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Pheedo is a US-based RSS ad network that serves ads through feeds, among other things.

We caught up with CEO and co-founder Bill Flitter to find out more about RSS  advertising and how it might finally put the debate over partial versus full feeds to bed.


Can you tell me about Pheedo and the service it offers for publishers and advertisers?

Web users today are creating, broadcasting and aggregating content from diverse sources to organise a compilation of their online life.

The content is funneled through RSS feeds to create a concentrated stream of information comprised of their social networks, ideas, content, beliefs, passions, words, thoughts, and topics that define who they are. This concept is called lifestreaming.

Pheedo provides publishers a window into how users engage with a publisher’s content in that user’s lifestream. We provide a comprehensive view of the number of users engaged with the content, where engagement takes place, the advertising ROI potential and a host of other statistics as it relates to the consumption of that content. 

Pheedo packages these streams to build idea channels around clusters of relevant information that make it extremely valuable and easy for advertisers to participate in.


What kind of advertising is most effective on RSS?

Lifestreaming is an extension of traditional one-to-one conversations. Users assemble a compilation of content including news, photos, videos, and their own thoughts  – anything they feel that defines them and their interest as well as anything their “followers” might fined interesting.

Advertisers who provide content that “tells” vs. sells will find success with RSS advertising. The content needs to be extremely portable and not tethered to the advertiser’s website.

Successful advertisers include Ford, Cisco, P&G. For example, Ford, has created a flow of content that provides users a behind the scenes look and often times a real-time peak into the conversations taking place at the many automotive shows they visit.


Is there a danger of overdoing it?

If the ad content is relevant to the users it magically transforms into editorial content for that user. This is not about interruption or mass marketing. It is about mass niches and tapping into the streams of ideas created by users as these streams flow throughout the web.


What kind of results / conversions do your clients get from RSS ads?

Those advertisers who are truly taking advantage of the RSS architecture want to keep their success a secret. We see engagement rates as high as 10%. Engagement is a compilation of the number of clicks on the content, word-of-mouth activity created, subscriptions to the content, and post subscription activity.

As the users taste for content consumption evolves so to does how marketers evaluate success. We need new standards of measurement. Only measuring CTR tells a partial story. How valuable is it for a user to recommend a product? How do you measure that physical action of forwarding a piece of content to someone else?

We virally-enable all our content assets to increase the possibilities of sharing and report that activity back to the advertiser. We also provide the same analytics tools to advertisers that we provide publishers. This gives advertisers a detailed look into how their content is being consumed.


What's happening with RSS feeds that use ads? Are they losing readership?

Last year, our publishers realized on average a 250% growth in their RSS traffic. 2008 is the year of syndication and aggregation. It is the year where RSS realises its inflection point. Advertising in RSS feeds will become necessity as the feed becomes the main interaction point with that publisher.

Publishers are not the only ones who need to create feeds. Brands who want to participate in a user’s lifestream will need to create feeds to stay stop of mind with their consumers. And many are. According to AvenueA/Razorfish, 40% of marketers used or piloted RSS feeds in 2007. This is up from 10% in 2006.


What is the best way to make RSS advertising user-friendly, while still keeping advertisers happy?

What I tell advertisers who want to participate in a user’s lifestream is this:

1. Create great content that is relevant to the user you are trying to attract
2. Virally-enabled the content for easy sharing
3. Create the content so it is digestible in micro-chunks
4. Determine the right amount of content flow to keep users engaged
5. Consider the whole experience when evaluating success  (vs. just clicks)

Furthermore, I encourage brands to create a lifestream of their own. A brand is a living breathing organism. A brand is about the people who make up that brand. So therefore a brand has a life.

Content is brand’s life might include press releases, product reviews, blog postings, pictures of the company picnic, whitepapers – mostly likely all the things they already have but not centralized.

Cisco is leveraging lifestreaming as a lead nurturing technique. They created a branded brandstream that includes video, press releases, customer stories and product updates as a way to connect with their potential users.


Where do you stand on the debate about full or partial text feeds?

I believe users should have the option to choose. I think we will get there. One of the main reasons why the full-feed option is not the norm is due to the publisher’s fear of losing traffic and revenue.

As publishers understand first how to create a successful RSS program that delivers ROI, they will become more comfortable offering more of their content in the feed. We are just at the beginning stages of this understanding. Gawker media is one of the pioneers to provide users the option of summary or full feed content.  Look for more publishers to follow suite this year.


How much does RSS advertising cost compared with other marketing channels?

Advertising in RSS Feeds is still considered new media. The average CPM in 2007 was $5.  Rates have increased 28% in 12 months as media buyers have come to understand and appreciate the potential of reaching the content aggregators and broadcasters. 

Because RSS is a more personalized medium and therefore highly targeted, expect rates to be competitively priced and more inline with premium inventory rates.


How does it compare (in terms of ROI) to other channels, email etc?

Because ROI is calculated differently based on the advertisers objectives and we don’t always have visibility into those calculations, we measure success on percentage of repeat buyers of our products. That is the true indication of our success.


Is there a place for branding ads in RSS feeds?

If branding means creating awareness for one’s products and services, much of what is done today with in-feed is branding. The RSS users are a highly desirable demographic. They are influential, highly-educated, wealthy and very active online. This makes them very attractive to advertisers.


Will behavioral targeting be introduced to RSS advertising?

RSS is the unexpected lever that will change how we think about and use the web, and the applications that we are going to make, going forward. By nature, lifestreaming is compilation of one’s online behavior aggregated in one central place. If behavior targeting helps to increase ad performance, than yes, BT will become a part of the in-feed targeting toolbox.

Keep in mind, users are in control of what enters (and exits) their lifestream. Overtime, our needs and interest change. Think of a lifestream as a kaleidoscope. It is crucial we continue to monitor the flow and make adjustments in our advertising. 


Is RSS advertising moving beyond basic text and banner ads to rich-media ads, and other formats?

Yes, absolutely. However, rich-media ads in feeds will take on a new meaning. One of the nuances of RSS and the reason Pheedo exists is standard ad delivering techniques like iframes/javascript are not including the RSS specification.

This also leaves out flash and rich media ads as we know them today. We are developing new RSS specific rich-media ad types that achieve the same end result but are constructed differently. For example, our proprietary FeedPowered ‘rich-media’ ad platform delivers real-time information to RSS feeds based on some targeting criteria.

Users can interact with the ad beyond just clicking on it and landing on the advertiser’s website. They can subscribe to the content, share it or save it for later. It delivers text, audio or video feeds.


What RSS advertising standards are there in development?

We understanding the fact there is giant online ad infrastructure in place already. We have to be the size of Google to influence significant change. We adhere to current best practices on measurement and ad sizes.  How we get to those standard measurements is completely different because the nuances of RSS.

However, there is a groundswell taking place to define engagement level stats and to incorporate it into a marketer’s vernacular. There is tremendous value a brand realizes when their content is subscribe to, shared and discussed however there is no agreed-upon measurement of that level of involvement.

Defining and agree to some sort of engagement statistic will take years to become a standard success metric.


Related stories:
How can you help promote RSS Awareness Day?
Do your users know their RSS from their elbow?
Pheedo launches 'FeedPowered' ads

Graham Charlton

Published 24 April, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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