Thursday, August 27, 2009

feed me. i'm hungry for RSS.

Suppose we're at a ballpark--hey, it's summer--and, instead of sending the vendors into the crowds yelling "Beah heah!" like they do at Fenway Park, we have to walk outside of the ballpark and two blocks away to get a beverage. Maybe I want a popsicle, but I can't have one until I consume a four-course meal in your restaurant...your rules. Or you invite me to a picnic, but while I cool my heels at the beach, you're keeping all the sandwiches in your house, where you expect me to show up.

That's what you're doing with your website, I'll bet. If you think of content as food, these days, you need to be thinking "mobile dumpling van" or "street food vendor" or even "home delivery," rather than trying to get me to spend time in your restaurant. Trouble is, most organizations are still trying to follow the "build it and they will come" mythology about their websites.

Kent Newsome summed this tug-of-war between website owners and readers perfectly. If this description from his blog fits your approach, it's time to rethink your strategy:
...the system they are desperately trying to save is the one in which the
provider selects and aggregates content, either on paper or a website, and the consumer accesses that content at the provider's place. Where the experience is tightly controlled
, complete with ads, etc. Under the new system, which will be much better for the consumer once it matures a little, the consumer selects both the content and the package, and then accesses it wherever he or she wants: internet browser, phone, RSS reader, Facebook, etc. Of those choices, the RSS reader is currently the best choice, by far.
Why? Because I get your information where and as I want it, and you and I both work less to make that happen. The time-saving features of receiving dozens of posts in a feed reader make consuming all these treats easier for me (read: more likely to sample your stuff). I don't need to register, join or pay. Think of it as the automat, the buffet on wheels, the conveyer belt with your sushi on it--just serve it to me. (Hat tip to Joe Bonner for the pointer to
Nearly every time I speak about using social networks as a communications tool, business leaders ask, "Isn't it enough that I updated my website? That's where I want people to come." A friend who just launched a new site and promoting it on Facebook and Twitter has focused on getting people into her forums on the website...but is neglecting fans and followers on their preferred pages. And plenty of websites I visit have tasty, tempting which I can't subscribe, because they haven't provided an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed.

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