Washingtonpost.com on Thursday quietly began integrating advertising into its RSS feeds, the first major news site, it says, to offer such a service. The MSNBC TV show The Situation with Tucker Carlson is the inaugural advertiser.
RSS, which was originally created by Netscape as a "Rich Site Summary" technology is now best known as a "Really Simple Syndication" system for online readers. It is an increasingly popular way to automatically gather information from the Internet and deliver it to a computer’s browser. In some ways, it’s like a search engine in that it enables an individual to define the kind of information he or she wants to receive as it is published across the Internet each day.
RSS is most frequently a stream of text information - headline links, short synopsizes and excerpts from blogs to which other kinds of files can also be attached. RSS feeds function something like private wire services bringing subscribers daily updates about a particular topic.
Washingtonpost.com, part of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive - the online publishing subsidiary of The Washington Post Company - offers more than 150 feeds with politics and opinion sections among the most popular.
RSS advertisements are typically barebones text ads, but increasingly HTML ads are used. The key, according to most online marketers, is placing the ads near relevant content -- one reason the Washingtonpost.com feed appealed to Publicis Group’s MediaVest USA, which negotiated the deal for MSNBC.
Ad-supported RSS feeds aren’t brand new -- Yahoo and Google both offer ad-supported RSS feeds, companies such as Pheedo have created RSS advertising networks and blue-chip marketers like American Express, Continental Airlines and Verizon have started to take advantage. But Washingtonpost.com ’s foray into the field is significant in that it foreshadows a future in which mainstream news organizations will compete more directly with search engines and blogs for new media dollars.
And part of the reason MediaVest got in now was to help lay the foundation for that future, said Mohan Renganathan, associate director of digital strategy for the agency.
"As RSS gains ubiquity, we are hopeful that these early tests will lay the groundwork for advertisers and publishers to evolve the platform responsibly,” he said.