Is RSS Like CB Radio?

Imagine if ATT had decided to send all of its telephone subscribers a free CB radio back in the 1970s, just to make sure the company was at the forefront of an exciting new communications technology that was sweeping the nation. Mass adoption of trucker tech by the general population would have been a silly thing for a monopoly to gamble on, right?

Seth Godin today looks back at the CB radio craze of the 70s, and specifically how people at the time mistook a niche fascination for a larger trend. The post concludes with Seth asking whether RSS feeds are akin to a true killer-app like email, or destined to join GeoCities in the discarded technology dustbin.

With any new technology, you can waste money and your all-too-important time chasing a fad while thinking it’s an enduring trend.

At first blush, it might seem like Seth isn’t sure what he thinks about the future of RSS. But if you follow the link he places in his closing question, you’ll see he’s invested quite a bit of his own valuable time in an “Understanding RSS” lens on Squidoo.

As the Godfather of Permission Email Marketing®, Seth knows RSS is not a passing fad or a niche obsession. Anyone who has spent time in the email publishing arena knows that people love to get content that matters to them delivered by email.

What they don’t like is spam, viruses, phishing and filters that nuke desired content. Email has become too important to personal communication for that junk, which means many people no longer want to give out an email address to content publishers.

You know, content publishers like you, who realize how important subscribers are.

The fact is, RSS and CB radio are at completely different points along the technology adoption spectrum, because the concept of sending and receiving opt-in Internet content has already been hugely embraced thanks to email. Since RSS fixes the unintended nasty consequences of email publishing, it too will be hugely embraced.

Which brings us back to silly things that monopolies don’t do.

The way Microsoft has invested in RSS speaks volumes. Feed reading capabilities are integrated throughout Internet Explorer 7, the new version of Outlook, and the Windows Vista operating system itself. Microsoft knows RSS is the future of content delivery, and they’ve made the appropriate big investment.

So… Can I get a big 10-4 on the importance of RSS to your businesses, good buddies? :)

Subscribe to Copyblogger today!

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Google+ or Twitter to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. RSS is just another way to subscribe, and people have always liked to be able to do that with things they like, be it with newspapers, magazines, newsletters, radio stations (pre-set buttons on their radio) and now websites and blogs.

    CB radio was simply not a way to subscribe, it was a way to join the conversation (even if you had nothing to say, and you could listen to people who had nothing to say); much closer to Geocities in that way..

  2. Michael, I certainly agree there. I think what Seth was asking, though, is whether RSS is destined to be a niche enthusiast technology (like the CB) or a universally adopted technology (like email).

  3. I hadn’t read Seth’s post when I wrote that, but what I was trying to say was that RSS fell into the general category of “subscription”, and that’s certainly something that the mainstream likes, unlike creating websites from scratch and listening to strangers chat about road conditions and the price of diesel.

  4. Exactly… Unfortunately too many marketers think RSS is something only “geeks” use, and are therefore missing out on a very big and very significant trend.

  5. I purposly haven’t read Seth’s post before writing this because I don’t want his influence on my thoughts.

    I don’t get RSS.

    It sounds complicated.

    I just want the stuff I want when I want it.

    If RSS does that, then cool. But I don’t think we common folks really care about it.

    It like asking if we care about refridgerated trucks. No, we don’t.

    But we don’t want spoiled fish at the local Publix either.

  6. RSS is not complicated at all in my opinion. Most feedreaders will even autodiscover feeds from websites if you tell them to. Isn’t that great? I love my feedreader, and honestly would much rather have all my information come to one place than do what I used to – open up 35 tabs in a firefox browser to see what’s new.

  7. Char, of course you don’t care about RSS. And neither does anyone else.

    They care about getting stuff they are interested in sent to them, without being subjected to Viagra ads, disguised .exe files, and fake account reminder notes from Citibank.

    Did you know that email was invented in 1965, and it took 30 years before mass adoption started (thanks to the Internet, of course)? When you think about it that way, even the current RSS adoption rate is off the hook.

  8. Rss will just get easier and easier to use,
    and since the technology is easily deliverable to the masses for free!,

    it might really be the way to go.

    I also suspect, that emails as we know it..will evolve!

  9. It’s funny, I *kind of* remember thinking once that RSS was probably complicated and something I didn’t care about… Then I spent five minutes figuring it out the first time and it became an huge staple of my existance.

    If your website *doesn’t* have RSS, I’ll probably never see it again… It gets buried in the shuffle. I may bookmark it in my browser or del.icio.us (with all the 10,000 other bookmarks that seemed important at the time) but the odds of my finding there again are about the same as my finding it on the web again. slim.

