Can we go back to RSS yet?

And that you’ll subscribe to your favorite blogs by RSS, because it’s mostly uninterrupted by people who’d rather you didn’t get what you were hoping for. Just you and the blogs you want to get.

Source: Seth’s Blog: The choke points

Many years ago the future was RSS. Every site worth knowing about had an RSS feed. We used Google Reader to read through our curated RSS feeds. It was quick, it was simple, it avoided spam, and best of all it generated no email. Great, right?

But somewhere along the line some chimp decided that sending information via email newsletters was a better idea. And for someone trying to peddle their wares email newsletters work; this is why markets, SEO companies, SumoMe, and everyone else under the sun¹ pitches the value of increasing your readership and hence revenue via email. And it worked. For them. For the first-movers, the people who decided to crap on the commons so to speak.

But email isn’t good for this. It means the majority of people have an inbox that is 33% stuff they need to read, 33% complete nonsense, and 33% things they subscribed to and want to read but in a very lightweight “hey, if I miss an article it doesn’t really matter anyway” way. Google is trying to combat this by breaking your inbox into different tabs. I find this incredibly inefficient but maybe others like it.

What I’d like to see is a return to good old RSS (or similar):

  1. Email is for email i.e. important things I need to handle. The less I have, the better.
  2. News-reading and all the other stuff comes in via RSS (did you know you can configure Slack to receive RSS? Not the best reading experience ever but if you think every problem can be solved with Slack this tip is for you). While Google Reader was shuttered Feedly is pretty good and if there were more RSS feeds other companies would create innovative new tools.

For this to work we’re going to need to allow the publishers to make money. So yes, the RSS feeds will have ads and you need to see them. Or pay a fee to receive the fee. If you think about it by opting-in to an email newsletter you’ve basically given the publisher that same right but have less control. Crazy.


¹ I tried these tools for Sports Brief Daily and Whalesight. Neither have been very effective in their email use but that’s likely more a statement about the content than the tools. So yes, I’ve lived in the glass house.

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