Analyzing the New Yahoo! RSS Report for Marketers

From: Copyright 2005 Rok Hrastnik
We were waiting for something like this to happen for a long time. Yahoo!, one of the key providers of mass-market RSS aggregators, finally took a step forward and published their RSS whitepaper, covering their own findings with RSS, based on their usage data.


Let's first take a look at Yahoo! key findings and what they mean for marketers.

    a] Awareness of RSS is quite low among Internet users. 12% of users are aware of RSS, and 4% have knowingly used RSS.
Although RSS awareness is increasing, only few internet users yet understand what RSS is and how to use it.

For marketers, this means that simply placing an RSS button on their site it not nearly enough, with the report finally demonstrating that marketers needs to use clear and persuasive copy to get their visitors interested in RSS, explain RSS to them and get them to subscribe to their feeds.

In addition it also shows that marketers need to make sure they are using "user-friendly" buttons to generate subscribers, such as "Add to MyYahoo!", which consumers do understand.

    b] 27% of Internet users consume RSS syndicated content on personalized start pages (e.g., My Yahoo!, My MSN) without knowing that RSS is the enabling technology.
This finding only underlines the above suggestions.

Stop touting your RSS feeds only using an RSS button, but rather aim for a "subscribe feature" and then explain to the visitor how to use it.

Strong copy has never been so important.

    c] 28% of Internet users are aware of podcasting, but only 2% currently subscribe to podcasts.
Goes to show that podcasting still has a long way to go and can right now function only as a supplement to your existing marketing activities.

It might also give an indication that audio is not the most appropriate format for much online content.

    d] Even tech-savvy "Aware RSS Users" prefer to access RSS feeds via user-friendly, browser-based experiences (e.g., My Yahoo!, Firefox, My MSN).

    e] My Yahoo! has the highest awareness and use of any RSS-enabled product.

Both of the findings above, although indicating that these are the results Yahoo! would want to publish, show that having browser-based RSS reader subscribe buttons is a must.

It also shows that the market is ready for the soon-coming IE and Outlook integrated RSS features, which should really boost RSS usage among consumers online.

Now, let's take a deeper look at the report ...


The whitepaper makes a strong distinction between "Unaware RSS Users" and "Aware RSS Users", positioning the "Unaware" batch as the mainstream Internet population.

This makes it absolutely clear that B2C marketers, targeting consumers, should take special care to promote their feeds using "friendly" subscribe buttons.

On the other hand, if targeting a more tech-savvy audience, going the way of "RSS" and more complex RSS reading tools might be a better choice. This might also prove more effective for targeting executives and other corporate target audiences that might be using an enterprise-wide RSS solution, such as NewsGator.


The whitepaper says that on the average "Aware RSS Users" subscribe to 6.6 feeds.

The consequences of this are not as simple as they might seem. Even "RSS Aware" users do not subscribe to "just anything" and seems they only subscribe or keep being subscribed to the content of highest relevance to them.

The message for marketers is to become even more relevant and more focused on providing real value for their target audiences.

RSS does not mean that end-users will start consuming that much more online content, but simply that their primary consumption channel will change. It's up to you to make place for yourself in this consumption channel, but you can only do so if you become one of the key targeted content providers for your market and can deliver consistently high-quality content.


Even in the world of RSS, mainstream media rules, with World news and National news both leading the pack at 52% and followed by Entertainment at 34% and Weather ad 31%.

If we take a look at what lies beneath this we can see that end-users still see RSS as a news consumption tool and a tool to receive time-sensitive updates, such as weather info.

The interesting part is that blogs achieve only 23% and although they are gaining quickly are still not part of the mainstream.

Whichever way you look at this, the real long tail is still far from fruition.

There are two are interesting categories listed in the report: investment/financial info/banking at 13% and Shopping/online commerce at 10%.

The popularity of these two shows that RSS in fact is appropriate for delivering business info and that RSS can be used for e-commerce. A strong case in point urging e-retailers to start providing RSS feeds.


"RSS Aware" end-users subscribe to feed because of "ease" or "convenience", followed by being able to choose what they read.

To marketers, these three should be the founding stones of how to get their visitors to adopt RSS.


Marketers, pay attentin to this.

Only 4% of total RSS end-users actually use the orange XML button, and only 38% of RSS aware users use it.

It seems the orange button isn't dead ... it was never alive.

Let's move on and replace it with something more user-friendly.

And BTW --- 22% of the people that clicked on the button don't even know what action they took after clicking the button and 26% left the site. Goes to show the RSS button is only losing us subscribers.


50% use the defaults available in the RSS reader and only 13% use the search engines to find them.

Yes, it's cruical to be in the RSS feed search engines, but it would be even better if you could move your way to the default seetings. And by all means, actively promote the feeds on your site as end-users, according to the report, actively tend to subscribe to the feeds on the sites they find interesting.


To conclude this, here's a direct quote from the report, saying exactly what I've been trying to get through for a couple of months:

"To position RSS among mainstream Internet users, it is essential to effectively communicate the benefits of RSS (ease, convenience, access to information of interest). Internet users do not understand how to use the XML button, how to actively seek out RSS feeds, or even what the term RSS means. Instead, they need a simple interface where they can choose the information and content that interests them. This is where personalized start pages and browser-based experiences can help move RSS into the mainstream."

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