Andrew Chen, Quibb, Uber

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VP Product & Business Operations at theBoardlist

I've never taken to RSS as a user . . . it's just completely outside of my normal workflow. Email for me remains king as far as getting communications I want to see (and a lot I don't). I'm checking my email all day, everyday, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon. I get your blog notifications (and others) by email because I want to make sure I don't miss them, and I don't have to rely on my memory to remember to go look for them. There are other such ways of getting notified that would fit this profile of working into my existing workflows/habits: SMS, Facebook, now Tumblr. But RSS never made the cut for me, and I'm sure this is true for a lot of people.

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VP Product & Business Operations at theBoardlist

And by the way, I read Seth Godin's blog everyday . . . on email.

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Director of Marketing at Playerize

"What's disrupting it is simple: Blogger, TypePad, and Wordpress were born in an era where we thought of blog networks as decentralized standalone properties. Turns out consumers don't care about that all. Instead, the formula of feeds plus following lets you have a vertically integrated reader, no RSS required. And if you look at the tremendous growth of everything from Twitter to Instagram to Tumblr, you can see that the integrated reader has won out." I read this three times; I know what you're trying to say but it's not crystal clear as to what you're positing.

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Quibb, Uber

I will rewrite. Thanks :)

Unstructured Ventures, Foresight

The interesting thing is that you didn't say in the post that you would stop publishing to RSS, just that you would stop pushing new subscribers to subscribe to RSS. So many of the negative comments were based on the assumption that you would stop publishing to your RSS feed, and that they would no longer receive your blog. Which is not what I thought. Correct, or incorrect?

On feedback on RSS, something like "RSS doesn't have a reply function" could make the point clearer.

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Co-Founder at iobeam

I think that email > RSS is a fair argument, but what I'm especially curious about is the value of a follower on the different feed systems: Tumblr, Quora, Twitter, and of course, Quibb. For example, if you were to publish the same post on all these networks, what's the probability that a Tumblr follower will read it versus Quora? Because even if RSS is dying, the solution can't be publishing on every network. (And does email trump all?)

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Quibb, Uber

Good point, I think it's just about where I put my focus. I haven't fully decided yet, as Taylor Davidson mentions, whether to turn off my RSS feed completely or not. It's really about where I put my focus and what I encourage people to do.

In terms of whether to turn it off or not, the current plan is to just run them side by side and maybe I'll force the issue later. But I agree with your point to just publish across a bunch of networks (which I have been doing).

Startup Edition, Product Hunt

1) "So when it comes to the very practical question: What should I prompt my users to subscribe to? RSS or email? The answer is easy, go with email."

This may be outside the scope of this article but I would love to hear some strategies for collecting email addresses. Giving something away for free (see convertkit.com) or using a call-out like HelloBar seems to be the common tactic but I'd love to get some numbers and learn about new techniques that are effective.

2) "One of the best aspects of email subscriptions (and Twitter) is that you can actually see who's taken interest in your work. You can even reach out to them and start a friendly conversation. Some of the most important relationships in my career have been made over email and Twitter. Funny, right?"

I empathize. :) Twitter has become the best way to connect with interesting/successful people in startups and outside of face-to-face conversations, email is the best way to engage in conversation (as I wrote about yesterday, that's one of the reasons why I email 'thanks' to bloggers I respect).

3) An additional benefit of email is that it can be forwarded very easily which can be especially effective for business/startup-related content where one might forward to an internal email alias (e.g. team@company.com).

4) Very curious to hear other's ideas on what will replace RSS. IMO, consumers are satisfied with existing channels of discovery but it's the content creators that thirst for more distribution, closer connection to users, and better tools for writing.

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Startup Edition, Product Hunt

Would love to hear Nathan Kontny, Stefano Bernardi, and Adii Pienaar's take on this.

Wild card at Betable

Great inputs.

I've always been a massive fan of RSS, but I must say I feel a bit like what the QR Codes fans might feel like. Anyways, my comments:

The biggest problem with the post in my opinion is that you don't offer an alternative. A tl;dr could be: "nobody cares about RSS, so I won't use it anymore". Well, what then?

I disagree with the fact that email subscribers are more active than RSS ones. RSS has a disastrous tracking and there is no way to know who reads your content, but that doesn't mean it's not read or shared.
Email has its own problems. If you have a low number of sites you follow, then email is unbeatable, but I could not even think to try to subscribe via email to all of them.
As a content consumer, I simple need the tools RSS provides which email doesn't.

