Fun with Safari and RSS Feeds

Instead of doing something I should be doing but I don’t want to do right now (e.g., grading essays), I think I finally figured out how to use the RSS feed feature that comes built into Mac browser Safari. It’s a pretty handy feature, although I do have two minor problems. First off, it seems a bit buggy to me. I’m not completely sure about why, but it seems like it doesn’t want to list all of the articles that would be in the feed. Second, I wish this was actually a feature that was in my prefered browswer (and the browser that works better with WordPress), Firefox. But it does what an RSS feed is supposed to do: it allows me to skim the headlines of a whole bunch of blogs while I’m drinking coffee in the morning.

In the course of reading my RSS feed the other day and looking at an entry that Collin had about Web 2.0 identity issues (and I think that Jeff has a good point on this stuff), I came across an entry from Random Tech Notes, “Web 2.0: Does RSS Decrease Page Views?” Here’s a snippet:

First, lower page view counts mean less ad revenue. Second, the importance of site layout and HTML may diminish somewhat. I suspect sites interested in making any ad revenue at all will begin providing headlines-only for their RSS feeds, but this won’t entirely eliminate the page count degradation problem.

This is all very good for the reader – you can now find things faster and spend less unproductive time browsing, if you so choose. But if you’re a web site operator who derives most of your revenue from ad dollars generated by HTML page views or clicks, I think you’re going to be in for a surprise as RSS uptake increases.

The first point– lower page views and less ad revenue– of course only matters if you are in this stuff for the money. Right now, none of the sites in my feed are money making ventures, though I might be adding things like boing-boing to my list soon.

The issues about layout and design are more significant, I think. It means that it probably isn’t worth a huge amount of time and work to put together a really snazzy layout for your blog because people come to your site via a headline. And if we’re all going to be reading each others’ blogs with various RSS feed tools and I’m going to be using tools on my computers that deliever the content with the look that I want, then we’re back to the power of the word. What will get a reader interested in my blog is a good headline and a snappy opening sentence or two.

And, in a weird way, doesn’t this move us away from “visual rhetoric” and just back to good ol’ fashion “words in a row” rhetoric? Hmmmm….

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