On October 20th, 2008 Forrester Research released a report titled, What's Holding RSS Back? - Consumers Still Don't Understand This Really Simple Technology, by Julie M. Katz. Here's what Steve Rubel over at Micro Persuasion says about it in his Blog post, RSS Adoption at 11% and it May Be Peaking, Forrester Says:
"... nearly half of marketers have moved to add feeds to their web sites. Further, RSS adoption among consumers is at 11% up from just 2% of users three years ago. RSS feeds usage is more dominant among men.
Here's the kicker, though. That might be all she wrote for RSS' growth track.
According to the research, of the 89% of those who don't use feeds only 17% say they're interested in using them. In fact Forrester spends much of the report helping marketers better explain the benefits of RSS to their customers. 'Unless marketers make a move to hook them — and try to convert their apathetic counterparts — RSS will never be more than a niche technology,' the analysts (who include Jeremiah Owyang) wrote."
While this Blog post has me feeling a little bit like I am driving with a blindfold on (as I have not read the Forrester Report myself), I'm wondering if this survey also included people using tools like iGoogle or their Facebook News Feed? What about some of that base RSS functionality we're seeing built into most web browser for news? Is Forrester really just talking about consumers clicking on the RSS feed button?
People are probably using tons of RSS, but simply don't know that it's called that. For the most part, the average consumer doesn't know if what they are reading is a Blog or website as well. Take a look through the comment section on this Blog and you'll see that most people think I am writing articles here.
Brave New World of Digital Intimacy was a great article from The New York Times (September 7th, 2008) written by Clive Thompson. Before reading the following quote from the article, think about how the News Feed page of Facebook is really a RSS feed of your social network:
"In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why? Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it 'ambient awareness.' It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye."
You can see how this filters for news, Blogs and other online properties that are using and leveraging RSS. RSS enables you to not only have ambient awareness of people, but of information as well. Doesn't it feel good to know you're up to date on the news that matters most to you?
Is RSS still clumsy?
Clicking on the button and choosing your news reader is all pretty geeky stuff still. Will it be just as geeky when it crosses the threshold like Facebook did by adding in News Feed?
Not a chance.
Name me one person you know who likes clicking on their bookmarks and trying to figure out what is new (and where) on their favourite sites? Name me one person you know who would not love to have all of their favourites centralized in one location and they are notified (in real-time) when all of those sites are updated? It's doubtful that RSS adoption is peaking, maybe what is peaking is the tired and clunky way we have to set it up.