All in all, I'll subscribe to the thesis of RSS being dead when I find a better product and way of consuming news. And I must say that there is space for innovation, but startups like Feedly have made the challenge even bigger now. Almost makes me feel like RSS's time still has to come.

Also, I'm curios to know why you don't mention Quibb in your piece. Were does it fit for you?

Founder at Glyder

I have to admit that like Lesley Grossblatt, I never really "got" RSS. I understand why it's interesting from a tech perspective but as an end user I never found consuming content thru a feed reader to be compelling. For me the experience was just kind of crappy, too high friction, and not enough reward. Twitter (for discovery), Quibb (for discussion & curation), and Instapaper (for a pleasant reading UI) has been much stickier for me than the feed reader apps I've setup (have tried at least 4 times and it never stuck). The one RSS-based experience I actually like is Pulse, which I use because I can quickly scan 100 headlines in 5 minutes to spot the ones I'm interested in reading (which I then save to Instapaper to read later).

On the content creator side, I'm an occasional writer not a regular blogger, and I can't figure out what problem RSS would solve for me. I'm most concerned about how to generate discussion and feedback on my posts, so I've been trying to guest blog on places that already have an audience and then cross-post to my Tumblr blog (more for posterity than anything else, I don't expect any activity there). When I self-publish something, I post to platforms that already have an audience built in, since I have all of 3 followers on Tumblr. Quibb wins hands down for me because it generates the most interactions and meaningful discussion (nice work Sandi MacPherson!), but I also have a few Quora answers that have received decent feedback.

Basically, I agree with your point on platforms with feeds + following totally beating opt in subscription through RSS, and I think the decision is even easier if you're someone like me who's just starting to write more regularly. Why would you want to encourage RSS subscribers when there so many better alternatives that provide a richer experience for both content creator + consumer?

Product Management at Postmates

I don't know that RSS is 'dead' as a consumer-facing concept, just that it's entirely a power-user scenario. But then, the power users are the cohort that are most likely to be highly engaged with your content.

You're right that RSS is now mostly 'plumbing' that powers actual consumer-facing apps such as Flipboard and Zite. But there are still opoular RSS aggregators out there like Reeder and Feedly that have significant numbers of users highly engaged on technology topics. Feedly is really good because it becomes a handler of RSS URLs that you click on. So, for example, I go to your site, see your subscribe link (you can call it RSS or subscribe or some variant), and instead of going to a Feedburner page, Feedly takes over and displays the feed in their very beautiful interface, from which I can subscribe. That's a pretty good experience.

Email subscriptions are great if you're reading only a few sites, but personally I'd never use it as a subscriber because it doesn't scale to the number of sites I follow. I'd imagine that you'd get higher engagement from a smaller number of subscribers via email though, that's my guess.

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As a blogger, I really prefer having email subscribers, for all the reasons you've mentioned. I've met extremely interesting people by keeping a tab on who was engaging with my work, and some of these have also resulted in interesting collaborations.

There are several ways people keep tabs on blogs:
1. email subscriptions
2. RSS
3. Bookmarking in the browser
4. Following blogger on social media

I've learnt that people usually do only one of the above, and find it very difficult to switch to another.

Just my opinion, I feel that parts of your note are about why email is better for the blogger. As a reader, my question is why is it better for me and that isn't answered quite as much.

E.g. "One of the best aspects of email subscriptions (and Twitter) is that you can actually see who's taken interest in your work." and "from a traffic standpoint, the mass of RSS subscribers don't make up for their numbers."

It comes back to being more about the blogger than the reader. Doesn't help to convince me, the reader.

I also feel the problem for the reader is an emotional one "My inbox space is precious". Data about falling search volume may not necessarily combat that.

Hence, while as a blogger, I really want email subscribers, I am not too sure if I can convince an RSS reader to move to email. Having email subscriptions can be like allowing a stranger join a personal conversation. The stranger may be awesome at what he has to say, and may show up only once in several conversations, but at the end of the day, he's a stranger. Sadly, that's how RSS-first subscribers think about this.

Just my two and a half cents.

