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ads in rss - not as easy as it sounds?


Last week Jeremy was talking about ads in RSS and how it seems a foregone conclusion that they will, eventually, become the norm. I agree that this is more likely than not, but I doubt that today's web ad infrastructure (as understood by what Yahoo!, Google, et.al. do) will be used directly.

The reason why I say this was actually mentioned by Jeremy, but not explored. While talking about the options (full text with ads, summaries without), he said:

I don't want to have to choose between ad-laden full-content feeds and the pain in the ass summary only feeds. Anyone whose ever tried to catch up on their reading while on an airplane or train gets this.
The problem with ads in RSS lies in the second sentence: "Anyone whose ever tried to catch up on their reading while on an airplane or train gets this."

Many RSS readers are web-based, and those would always work for web ads (unless a plugin is added to stop them, see below). But many, many RSS readers are rich clients, and clients will sometimes be working in disconnected mode.

"Disconnected mode" throws a wrench in the ad-serving business model, by either preventing the download of the ad, or preventing clickthrough.

If that's the case, then how do you serve the ads? You could embed them into the content, sure, but then you'd have the problem of a) showing relevant/uptodate ads, b) measuring ad-views and c) allowing click-throughs, which are impossible while disconnected.

Someone might say that most people are wired most of the time, and so this problem is minimal. But I have no doubt that, were ads in RSS to become pervasive, rich clients would include a simple way of working in "disconnect mode" (and those that don't would fall behind those that do), not to speak of plugins that would surely be developed, both for clients and browsers, just like adblock exists for Mozilla.

If the readers were to be integrated into the ad serving-viewing-clicking cycle (keeping stats, allowing clickthroughs, etc), then maybe things would be closer to web ads, but who is to say that users will not flock to RSS readers that will support the "ad-free" mode? Or modify their ad-friendly readers?

So even though ads in RSS might be just around the corner, I'd bet that they (and the business model behind them) will have to change at least a bit--the current way in which web ads work probably won't be enough.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on November 30 2004 at 6:57 AM

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