RSS: Not Dead Yet

I immediately thought of that great Monty Python skit when I read a series of posts in the past week declaring RSS "dead." If you look at the number of refers/visits coming from RSS, you might conclude that services like Facebook and Twitter are taking over the role of content syndication from RSS. That's essentially what MG Siegler concludes by looking at TechCrunch data in this post.

But as some of the commenters on that TechCrunch post point out, many RSS users consume the content in the reader and don't click thru. That's certainly what goes on with AVC content. Here are AVC's Feedburner stats for the past 30 days:


The blue line is "reach" meaning the number of unique people every day who open an AVC post in their RSS reader. It was almost 10k yesterday and it averaged 7,730 per day over the past month.

Here is AVC's web traffic over the same period:

Google analytics

So AVC averages about the same number of web visits every day that it gets RSS opens (about 7,500 per day).

Not dead yet.

A few other things worth noting. The direct visits of ~80k per month include a substanital amount of Twitter third party client traffic that doesn't report to Google Analytics as Twitter traffic. That's been a missing piece of the analytics picture for a long time and I wish someone (Twitter and Google??) would fix it.

AVC gets about 2,500 visits a day from RSS. That means about 1/3 of the people who open a post in their reader end up clicking through and visiting the blog. I suspect the desire to engage in the comments drives that.

The twin tech news aggregators, Techmeme and Hacker News, drive a ton of traffic to AVC. Thanks Paul and Gabe!

Bottom line is that RSS is alive and well in the AVC community. While I do agree that Twitter and Facebook have gained significantly in terms of driving traffic across the web, for technology oriented audiences, RSS is still a critically important distribution platform and is very much alive and well.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Vidyesh

    Thanks for the post. Seriously, when Techcrunch posted that stupid post there had to be a post which actually showed the real stats and stop the misguided ‘RSS dead’ outrage.You have another reader who clicked and visited the post 🙂

  2. kirklove

    “…about 1/3 of the people who open a post in their reader end up clicking through and visiting the blog. I suspect the desire to engage in the comments drives that…”That’s a bingo (for me at least).

    1. Riaz Kanani

      Agreed – though I’d be happier as a user if I could see and respond to comments inside my RSS reader 🙂

  3. Riaz Kanani

    Agreed – As a long time RSS subscriber, I rarely visit this blog directly (though ironically I saw this through Twitter this time around).Saying that though – for the sites I manage, growth is relatively flat over the course of the last 12 months, after single digit growth the year before. Are you seeing any growth over 12 months in subscribers?I suspect that the underlying concept of RSS will always live on – just consumed in different services – be it Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook. The latter 2 need work in my view though before it can truly replace dedicated RSS readers.

    1. fredwilson

      my RSS subs have been flat for about two years

      1. andyswan

        If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”Flat” in RSS really means DOWN, no? I’m sure I’m “subscribed” to your RSS in 2-3 places, but since I never visit them, I never turn them off….I think clickthroughs from RSS is the only real metric here….would love to know if I’m wrong though.

        1. fredwilson

          feed subs is a meaningless numberfeed reach is a very important number

          1. andyswan


  4. Joe Yevoli

    Great post – and good call with on this “That means about 1/3 of the people who open a post in their reader end up clicking through and visiting the blog. I suspect the desire to engage in the comments drives that.” – At least with me.I read AVC everyday through G-Reader, and click through when I want to post.Also, great mighty python reference. “IIII feeeeelll Happpyyyyy!”

    1. fredwilson

      i was going to put the embedded video right into the post but thatlast bit where he gets smacked in the head seemed a bit much for thisaudience

      1. andyswan

        Never overestimate your audience 🙂

  5. LIAD

    RSS still stands alone in the service it provides.In terms of overtly driving traffic, it’s versatility is its downfall.The flame war today on twitter, recounted on TechCrunch –… – is just a case of some bloggers being a little too sensationalist and Dave Winer taking RSS attacks a little too personally.

  6. marfi

    We’re smart readers here, not like the spam mass on TC, sorry Arrington.

