Embrace or Shun RSS

Last week, Forrester released a number of reports on RSS for marketers. One of the notions that emerged from the study was that “only 2% of all online households were ‘using RSS.’” WebWatch at picked up on this fact and published a quick piece entitled RSS: 98 per cent of Surfers Shun It:

“If only they loved it as much as the marketers. While news sites and bloggers are getting hot under the collar about RSS, it seems hardly anyone else is.”

The spin on this story is completely misleading. Charlene Li identifies that the number doesn’t “include all the people who may be using RSS (for example, through My Yahoo!) and don’t realize it.” She’s absolutely right and this point should be re-emphasized. I wonder if you asked a set of U.S. households if they were currently using SMTP – would even come close to actual e-mail penetration?

That is not to say that there aren’t issues here – one problem is that subscribing to RSS feeds isn’t always easy. This difficulty has likely inhibited the growth of general adoption of RSS-enabled blog and news reading. But the misconception should be cleared up that RSS isn’t just for blogs, news, and marketing materials. It’s a technology that enables and facilitates the syndication of all types of content. Yes, the implementation of applications on top of it are a little raw right now, but the power underneath it is still emerging.

According to, The American Heritage Dictionary defines “shun” as “To avoid deliberately; keep away from.”

Consumers aren’t deliberately avoiding RSS – they are both still learning about and using it without even realizing it.

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 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.