WaPo’s Stubbed Feeds Get Better

Photo courtesy of
‘Washington Post box’
courtesy of ‘Joe in DC’

I know what you’re thinking since reading John’s post yesterday – since WaPo truncated all of the RSS feeds on its blogs, how could consuming local news possibly get any better?! Well, my friends, I have good news.

When the feeds first went live on Sunday evening, the new shortened posts looked a little empty. Just a single line of text with the link to the full post. Fear not, people who like colorful objects in your feed reader, now accompanying that single stanza of text is an ad some nine times the size:

Hooooooray traditional ad-driven media models and loyal readers.

Did we mention FullTextRSSFeed yet?

Dave Levy is a PR guy by day, a media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek. He blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing digital media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references. Read why Dave loves D.C.

5 thoughts on “WaPo’s Stubbed Feeds Get Better

  1. I’m not affiliated with any media organization, but I think this is very smart. Instead of ignoring their online readership, WaPo and DCist are looking at practical ways to make money.

    They are letting us read their material for free, and recognizing a reasonable way to make money that’s worked for a while – advertisements.

    Yes, FullTextRSSFeed works, but in doing so you’re taking away from media organizations’ ability to gain money without you paying for anything.

    The NYTimes has been doing their RSS Feed like this for a while, and I like it for them – I can see the synopsis and if I want to read more, click into the page.

    People who work in the media and do good work deserve to be paid accordingly. News organizations are closing left and right and places that can learn to embrace technology as a business model instead of an afterthought should be applauded.

  2. TechMediaGeek hat is going on, apologies in advance.

    1) There is no legitimate evidence that suggests that clickthroughs from RSS increase revenue. Zero. In fact, it doesn’t show an increase in clicks, for that matter.

    2) Ads worked in the loss-leading world of subscription-based hard forms media models. Charging for delivery/channel there was the model. Truncated RSS feeds – ie some meter on content only – are not a business model.

    3) The Times offers a synopsis in the RSS feed…but no ad. Yes, you have to clickthrough if you want to read more. But you also have to clickthrough if you want to post it to Facebook, Twitter or leave a comment.

    and, with a bullet, the main reason:

    4) RSS adoption rate is low and is not going up. I’m an avid RSS user and it pains me to type that. But it’s true. Yet, those who read via RSS are probably more consistent readers, and thus more likely to provide social sharing to those articles which lead to way more clicks whether that feed is truncated, a headline or a full post. I’m not taking away money from the organization by using a full feed tool – I’m actually more likely to pass it along. If anything, that’s better than the old way of me cutting out an article from that newspaper and sending it around (aka, the really old way of making sure friends/family saw it).

  3. I’m a huge fan of RSS myself. I consume all of my news through RSS (including my subscription to WeLoveDC, of course.)

    1. I truly know absolutely nothing about this, so I defer to you.

    2. How do you suggest websites (including your own) make money off of people who read from RSS? WaPo, DCist, NYTimes get me to click through and read an ad, but I can’t think of the last time I clicked through to WeLoveDC until today. I read the story, click through to the next.

    Most of your readers aren’t commenters, or going to share it on social media sites. Granted you have infinitely better statistics on this than I do, so I could be completely wrong, but I guess I assume most RSS readers of sites like WeLoveDC are like me and people I know – who sift through their feeds on their RSS reader and are contributing nothing to the site (financial or content wise). I share articles I enjoy through my RSS reader and that’s how my friends read them – none of us are ever clicking on that story.

    3. There are ads in the Times version, just smaller, more manageable ads. Little text ones, picture ads, not on every one but definitely on enough to be present. Not as huge a presence as WaPo’s (though given their issues over the past few days, I wouldn’t consider their current advertisement state permanent.)

    4. Like I said before several times you are a far better source on this than me, but when I can’t get something on RSS, I probably won’t go to the site at all. And I don’t think I provide more clicks, even though I am an avid reader and sharer, because I don’t use Twitter or Facebook as mediums for that. Clearly just talking about myself here! But I’m a market that companies like WaPo should be looking at.

    It’s like why I watch things on Hulu instead of torrenting them. Yes, I can sit through that awful Geico ad for three commercial breaks, because the TV shows I like are getting money (and being encouraged to make their shows available online and investing in that technology.)

    I guess my point is, people who work in the media deserve to get paid. I want quality journalists to be attracted to the field and be paid a decent wage, and I don’t want to be, well, stealing from them. I like the news! I like TV! I don’t want to pay for them! I will tolerate a slight inconvenience of an advertisement to get free, quality programming.

  4. Hi there Kathryn,

    As you may have noted from reading our feed in an RSS reader, every post on WLDC contains some form of ad, it’s how we pay for the site’s on-going operations. Are these hugely successful moneymakers for us? Not really, no, but they do keep the lights on. We’re not here to make money, we’re here because we care about this city. We’d be a lot more aggressive in our ad sales if this was a primary job for anyone.

    People who work in the media for their careers do deserve to get paid, and I do want talented journalists in our mediasphere here (like Aaron Morrissey at DCist, like Sommer Mathis at Washingtonian and Mike DeBonis at the Post) to get paid, but there has to be a balance on making the content consumable and making the content full of godawful ads.

    What the Post did by turning their stub feed into an ad platform was add insult to injury. Bad enough they don’t provide a summary, but to sell ads against it? No thank you. I do believe that ads can support a medium, when judiciously applied and priced, look at all the great sites supported by The Deck.

    But the way that DCist, and the Post, have chosen to make their sites ad-heavy, and their RSS feeds drivers, it’s frustrating. Content isn’t what they care about at that point, ads are.

  5. All this is completely fair, Tom, and I agree that their ads are definitely too much.

    I still think that avoiding pageviews with something like FullTextRSSFeed is still kind of like stealing, and would rather just not read a site if I was unhappy with it. If I was unhappy with something any company was doing I’d stop consuming their goods, not steal them. I recognize you have a website like this so simply not subscribing to feeds isn’t as discretionary as it is for everyone else (understatement of the century.)

    There needs to be a balance struck, and I think that’s what upset me about the series of posts on WaPo’s RSS decision. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I also wouldn’t be thrilled with WaPo bailing on RSS entirely, and I definitely wouldn’t be thrilled if in the future WaPo laid off half their workers because they couldn’t find some way to make money.