    1. kidmercury

      ouch, brutal diss…..+1

  7. William Mougayar

    Every 2-3 months this issue comes back and gets furiously debated on both sides.The reality if that RSS is becoming more invisible and part of the plumbing and that’s why some people think it’s dead. Out of sight, out of mind. And most content being shared on Facebook or Twitter is a mirror of content that originated most probably via an RSS feed that a user saw and shared.Here’s what is happening:1) RSS readers haven’t kept up, caught on or blown things away,- so the baby (RSS) often gets thrown with the bath water (Readers).2) RSS is being used by machines more than by humans directly. The best of RSS comes out when you apply filters, tags and various manipulations to its content. Direct reading of RSS feeds by a user is the lowest level of value, but you get a lot more when RSS content gets properly indexed, organized, tagged and presented according to topics, interests, issues, etc…(Disclosure: Eqentia continuously crawls tens of thousands of RSS feeds, indexes over 100,000 significant articles per day via RSS, and produces highly targeted, customized & useful streams that surface the best content for private or public consumption)But there’s one thing I’m seeing that might not be in favor of RSS. I’m seeing more and more new websites that don’t have RSS, but they have a Twitter feed. So, the only way you could follow their content is to subscribe to their Twitter feed. That’s good for Twitter, but bad for RSS. The reason is- as bad as most RSS readers are, Twitter readers are even worse, today. They mostly lack robust filtering and customization capabilities. And even when Twitter & Social readers improve, we risk being faced by the same problem RSS readers have today.

    1. fredwilson

      i just set up a new RSS feed yesterday…I would never set up a website without an RSS feed

      1. William Mougayar

        Agreed. And I’ll make a free offer to any reader of this blog to illustrate some RSS innovations:1) If you want to get off Yahoo! Pipes, we’ll give you a curated/filtered RSS feed that you can publish on a public or private page with all the social media bells and whistles.2) If you want to aggregate a bunch of Google Alerts and see that content into a single RSS feed that is publishable privately or publicly with social media bells and whistles.3) If you’re not able to properly curate/re-publish/share from your existing RSS reader, send us your OPML and we’ll re-produce what you’re reading, plus allow you to share, filter, re-publish, tweet, etc.. from that content.

    2. mediasres

      “The reality if that RSS is becoming more invisible and part of the plumbing and that’s why some people think it’s dead.”This is what I believe as well. Some related thoughts along these lines: of this is also how the industry can tend to view Twitter and Facebook, as world-changers.

  8. Dudu Mimran

    I think RSS is an effective communication channel over the web (effective push/pull) infrastructure and there is no reason for it to become not effective anymore just because it does not catch headlines anymore. I do feel the innovation stream that once was very strong on the topic has been reduced dramatically since the herd of developers has gone for real time technologies but I do foresee convergence of it with real time service eventually since it serves different use cases. This mere comment shows it is still relevant:)

  9. RichardF

    The Twitter summary on the RSS War post on Techcrunch is the funniest thing I’ve read there for ages.What did interest me was Flipboard’s Mike McCue’s tweet to Dave Winer ” ironically RSS was the only way we cld build our product… Without it we’d be just another twitter client”

    1. William Mougayar

      Exactly. That hits the nail on the head. RSS + Twitter is a powerful combination. FlipBoard saw it first, but others are following rapidly.It’s crazy to say that RSS is dead when it’s part of everything else. It’s not in front of the line, because the new shiny objects are Twitter, Facebook and social media, but it’s a key part of the line-up for content distribution.I repeat – the irony of this is that MOST content being shared on Facebook and Twitter originated from an RSS feed that someone read either directly in their Google Reader or some Streaming client or indirectly via a super aggregator that uses RSS, eg FlipBoard, TechMeme, Eqentia, etc…

      1. smilbandit

        Here’s an image from my reader. more like RSS + A little Twitter…I’ve been playing with article look based on the stream/feed. So twitter posts in my reader look more like twitter. plus I made a terse and alert look. terse I use for high volume low signal feeds and alerts are for feeds that are more like action items then for content consumption.

  10. palbi

    Also when you compare RSS vs. Twitter/Facebook referrals, it’s not just about quantity and numbersWhen I subscribe to a blog in my feed reader I somehow make a “commitment” to it and its communityThat’s not necessarily the case when you click on a link in a retweet Exposure is good, engagement is betterIt’d be super interesting to check other stats like bounce rate, avg. number of page views, etc..