    RSS has, for me, become like credit cards, email and call waiting.

    If I can’t buy it with my card, I don’t buy it. Because I don’t have checks and I don’t carry cash. The credit/debit card is great because I can *see* everything whether I grab a receipt or not.

    If I have to send you postal mail instead of email, forget it. I may have all the good intentions in the world, but it’ll never happen (unless you bought something and I’m sending it to you).

    If I can’t reach you on the phone, I’ll eventually give up trying. Voicemail is good, call waiting is better. I want to connect. If I can’t connect, I disengage.

    So yeah, RSS. What I want, when I want it, and never skips a beat. Perfect. And the best thing? It doesn’t cluttter up my email, which is now only for conversation and business (and spam).

  10. 10-4, good buddy! I’m gone!

  11. Hi Brian! – When it comes to technology I am not an innovator. I’m probably an early adopter. That said, I believe that blogs and syndication are going to be around for a while. I have many colleagues asking me about blogging now that I’ve started – they’re the next wave – and to quote another Seth”ism” – When it comes to blogging I’m a sneezer. I will tell them how wonderful it is and even help them get started if they want me to. Blogs and syndication methods may (will) change over time – but democratized content creation will not (imho).

  12. What is ‘democratized content creation’?

  13. What wonderful comments here – a true indicator of what people do or don’t think/ know about RSS.

    Exactly: who cares about RSS? You just want your content. As an RSS evangelist, this is the kind of point I’m try to drive home to website publishers and RSS developers, and what I think Brian has written so well about, now and in the past.

  14. “What is ‘democratized content creation’?”

    Anybody can do it. You don’t need to own a press to access the freedom of the press, you don’t need to spend millions on TV ads or own your station, newspaper, radio, etc..

  15. Now THIS makes sense. I can’t wait to share it with the people who just give me a blank look when I mention the topic of delivery options and email issues.

  16. Are you trying to say that CB radio was just a fad?

    Should I tell all my CB good buddies?

    -over-

    -James Brausch

  17. Agreed, Brian, wholeheartedly.

    I think people tend to discount RSS because they are thinking of it in its raw form, such as readable only with RSS feed readers and such.

    But look at forms of content management and delivery using RSS, which, to the end user, can be delivered in multifarious ways that can be as easy, as practical and as “technoless” as, for example, email.

    Services like RSS to blog, FeedBlitz (email subscriptions delivering new blog posts, captured using RSS behind the scenes), RSS to web (like My Yahoo!, MSN personal portals, and soon Outlook and others)…

    I’m checking my RSS stats, and this seems to be the case — i.e., mostly delivered in more usable and practical ways. The difference is, it gives back control to the end-user.

    Unwanted emails are like unwanted commercials. But then, people pay a premium for satellite signals, or commercial-free, niche-specific TV channels. I think RSS is the same.

    RSS is a language or process, not a medium. I know, personally, that blogs — and even websites that use blog as its guts for content delivery, rather than simple HTML — create fascinating results, pageranks and search engine traffic… faster than any method out there.

    I’m not talking “blog and ping.” Sure, part of it is the relevance search engines and newsfed websites attribute to RSS (because it’s fresher, more relevant, more targeted, etc). Because RSS-fed information is disseminated a lot faster through pinging, etc.

    But the other is, websites, and not just individuals, can use RSS to be more focused, revelant, targeted and niche-specific. For example, a news site is a news site. But a news site on, say, pet dogs, will be more specific and targeted. And, of course, pulling RSS feeds specific for that market — saving the user all the extra steps (and irrelevant search results) to look for that information.

    To me, I look at it this way: as the Internet opens and expands our worlds, RSS brings it together, in tiny, more tightly focused pockets.

    It’s like TV with “X” number of broad, cable channels, versus a satellite-fed TV with premium, or subscribed-based, channels that are topic-centric, such as the golfing channel, the history channel, the Spanish version of the animal channel, etc, etc, etc.

    Rather than drowning in an ocean of convoluted information that is the web, we are opening a world of interconnected yet smaller lakes and rivers.

    Sorry for babbling :)

  18. Great thoughts Michel… we’ll take that kind of babble around here any day. :)

  19. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I care a lot about RSS. Which is not to say that I fully understand how it works, but I can usually explain it in lay terms for people not in the know.

    I’m just fascinated by the fact that Really Simple Syndication makes it possible for me to have information on any given topic delivered right to me, the instant after it’s published. The novelty of it has yet to wear off, and I sing its praises daily to the “later adopters.”

    I predict that soon we’ll get all of our news, tv programming, and everything else we’d
    prefer to have tailored to us in the same way in the very near future.

    DVR+RSS=only what I want to watch.

    Over!