Explicit, Implicit, & Advertorial RSS Monetization

The CEO of Indeed, Paul Forster, addressed a number of topics on yesterday’s Syndicate panel entitled “New Pathways to Profits: Exploring Business Models.” I caught up with him after the session to chat about the very insightful distinction he made about how corporations can monetize content, even though RSS allows it to be decoupled from its origins. After all, how do you monetize content when it’s everywhere and no longer under complete control?

Paul drew a distinction between what he calls explicit monetization vs. implicit monetization. Explicit monetization is direct and overt. By definition, user-generated revenue is tied directly to the feed itself. The best example is the placement of ads in publisher content RSS feeds. Classic model of content surrounded by advertising.

Implicit monetization is more subtle. The way I understand his characterization, corporations can offer RSS feeds which are part of the value of a user’s revenue stream, but the revenue generation isn’t directly tied to the feed. For example, UPS or FedEx offering a tracking feed tracing the path of a customer’s package. It is not explicitly a revenue-generator, but rather delivering service value which the customer certainly pays for in turn.

I would also argue that there is a third category of monetization somewhere in between explicit and implicit, which I’ll call advertorial monetization. There is a distinctive set of content that companies can offer which is both editorial content and advertising – i.e. advertorial. In these feeds, the content is the advertising, yet it still delivers value to the end-user. For example, e-retailers could offer consumers a feed with weekly coupons. Or, eBay could offer a feed with the persistent results of my search for “t-shirts,” so I always know what’s for sale on its marketplace. In both of these cases, these feeds are advertorial because they are clearly merchandising a company’s products, yet they still offer value to the end-user.

I think that both start-ups and large corporations alike can benefit from exploring which of these three monetization strategies are best suited for the type of syndicated content they offer their customers – explicit, advertorial, and implicit monetization. It’s not a one-size-fits all.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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