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve got all of thati’ll do a follow up post

    2. Dean Elwood

      Totally agree, it’s much more about “community” and a continuous thread of information about a topic which is more detailed than a 140 char message can be.I have all of my RSS feeds in my mail client, so I treat them much more like I treat email.

  11. Harry DeMott

    I’m a perfect example. For me – Google Reader still works great for the hundreds of feeds I get every day. Sometimes I skip through the headlines – scanning like a newspaper. sometimes I stop and read the article in the reader window – and sometimes – like here – I click through to the comments.

    1. fredwilson

      and this community benefits a lot from that harry

    2. ShanaC

      best case usage from my feed – I still can’t hack it

    3. RichardF

      Me too Harry but I prefer to Google Reader as I love the layout. (it automatically uses your Google Reader feeds)

    4. Bill Davenport

      Same for me although instead of using Google Reader I mostly use Reeder now. I use RSS more today than I ever have before and substantially more than FB/Twitter. Probably 5x as much.

      1. Harry DeMott

        Me too. I’ve tried a bunch of alternative services – but still like RSS the best.Actually, I wish I could set up twitter feeds to grab a link and push it to my RSS reader (the page – not the link) and just use that to monitor everything I do.I just find that I can get through articles headlines commetns etc… quicker if I am on Google Reader.Kind of like skimming through the physical newspaper.

        1. Bill Davenport

          Cool idea on sending the twitter feeds / links over to your RSS Reader!

        2. Francois Cassin

          I’m not sure I understood your comment about twitter feeds correctly, but if you want to follow tweeter feed from your RSS you very much can.…I follow numerous blogs, as well as Tumblr and Twitter using only Google Reader

          1. Harry DeMott

            Thanks so much – appreciate it.

  12. ShanaC

    I hate saying this:You’re the wrong person to look at. We need a LCd sort of blog to see their numbers. TMZ having a massive dropoff would say something we are not going to see here.we do know that your readers have high engagement. Is that true of other blogs with a more broad readership?And I totally agree about google analytics and analytics packages in general. There may be a hack to deal with this from a google analytics point of view as a hack. (only thinking about it because I am studying for their certification exam)

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think TMZ ever had a big RSS sub base

      1. ShanaC

        That’s the point – you have a tech heavy following. we need differentsamples if we’re going to talk about RSS overall

    2. andyswan

      Spot on Shana.Ask the 16-25 year olds on Facebook what RSS is.Ask your 55 year old mom who she follows on RSS vs who she follows on twitter or facebook.Ask Oprah or Shaq or Obama or Palin if they’ve ever considered promoting an RSS feed.I’ll give you the 30-44 year olds that read AVC….

      1. ShanaC

        I actually wrote to PopSugar about this. I figured they are a good example of blogs and content networks with RSS that is not a tech heavy environment. I never heard back from them. :(It is the kind of information that really would give some insight into how other people use computers.

  13. jeremy

    Another piece that influences me with the likes of TechCrunch and has significantly reduced my click-through rate (and even “not mark all as read” rate) is that I’m not getting the full articles via RSS anyway. If I’m just going to get a snippet to begin with, I might as well go with links to what’s more likely to be interesting to me from a more curated source such as people I follow on Twitter.I’m strongly considering right now taking my RSS subscriptions down to only feeds which provide full articles in feed.

    1. fredwilson

      i think you should

  14. Jan Schultink

    News via Twitter = channel zappingNews via RSS = sitting down to read the morning paper

    1. William Mougayar

      Twitter + RSS = ?

      1. Jan Schultink


      2. Cody

        Twitter + RSS = Poundwire.Just finished the Alpha launch. Tweaking before official beta. But the short description is, imagine the Twitter microblog format, but where you follow hashtags, not the sources. Or you can follow a hashtag from just one source. Basically it emphasizes the topic, while keeping the social intact when it’s necessary. But the focus is on vertical content and horizontal people, not the reverse.Feel free to sign up for the beta Not spamming the thread here, just answering a question, btw.

