Why only pushing abstracts through RSS feeds is an absurdity

I’m the new happy owner of an iPhone. One of the first thing that I did was trying to find the right application to bring back all of the feeds that I carefully manage on my Google RSS reader. Because living in Brooklyn means sometime fairly long commutes, reading trade news and the bloggers that matter to me when traveling was critical.
And the app that I found works fairly well (seamlessly download all of the latest articles when I’m connected, that I can then “comfortably read” while commuting).

But the problem that I have is that a bunch of publishers (never bloggers I have to say, either by lack of tech knowledge or maybe because they’re just more open to the social web) think it is smart to parse their feeds and only include abstracts. Here are the usual reasons brought on and why it doesn’t make sense:

– “We need to have the user on our site, if not, people tend to not go anymore to our site…”
Who cares where the media is consumed? The key thing is make sure that you aggregate all of the analytics (and not only your site’s analytics). Most of the analytical packages now include that as a standard. And you might even learn interesting things about your audience (where is the media consumed, through what device or what platform etc.). In the end game, what matters is that the user is in contact with your brand, whether connected or disconnected.

– “We’re losing money since we can’t serve ads…”
While that was true for a long time, there’s more and more solutions coming down the road for publishers to monetize their RSS audience (see the good article from Dosh Dosh on that). And even if it’s not fully perfect, you can actually come up with new interesting packages for your advertisers that would, for example. include location-based services / promotions / coupons etc.

– “Our content is beautiful and should really be consumed on a full screen rather than a micro device…”
True again for a long time but the irruption of smart phones and e-readers is going to revolutionize that radically in terms of media consumption usage while potentially increase the rendering of your content (you might even stretch that argument to say that in some large e-readers that include color, the rendering will be ultimately better than through the current web experience).

There’s also a couple of downsides on the abstract method. The main one (realized from my own use) is that I tend to skip the feeds that are just a couple of lines long. It’s very very frustrating to start reading the abstract, get excited and then being unable to finish the article. Sure, I can always save it for later, but unless that 3 lines abstract was crazy interesting, I’ll never go back to it. So, first effect, I don’t use these feeds anymore (and therefore, I actually stop reading that specific publication, relying on the rest of the feeds to get me informed – good example at Silicon Alley Insider).

You have to follow your users instead of trying to shoehorn them into what you believe is good for you.
In the long run, I realized that with the help of an e-reader and/or a smartphone, I actually consume more media than before. It’s an exciting feeling to board on a plane with no internet connection (that’s getting rare though) and know that you’ll be able to catch up on all these great articles you’ve been saving for a moment like that, a moment when you’re not connected. And that’s also probably a moment where you, as a media company, want to be in the mind of the mind-free user, especially when that user is actually available to connect with your brand.

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