficulties that users face is because RSS has not been implemented in browsers in a way that normal people can understand, as Matt and Kevin described.  I think Safari does the best job at it but even I tend not to use it very much.  There needs to be a better application for handling RSS feeds, one that will make RSS fun and easy.

Emily Chang
April 13, 2007 at 5:17 am

Thanks for your input and sorry for my slow response. I’ve been a bit busy! The SXSW panel went really well and we covered many of your points.

You can catch a podcast that our panel did prior to SXSW on John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing podcast:

Using RSS in Marketing Podcast (or via direct mp3 download here).