        1. Peter Oneppo

          You’re equation is off a bit, it should be:Twitter + RSS – noise = PoundWire:)

  15. dave

    Fred, a couple of things — I don’t like the title of this post. How would you like it if I wrote a post that said “Foursquare: Not Dead Yet.” For things you care about, even saying they’re not dead is a pretty awful discussion to have to participate in. Sort of throws you back on your heels, puts you on the defensive. And since you’re a shareholder in Twitter, one of the two big silos, it’s esp important that you really try to be fair here.Second, I point to your posts sometimes, and when I do it, you get a few hundred readers, some of them may even be new. If you ever stopped your RSS feed, I wouldn’t be able to point to you, and this avenue of growth would close. I suspect you got a fair number of your regular readers through this mechanism, over the years. So this is part of giving back to the open Internet, it’s a favor you’re returning. At the same time you’re helping assure more growth in the future.Saying you support RSS is like saying you support the open web. The day you feel it’s better to store AVC inside one of the silos that’s when the open web will be dead. Picking on RSS is really low. It’s been so good for you.

    1. Mark Essel

      I got the impression that Fred is gung ho in favor of feeds (RSS has many cousins). The title was a bit of humor playing off of Monty Python.The greatest technology tends towards invisibility. Kevin Kelly taught me that, and it’s the pinnacle of design. The separation of the tool and the person fades, the technology becomes an extension of will.

    2. fredwilson

      I’m a huge fan of RSS Dave. That’s the whole point of this postThe not dead yet thing is a play on the Monty python skit. You gotta havesome fun and laugh when people write stupid thingsI would be fine if you wrote that foursquare is not dead yet. I agree withthat. In fact I suspect foursquare is at greater risk of “death”, whateverthat means, than RSSthe whole “dead” and “deadpool” meme is offensive to me and I’ve writtenabout that more than a few timesI find sometimes its best to make fun of obnoxious stuff rather than getupset about it

      1. dave

        Well, I don’t think it would be fine. I would wonder how it feels to come to work every day at a company with people (esp competitors) taking cheap shots at my employer (continuing the Foursquare example).Have you ever had anyone close to you die Fred?The Monty Python skit is funny, but I think enough of that. It’s been repeated so many times, I’m afraid what is going to happen is in some meeting inside some big news org, someone is going to lose a budget battle over their feeds, and one by one, they’re going to stop publishing.That won’t be funny will it.The new beautiful is a perfect example of why it’s in all our interest to keep RSS strong. That’s the result of across-the-board support of RSS inside the major publishers, and the independents. It’s a really strong important standard Fred. And it’s not a joking matter, at least for me. I like to have fun, but not when we’re standing on the edge looking at possibly losing our freedoms.I think it’s time for the tech industry to grow up and realize that real people use this stuff and depend on it, and it’ll all work better if there’s a certain sense of seriousness to this work.You’re part of that Fred, a pretty important part. What you do will influence a lot of others. This headline is leading in the wrong direction.

        1. paramendra

          Dave, to be fair to you, I read y-o-u-r blog post on this same topic last night before reading this post by Fred today. I think he is rooting for RSS more than you are. Me? I don’t use it.

    3. andyswan

      Andy Swan: Not Dead Yet

      1. howardlindzon

        i thought you were. phew.

    4. paramendra

      I got the exact opposite impression. That he was rooting for RSS. Ah, the glasses we wear.

    5. Stereotactic

      +1!! From all the comments, your comments were bang on! Good.

  16. Phil

    If there had been a central organization or company behind RSS that promoted it and truly supported it when it was first released I think that the popularity with the general public would be higher. Instead we have an example of what happens when politics become involved and development flounders. (a lesson for any development team out there)Had there been the central messaging and continued support and development of RSS we would be looking at a very different internet today, as it is RSS became the central nervous system in a way to the internet rather than a star of the internet. So rather than a Twitter (RSS for the people), we have an open protocol.But of course now we have an awesome tool that drives direct traffic like you’ve mentioned and sends even more traffic indirectly. RSS isn’t going anywhere and it’s great to see this post.

  17. Polina Moskovaya

    Personally, I cast a wide net on Twitter which means that I get a lot of crap in my feed (and I haven’t figured out a way of filtering it). The link has to be on the screen when I’m looking at it to grab my attention (similar to a news headline). On RSS (I use Google Reader), I have carefully selected about 20 blogs that I read regularly (aVC is one of them) which means that I do not miss a single post. I add new subscriptions by recommendation or if I was impressed by a particular book, hence I probably only add 2-3 new blogs per month. Each blog goes through the “cooling off” period when I follow it for a few months to see if it is actually regularly interesting and either unsubscribe or promote it to my favorites. No surprise that RSS usage is stable (assuming most readers follow a somewhat similar pattern).

