If you’re making a list of the top three reasons to love RSS, one of them has to be that it exists largely outside of the Internet advertising machine. That is, it’s the only major browsing technology that isn’t trying to directly monetize every second of your online experience.
But we are taking a stand for the right of one group of advertisers in the RSS universe- publishers. You know, the people who create the great content we all read via The Old Reader.
Publishers have been trying to figure out how to make a living off digital publishing since before there was an Internet. For the most part, they have settled on a free, ad supported model rather than a closed, subscription-based business plan. That’s a good thing.
But we’ve gotten more than a few requests from users that we include ad blocking or even screen scraping technology to deliver syndicated RSS content stripped of ads. Even though RSS is a great way to avoid much of the advertising industry, ads do creep in. Some sites fill feeds with advertising, or put very little content in them to force readers to visit the full, ad-loaded website.
But it is their content, and it is the publishers right to advertise and drive traffic to their websites. It’s not always our favorite approach, but we won’t get in the way. I certainly understand that ads can be annoying. (I tend to drop the worst offenders from my feed.) But if one of my favorite sites is ad supported, they need to know that their ads are being served and seen by their RSS followers. It’s easy to imagine lots of sites would stop syndicating if RSS became just a hole in their business model.
Besides, the publisher-driven ad model we’re supporting is much healthier than what is emerging on the social platforms. The reader/aggregator/social networks are taking most of the ad revenue and making it hard for the publisher to get their share. For example, in the Facebook model, publishers pay Facebook to promote their content, then Facebook surrounds that promoted content with their own ads. Only if someone clicks through on the post to the actual content does the publisher even have a chance to get their own ad impression.
We talk a lot about keeping the web open, neutral, and as free as possible from the insidious influence of advertising. It’s part of our belief in the power of technology to connect our users, deliver them the content they want and with the best possible experience.
But advertising is part of the world we live in. There has to be an acceptable level, or there will be a lot less content worth reading. Our goal is to build a virtuous circle. We want users to want to read content on The Old Reader, where you will be subjected to the lowest level of advertising possible. Hopefully, the publishers will appreciate that courtesy, and keep syndicating that content for you as well.