Advertisement, Talking Blogs and Full feeds

30 Jul 2005

I’m not going to talk about the benefits of RSS again, nor about the why’s and why nots of blogging. You can dig through the archive for that. What I am going to show you, or better, ‘where’ I am going to point you to, is of a totally different level. What follows are some of the best examples one could possibly imagine nowadays when it comes to integrating blogs and rss with new technologies.

Part 1 : Podcast ?

Podcasting is a way to tell your personal computer to automatically download audio files onto your mp3 player. These files are hosted on a server. The podcasting server stores the audio files that you want on your mp3 player. The server waits for a request from a client, a piece of software you, as a listener should have configured to go collect the programmed files. Then, after downloading the files, the client enables you to transfer the audio to a portable device, like a basic mp3 player or your next mobile phone.

Part 2 : Hey, my blog’s an automated podcast !

Nathan from InsideGoogle pointed me to Talkr, a wicked service I’ve never heard of before that transforms your blogtext into an audio file. Talkr creates an audio version of the publisher’s content and then distributes the resulting podcast. Talkr also displays a text version of the content within their lightweight feed aggregator. They agree to provide an automated service which converts the publisher’s RSS feed into a podcast.

” If the publisher chooses, Talkr will pay the publisher if the publisher’s readers become paying customers of Talkr. Talkr may insert advertisements into the podcast, unless the publisher opts out. [...]

Talkr will provide the publisher with a link that the publisher may use to link to Talkr. If the publisher implements this link, and one of the publisher’s readers follows the link and becomes a paying subscriber to Talkr, Talkr will provide a revenue share back to the publisher.

Talkr will pay the publisher a base commission of $7 for each subscriber that maintains their Talkr subscription for at least 30 days.” (from the terms of service)

So, how much better can this become ? I’ve signed up my blog and became a member. Members then can become partners (hence the licence agreement mentioned above).

Talkr monitors its partners’ RSS feeds, and creates an audio file when a new blog post is published. They provide ‘ partners’ with an RSS feed that works with any podcasting client and a tool which allows the partner to link directly to the audio for any particular post. You can use the Talkr service in two ways. Either you add a hyperlink to every post, by which every post gets audio’d and prepared to be indexed by castcatchers, or you can just promote your spoken RSS with a fancy chicklet. It then looks like this :

Link to Podcast (RSS feed) for this blog

I’ve put a link next to the permalink in the title, if my feed gets approved, you can hear the podcast. Talkr just needs to update me, but I’ve only subscribed moments ago, so…

The code to tag every post with audio is :[your permalink]

…where you have to replace ‘[your permalink]‘ with… the permalink of the post you want to be podcast-enabled. So simple. I love it.

Part 3 : Ethical approach.

This brings me to the next discussing I’ve had with Nathan. What about ‘full feeds’? Nathan says he’s about to offer a full feed from his blogs, over at the Blog News Channel.
I disagree. I’m not tempted to do likewise. In fact the entire discussion is based on a difference in perception of the usage of RSS. Nathan looks at it from a broader perspective than I do, and that leads us to the point of ‘targeting your target group’. Nathan collects a massive amount of feeds. He’s up to 121 individual subs right now, but monitors another 1500. I’m sure he’ll be one of the heavy users that actually can test the actual benchmark of many readers, if there were to be a ‘multiple’ input in the reader itself. 121 individual feeds. A few are combo-feeds from Findory delivering over 100 items a day. Imagine the time spent reading just these feeds. For starters. Wow.

But okay, it’s his profession, he’s a journalist. He needs the news. So he prefers full feeds, because all the info is fed to it. He says : “As a reporter, I need to read massive amounts of news every day. If a feed doesn’t have the full content, it is much harder for me to get that news. As a blogger, I want as many other bloggers and reporters reading my feed, so that they are linking to my posts. You gain so many readers because other bloggers are reading your blog than you lose because people are reading your feed, at least in my theory.”