  18. Sebastian Wain

    For me Google Reader is part of the “information operating system” and it works with RSS, I even read a blog from russia automatically translated there.RSS is practical and neutral, nothing else. It has a lot of flaws but it works.Google Reader adds more value giving the possibility to move to past articles where RSS only shows the last ones.I don’t know if TechCrunch has an article generator, in this case the article was triggered by the “X is killing Y” rule 🙂

  19. @JoeHobot

    To me people that use FB and Twitter to read blogs articles are to slow and they are one of those non technical person that asks you to repair their pc every month.Good luck expanding and collapsing tweets or facebook status. 🙂

  20. Jacob

    I clicked-through just to comment and say that I read 99% of your posts inside google reader.The last time I clicked through was when you wrote a post about your blog re-design.

  21. Nik Cubrilovic

    Doesn’t account for App to App distribution, which is the most common RSS use case today.For eg. Techmeme or Google News read your RSS and it is in-turn read by 100k+ peopleAlso for eg. if you have ever read the WaPo, NYT, USA Today, BBC, etc. etc. sites then you have used RSS – as they all use the protocol to syndicate content from other sources.Saying RSS is dead because people use Twitter is like saying SMTP is dead because everybody is using webmail.

    1. fredwilson

      i like that last line a lot

  22. Ian

    I think RSS is like many lesser-known web technologies in that it will remain incredibly useful/popular to the savvy, tech-oriented internet user while being largely irrelevant to everybody else. There is something about RSS (maybe the fact that it is an unfamiliar acronym…or that the subscription process still feels rather cryptic) that turns people off — My mother would never (knowingly) subscribe to an “RSS feed.” I would describe the majority of web services this way.On the subject of Twitter and/or Facebook as an alternative. I, personally, find little value in the links being “curated” by my digital “friends” (especially on FB). It increasingly feels like white noise, which I am able to cut through thanks to my self-selected RSS feeds.And, let’s face it, a great strategy to drive traffic to a tech blog (…TC…) is to declare a useful technology dead. A blog like AVC has quite a bit more credibility IMO as its author has, shall we say, other sources of income.thxian

  23. Wells Baum

    I wrote about the relative anonymity of RSS last month. It’s not dead, just not marketed enough.Please take a look:

  24. andyswan

    RSS is great, for people that use it. I wouldn’t try to build a business on top of it (been there, changed that model).One of the things people love about the web is clicking around erratically and finding new things from new people….reacting to various link stimuli like some kind of Pavlovian dog on ecstasy.This is why Drudge, Huffington, and our friends (via twitter,etc) have been so successful…they tell us where the treats are.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t use an RSS reader. i tried a few times. never got the value out of it that so many others do. i totally respect RSS and its value to me as a publisher. but i don’t use it as a consumer of content except through services like techmeme that use it as plumbing.i love “clicking around erratically and finding new things from new people”that is the essence of the web for me

      1. andyswan


      2. Sebastian Wain

        The advantage of a [cloud] RSS reader like Google Reader is that you can go back in time, while the rss feed only contains the last posts.About “clicking around erratically…” don’t you think it’s time for a good personal focused crawler (with degrees of serendipity)?

        1. fredwilson

          my personalized crawlers are techmeme and hacker news

  25. Robert Owens

    Okay well it seems like a lot of smart people here – so how do we change all this? How do we come up with a new embryo of content that streams according to what the user NEEDS instead of what they WANT. How do we get it from their heads onto the web??? Open for answers – working on an application now – I think I will call it…

  26. whatsthebeef

    Twitter has become a platform for advertising posts with the added benefit that the articles are being judged by the tweeter (unless the tweeter is the author of the post) and I know engineers who are replacing their time spent with RSS feeds for twitter links.however the value of RSS

  27. whatsthebeef

    Twitter has become a platform for advertising posts with the added benefit that the articles are being judged by the tweeter (unless the tweeter is the author of the post) and I know engineers who are replacing their time spent with RSS feeds for twitter links.However this approach relies on the good articles being tweeted by people you are following and RSS has many added benefits, check out this article which sings the benefits of RSS…

