By Sharon Housley
As publishers have moved towards monetizing RSS feeds, there have been vibrant discussions as to whether advertisements in feeds are viable or whether they will drive subscribers away. At the end of the day while it appears that many are discussing the philosophical approaches to ads in RSS feeds few are taking the time to examine the options available for inserting advertisements in feeds. Ultimately the advertisements served are going to determine the success of RSS as an advertising medium. The ads served must be related to the content contained in the feed. If the RSS feed contains quality content, the ads are relevant, and the volume of ads is in balance with the volume of content served, advertising in RSS feeds will succeed. Take a closer look at some of the ad serving options currently available for RSS feeds.
Review of Current Options
Google’s AdSense for Feeds offers contextually targeted advertisements, with a wide selection of advertisers. Google chooses not to divulge the percentage of revenue that is shared with the publisher, so it is difficult if not impossible to predict monthly revenue. The current Google AdSense system for feeds is tied to blogs and does not appear to be overly flexible.
Pheedo displays categorized advertisements rather than contextual advertisements. The upside to this is that Pheedo’s advertisements can be used in conjunction with Google AdSense or AdSense for feeds without violating Google’s contract. Pheedo works with the publisher to serve advertisements from similar or related categories associated with the feeds contents.
Pheedo’s system allows for advanced ad filtering, giving publishers control over keyword ad filtering, specific ad filtering or url filtering. Pheedo’s system also allows publishers to sell ads to existing advertisers with whom they already have a relationship. The revenue split is 50% and feeds can be a sponsored flat rate advertisement or a pay-per-click advertisement, where the publisher is only paid if the advertisement is clicked.
Kanoodle’s systems for providing advertisements for feeds is similar to Google’s but they do not have the breadth of advertisers that Google boasts. Advertisements are served based on topics, not keywords. Kanoodle shares 50% of the revenue generated from the advertisements with the publisher serving the ad.
When evaluating feed ad serving solutions consider the following:
1. Ad Relevance
In order to generate revenue from RSS advertisements or for an advertising campaign to succeed using RSS as a channel it is absolutely critical that the advertisements served in the feed contain related content, the more related the content the higher the likelihood that the advertisements will be of interest to the reader and clicked. Also, the closer the content relates to the feeds theme the higher the likelihood the reader will have genuine interest in the product or service being advertised.
2. Ad Ratio
Publishers need to retain control over the frequency of advertisements. Advertisers may be happy because they are reaching a targeted audience and publishers because their advertisements are being clicked and generating revenue, but readers will become frustrated with feeds that are too heavily laden with advertisements.
3. Clearly Denoted as Ads
The debate over editorial control and advertisements rages on. It is generally considered proper net etiquette for publishers to clearly mark advertisements to distinguish them from editorial web content. When selecting a RSS advertising partner consider the context in which the advertisements are displayed. Does it blend with the feed or site, while still being clearly marked sponsored material? Or does the content blend so well that it appears as a product or service endorsement from the publisher? Credibility and reputation online matter, and the segregation of advertisements and ensuring they are properly denoted as such will go a long way to enhance credibility with readers.
Clearly as RSS increases in popularity, publishers will be looking for ways to monetize their content. RSS in advertising is a logical step, and striking a balance between quality, consistent content and occasional related advertisements will lead to the success of advertising in RSS feeds. If the balance is not found, publishers may be forced to move to a subscription RSS feed model.
The Wall Street Journal was one of the first content publishers that announced a subscription model. Rather than embedding advertisements in the RSS content feeds, the Wall Street Journal provides teaser copy and if the subscriber wishes to view the expanded content they are charged a subscription fee.
Time will determine the long term viability of advertisements in RSS feeds. If RSS advertisements perform like the contextual text based ads currently served on websites, RSS advertisements will likely become common place. While the content publishers who specialize in unique, consistent content might find the subscription model more effective.
About The Author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for FeedForDev an RSS component for developers.