Consumer RSS: 1999-2010

paidContent made an interesting connection about Bloglines being shut down and the broader question of RSS in the age of Twitter.

Indeed, in its announcement, Bloglines similarly blames broader trends for its demise, saying, “As Steve Gillmor pointed out inTechCrunch last year, being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system. RSS is a means to an end, not a consumer experience in and of itself. As a result, RSS aggregator usage has slowed significantly, and Bloglines isn’t the only service to feel the impact. The writing is on the wall.”

A month before Steve published his post I wrote a post that remains one of the most popular pieces I have written to date.

Twitter provides publishers with several key advantages over RSS, namely the ability to control brand and force traffic back to their monetized site. Of course none of this precludes them from also using RSS to distribute content and there are equally compelling reasons for doing so but if I were to make a prediction it would be that publishers increasingly find primary utility for RSS in the backoffice while de-empathizing RSS for audience acquisition, in the process embracing Twitter as a mechanism for engaging an audience and promoting content at the same time.

The issue isn’t Twitter and RSS but rather consumer RSS applications have remained for the most part locked in a paradigm that turns out to not be very useful for anyone but a small segment of the market. RSS is at it’s core plumbing and it will remain a key technology for the foreseeable future but the way that people find, collect, and consume content is changing and RSS has diminishing importance because of what it doesn’t enable for the people who create content… any monetization of content, brand control, traffic funneling, and audience acquisition.

This is not to say that some very innovative applications are not being built on top of RSS, like Feedly and Newser, but in both cases the subject of RSS takes the back burner to user experience, presentation, and social layer. Simply put, there is no market for RSS.