  28. geddes munson

    I completely agree that someone needs to fix the giant gaping whole in web analytics that is third party twitter clients. Where I work, at the web department of a think tank, I work with a lot of non-technical content creators who look at referral reports and conclude that twitter isn’t a large source of traffic for them. I find myself constantly caveating the reports they get by saying “twitter is undercounted.”In order to make this more concrete, we began tagging all the links we posted on twitter with special campaign codes. This allowed us to see how many clicks we were truly receiving on this link which we had sent out through a single channel.What we’ve found is that of all the clicks on the links we especially tagged and distributed on twitter, only 35 – 40% percent of them have a referring domain of 50% of the clicks are ‘direct’ which indicates that they came from non-web twitter clients (tweetdeck, etc). The remaining 10-15% are domains of third party web based twitter clients, and in some cases other websites that picked up the twitter link.So the picture is still fuzzy, but by performing this exercise we’re able to get a much more accurate view of the true impact of our twitter efforts vs. the other marketing channels. I wish GA or Omniture would make this seamless and far more automated.

    1. fredwilson

      so double your twitter numbers to get the real numbers, right?

      1. geddes munson

        Yep, and you’d still be slightly under-reporting.

  29. Stephen Purpura

    RSS allows for innovation that Facebook doesn’t and that Twitter doesn’t yet support for mere mortals.I use Apple’s Mail program as an RSS reader and the format of the data files for RSS is a regular text file. I follow just short of 900 RSS feeds. Using an algorithm that I created for Jon Kleinberg’s graduate computer science course project, the RSS feeds are hooked into a hacked version of Spotlight that lets me search for topics and view topic summaries with results mixed from web, personal files, and RSS feeds. The results are formatted so that it is easier for me to find information that is important, instead of paging through nonsense.

  30. Andrew

    This was pretty much exactly what I was thinking while reading the TechCrunch article in my RSS reader. I don’t think I have ever clicked through to a TechCrunch page because it doesn’t offer anything additional I want to read. That being said click through from readers should be valued higher than fb / twitter because they indicate a desire for a higher level of engagement than simply reading the content.

    1. Moses

      Specifically, because the Techcrunch comments are so awful.

  31. jameskupka

    rss != deadi love love feeding everything in to one rss pile so i can scan through the headlines & quickly get a snapshot of what’s going on across the spectrum of the content / topics i’s quick access to long-reads i know i care about. the @timoreilly of my own favourite sites.

  32. Sachin Rekhi

    Thanks for sharing the data, Fred!I would love to see the bounce rate for each of those traffic sources as well. It’s impressive that Stumbleupon is as high as a referrer as Facebook and many people have been discussing this as well, but I imagine by the vary nature of the product, on average Stumbleupon visits have both high bounce rate and low average time on site. This is another nuance of the debate of top social media traffic sources that should be discussed.

  33. William Mougayar

    Actually, here’s another example that’s based on RSS. If you want to follow the Future of RSS,… and its accompanying Twitter channel @rssfuture. Note the parallel Twitter integration which surfaces the top URLs and people on that topic. This implementation is an example that doesn’t show RSS explicitely, but it has RSS in its guts.

  34. jdelvat

    Thanks for the Monthy Pythons ;o)I think you’re spot on, Fred. I’m using Netvibes (which is also not dead yet) to get all my news and that’s the way I filter the blog entries I’m really interested in, in which case I open the website for the comments. Several blogs have like yours as much value in the comments than in the blog itself (not to diminish your work, of course).

  35. paramendra

    The graphics prove the point. What I noted was Disqus. People who actually cross that line and comment. That is so small comparatively. I wish there were a way to measure how many people read comments.

  36. Leonid S. Knyshov

    Let’s not forget that RSS and OPML are really a friendlier way to say XML. Do end users need to know anything about XML?RSS has a branding problem with end users, but otherwise it will continue to grow. “Feed” is an alien concept. RSS2 vs. ATOM – why should I even see that choice?Firefox/Netscape live bookmarks was a good attempt at branding feeds. Safari makes it a lot more explicit by exposing a “reader” button.I track hundreds of feeds in my Google Reader. Robert Scoble may need real-time news, but I read them twice a day.It should be “Subscribe to this site’s updates”. That makes sense. Disqus wording is similar for its comments. I subscribe and I continue to track comments indefinitely.Fred is correct that commenting drives clickthroughs.