I can agree with this statement, but I won’t. Nathan is a ‘text-collector’, so I think the type of blogs he reads are allowing him to do this full feed gathering. Information often is purely text based, and with RSS, the ads are reduced to a minimum. In my humble opinion however, blogs are the center of the action, not RSS. I see my RSS feed as a promotional tool for my blog. The RSS isn’t the blog, it’s an informational teaser. See, there’s the difference. – I don’t want you to have enough with the feed, just backlinking it when you’ve copy-pasted something. I want you to come read it here, in my world, and then copy-paste it to republish parts.

Therefor, the discussions everybody has been having lately about whether or not to insert full RSS feeds or stripped parts is irrelevant. It just depends on the type of blog you have and the sort of content you offer. Most of the things I write about (or quote) come with illustrations. Should I start adding these too in the full feed then? How close does this bring you to adding rich content to the RSS feed, turning it into a mini-blog with a css-style or a background image you could load externally, just to ‘customize’ the feed? That sort of gives you double work, and you’d be getting into a situation where one thing is mirroring the other.

Everywhere I look on the internet, people are urged to ‘get into RSS before you realize what a great opportunity you’ve been missing out on’ with almost every time as main teaser : ‘to drive more traffic to your site or blog’. That’s the part I miss out on when I deliver full feeds, I guess. ‘Not necessarily’ I can hear you think. No. Indeed. But I guess more traffic would go to the things you link to in your posts than to your site. And that’s a pity, but the truth. ‘And why is that?’

If you have advertisers on your blog, I’m guessing they would like to see traffic. They just love people clicking on their ads. Really. I think, as a publisher you sort of need to have the respect to offer your advertisers an exclusive product, regular postings in this case, that is being offered from ‘first hand’ – read: as a scoop – to possible interestees. This might sound weird to you, but I think it’s worth thinking about it. In this case : no full feed, but teasers. Just enough text to make ‘em interested and eager enough to come see more, thus meeting the sponsors of your blog, in the design atmosphere you created. Your world.

Unless you start adding their ads to the feed too, you’re degrading the value of your content, because now everybody has access to it, but not all of those people click through to the blog. Your actual ‘reach’ of the information you publish is unknown here, what makes it hard to set a price on the ad-space for your blog. Doesn’t it?

So let’s suppose you add their ads to your full feed. (loading…) k, it’s there. Now I have ads in the RSS. Many readers hate ads in their feeds. Will they unsubscribe? Maybe. They’ll learn to live with it, most likely. But still. More stuff to manage. Which brings me to the following point. I’m a designer/blogger (and lately, according to Randy, a geek). Blogging isn’t what I do for a living, but I like to ‘own’ my work. Almost physically. That’s why I code everything by hand, manual and I have a hard-copy of every bit online, locally mirrored. Suppose they hack your blog and delete your entries. Suppose a server crashes. Suppose a company goes out of business. What will you do with your archive? Run a PHP server locally to retrieve the info? Copy paste all articles one by one from a cache? I’m just saying, people are creating content which is kept remote. I hate remote things. I’m local. Everywhere.

Nathan predicts the following : “When RSS is more mature, most professional feeds will probably have three versions: One with lots of ads and full content, one with no ads and excerpts, and one with full content that costs a quarter a month, or some really low price.”

Lots of ads and full content.‘ – Is that something you’d be proud of? I for one wouldn’t be. It degrades the value of the content you’ve spent your time on creating it. Again you could say, ‘ so yeah, let’s get some money for it’, to which I’d reply : what is better : raise the price of the adspace on your blogs, leading traffic to it with excerpts, or having many more ads for less money, making your feed and blog look like a childrens’ cut ‘n paste book ? I’d only do this with your feed if you’ve decided to launch it together with a paid service. It’ll scare readers away if you ‘just’ do this all of the sudden.

No ads and excerpts.‘ – Like my feed ;) It’s the best and easiest way. It suits both types of visitors, those who need infotainment and seek ‘atmosphere’ and design while being informed, and those who crave for infotext and just need to be feeded with ‘printed-press-alike’ news. The challenge is to write a good teaser that attracks the stubborn full-feed readers and convince them to click through. The title and the first 500 characters are the most important part of a text. Nathan says sometimes articles need time to ‘build’ the story to a certain clue. Okay. Then write a short resume, and publish that. You just need to leak enough information.