Managing Director at TradeBriefs

Agree that the identity-driven follow in Twitter makes it a lot more interesting for the blogger than rss, while keeping it relatively low-commitment, since people are not expected to follow every post on their twitter stream. However, the inbox is more sacred, more high-involvement, making people wary when giving away their email address. So, email for high-interest users and twitter for others - Perhaps a hybrid product that offers email and twitter capabilities, for different users? wait a minute - Quibb? :)

Mobile Product Manager at The New York Times

I never took to RSS, even though as a journalist / news junkie I should have. Now I use Twitter as my RSS and a variety of aggregators (Flipboard, Zite, etc...) as my filter. My system generally works well. Yes, I miss lots of stuff that I might catch if I used RSS, but then I don't have enough time to read it all anyway, so I'm ok with that.

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Project Design, Target

I hate to see RSS die, but I don't deny that it is. RSS isn’t a particularly great solution for the modern Internet, and as much as I tried, I could never make it particularly effective or convenient for me, to be fair some of that was Google Reader's fault. What I like about RSS is its decentralization. I think a future of feed networks walled off from each other, requiring 13 different aggregators, is bad for the Internet and society as a whole.

As far as the other methods go:
1. Email - The last thing I need is another email.
2. Bookmarks – Might as well forget about it, because that’s what will happen to the bookmark.
3. Social Media – Works, but way too easy to get lost in the shuffle.
4. Networks/Aggrigators – Convenient as long as what you want is in the network. Pain in the ass to add an outside source.

While reading your post I was thinking a scenario where blog “feeds/API’s” are gathered in a central clearing house and that can be connected to by any aggregator/service/whatever. This could keep the decentralized nature of RSS, but gain the ease of use of something like Flipboard. If metadata was included with the feed it could aid in discovery, recommendations, even attribution. Taking this one step further, if you could send things back to the central clearing house users could save articles where they left off, comments, recommendations etc across devices and aggregators. Actually it’s kind of an exciting idea, if anyone wants to work on it let me know, I’m game.

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I agree with all your points, and the observation about integrated readers is spot on. However, you're speaking from the perspective of the publisher, but what about the reader? Asking me to subscribe via email is putting your message in a queue that requires higher attention, and it is unfiltered -- I get all your content. You're overloading an already overloaded channel. I have 21K unread messages in my inbox. Most email newsletters have abysmal open rates. That's one reason why I "read" most blogs via tweeted links from my friends and various curation services these days. I just get the good stuff. I don't think email subscriptions are a viable solution for most bloggers.

Coelevate, Reforge

As a fellow (occasional) blogger, I completely agree with your move away from RSS to email. When I redid my blog a year ago I didn't even give RSS as an option. But if you are trying to justify the move to your readers, I think you should also explain why its not just better for you but for them.

For example, I like your blog because you go for quality over quantity. You could probably easily make the argument that by focusing on email subscribers, you get better quality comments/conversation, which in turn is better for all of your readers.

Or, because you get better data via email/twitter subscriptions, it gives you better feedback on what to write, which in turn produces better content which is better for your readers.

You touch on both of those things in your post, but you don't bring it full circle to how it benefits your readers.

Hope it helps.

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Quibb, Uber

Great angle- I'll try to go for that flavor. You're right that I focus more on explaining my own benefits versus that of the user ;) Thanks.

Personally, I love RSS. It is by far the most efficient method for me to consume large volume of content from my favorite authors.

But it's a terrible channel for marketing. Why? It never has the same impact as an email list. I basically don't even consider RSS subscribers to be real subscribers. It's kind of like Twitter followers. You might get a few people to take action but it's more of a branding channel. When you've got to hustle and hit your monthly goals, take the email list every time.

We ran a bunch of experiments with getting people to sign up for KISSmetrics webinars. For awhile, we pushed everything through the blog to take full advantage of the RSS subscribers and social media. Then we tried doing email exclusively. It wasn't even close, email won hands down.

Use your blog, RSS, and social media to build an audiance. But when you need people to take action, use email. I dropped the RSS links from my personal blog a long time ago. And I can't remember the last time the KISSmetrics blog included it.

So here's how I approach RSS. Definitely set it up on your blog. This will make publishing updates easier (you can automate emails and social media for blog posts) and when people really want to find your feed by guessing the URL, they'll be able to. But don't include a single link to your RSS feed on your blog. Use every CTA to push your email list. Plug it in the sidebar, beneath your posts, in a pop-up to new visitors, on resource pages, etc.

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