Full paid content. ‘- Agreed. You’re a pro now. Adfree paid content? What’s it going to cost? I’d pay up to $5 a month if the news is fresh, worth it and exclusive. You can perfectly seperate it from the blog, keeping the blog’s content sponsored with ads and the feed ad-free or just sponsored with a text link on top.

Where does this leave me, as a semi-pro blogger? Let me tell you this:

First it was all about owning a website and being on the web. I was there in 2000, right in time to see a big bubble burst. Then a bit later, it was all about getting newsletters out to as many e-mail addresses as possible. That became a bit regulated by some laws and got tagged as ’spamming’. Then people needed to be able to talk and see moving things on their sites that survived the dotcom downhill race. Java chatboxes poppep up, got spammed. Forums started, got spammed. IRC channels got overpowered, admins denied. Flash and Shockwave became needed players with or without toolbars and designers made intros that took ages to load or play until someone invented the ’skip this’ button. Then people wanted to play music while readers were there, or have video plugs that played interesting things. People started to simplify things with RSS, but despite its name, RSS became a complicated matter ‘an sich’.
Nine different languages, one more compatible than the other, tons of feeds and feedreaders, blogs and wiki’s all over the place and an enormous amount of possibilities. Information is everywhere.

Right about now, I have to update a site, a blog and a feed. Manually. Then I have to go ping Technorati, because half of the time the claim-plug doesn’t do it automatically. Apparently that doesn’t help either because when you search for ‘Coolz0r’ none of my recent posts show up. Then after a few days some show up, some don’t. Funky shit, the Technorati. But I keep pinging it, in case it somehow should have a ‘to ping’ cue like a printer or so. Then I ping the url in some other main dirs like etc. over the internet, add it to, comment every here and there on a remark or a trackback with the haloscan-thing and search for places where previous posts are appearing or quoted, then maybe interact to it.

I think that’s quite enough for a simple blog. Have you seen the amount of things people use these days to get news? Check out the list of chicklets on this blog. And many are not even listed ! What more can a blogger take?

I’ll tell you this. If anyone wants to advertise on this blog, it’s going to be pretty simple. I don’t have paid subscribtions, because I think news should be free. That’s my opinion, and it doesn’t exclude me signing up for other blogs that charge some cash for info. If it’s really worth it, why not. I’ll certainly consider it. So ads would only appear on the main index of the blog. Maybe a textlink to the current sponsor in the feed. No more. I’m not going to create three feeds with different contents. I’ll try to lure innocent readers in my nest and cuddle them with a fluffy design and maybe a word from a sponsor every here and there. Full feeds? Too much imaging going on. And my last strike Nathan : you lazy surfer ! it’s just a click away ! it’s a permalink, how much easier can it get ?

Then again, for an initiative as Talkr, a full feed would be handy. If you look at it from a podcastlistener’s point of hear (or view, whatever). But that brings me to another problem of adaptation I tend to have if you need to go ahead with technology, follow the trends and belong to the in-crowd. But as I’m moving ahead, there’s a lot of stuff from the past I’m dragging with me. I’m not losing any weight, I’m just gaining. There should be an app that has the possibility to add sites to ping and trackback to, that generates a spoken full feed, a semi-feed with excerpts, a blogpost (and one on the index) and that handles comments. The app should generate a database of html pages and should be a stand-alone thing. Nothing remote. And I should be able to have a dreamweaver-alike interface to work in. Anyone ?

Part 4 : Comic Relief in VLog. [the 'V' stands for 'video']

Partly related to this topic, but of a lighter content to end this somewhat larger post, is the New York Times’ Video Post from David Pogue on Podcasting I got pointed to by Nathan. He puts it just right. There IS a borderline to cross when it comes to new technologies, I can’t wait to see people mean the things David is joking about. Because you just know there will be folks who’ll do this..

“Apple’s iTunes software now offers a gateway to 3,000 podcasts – audio files that can be downloaded to a portable player. But how would a technology columnist dramatically interpret them?”

[The superb NYT VideoColumn from David Pogue] (WinMedia)
[Need a Podcast Client ? Try DopplerRadio]
[Try out Talkr]
[Talkr about podcasting] – [Talkr FAQ] – [XML ? RSS ?]

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Posted by Miel Van Opstal in Advertising, Blogging, Tools


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