  37. MG Siegler

    Thanks for the post Fred. A few things.- Yeah, I realize most people consume through RSS and don’t click through. The interesting thing, as I note, is that those click throughs plunged in 2010 compared to 2009 — nearly 50%. Possible that people stopped clicking, I suppose, but more likely seems that less people are reading/finding content that way.- Over the same span, Twitter/Facebook skyrocketed in terms of referral traffic to TC.- I generally don’t like FeedBurner stats because they’re so padded with BS. If your feed is a bundled one on many readers (as TC is), the numbers are skewed. One other great example is that if you import your feed to something like FriendFeed, all your subscribers then count as readers. Same is true on other services.- overall feed numbers are actually down over the past 12 months. some good data:…Obviously, when I say “RSS is dead” I’m being a bit facetious. I can’t recall how many times myself and others have written about this over the years. The main point is really that while RSS will remain a pipe for some time, the thought that most people will ever know what it actually is is now out the window. Here’s a perhaps more nuanced post on that

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t have the benefit of having a bundled feedbut i do have a loyal audience who uses RSS pretty actively

    2. Alex O'Hara

      I’m not going to disagree with anything you’re saying here- the fact is that for most people, RSS feeds aren’t a concept that make sense. It simply isn’t a popular enough medium for the masses. I think a lot of “tech” people love it, but that doesn’t imply widespread adoption.On the other hand, I don’t know what would really replace it. Twitter and Facebook really aren’t valid replacements for the ease-of-use that RSS has. Quite simply, the ability for me to read dozens of tech news and blog sites each day keeps me up-to-date on the goings-on in the tech world at my own pace.Twitter is great for posting a bunch of links to stories, but it’s also a terrible way of actually consuming the content. It requires clicking through a bunch of links (usually shortened urls, which we saw recently can very easily be used to hijack a computer into a LOIC-like script (though there’s an excellent write-up on on ways to combat this from the server side).What I think we have is a situation where there is an excellent way of consuming information, going up against competitors that focus on sharing links and involving the social graph. It’s not surprising to me that most people choose the latter- what your friends find interesting is more important to most people than digesting large volumes of information.I think a better way of stating it is that there is a vacancy in the world on social news aggregation. Google Reader is an excellent attempt- it does let you follow people and see what they find interesting, but it’s not simple to set up.I’m a fan of RSS, I use it every day. Getting other people onto it is something of a problem though. Something in-between would be a good solution, and I think that there’s a great opportunity for Facebook to fill this spot. Sure, you can “like” something to get the updates from those groups, but honestly, if you’re like me, seeing a bunch of updates from musicians or websites when you’re trying to read your friends updates is annoying.What Facebook could do is set up their own RSS aggregation service that would work separately from the standard news feed, and companies could have their profile automatically pull from their RSS, which would allow a person to get full updates RSS style in a familiar environment, and would make it simply for people to “like” individual stories, which would share it on their own social graph.Twitter could do the same, of course, but the character limit is kind of a bummer. Perhaps (and this is just a suggestion here), similar to the way that expanding a tweet can have pictures, maps and other information appear, Twitter could set up a service for RSS feeds, whereby clicking on the arrow would display a full-text RSS feed of a story in-line, and again, allow others to retweet a story easily (and keep people on Twitter, rather than having to link-jump around.In face, I’d love to see twitter auto-extract shortened links in the sidebar so you can see at least a preview of what you’re being linked to. In the case of RSS, it could be full text or at least a full 2 paragraphs, allowing people to consume stories from companies they follow and also share those links quickly.In both these scenarios, RSS becomes the backbone that powers the social networking power of twitter and facebook, rather than assuming they are direct competition.From the perspective of a company, the referrals may still come from twitter, with RSS being used as essentially a transportation layer…which is, of course, similar to how it’s used now- it’s just that neither Twitter nor Facebook is bringing the full power of RSS to bear.I mean, it’s easier to “like” something on Facebook or “follow” someone on twitter than it is to add their RSS feed to a feed reader of your choice. If these companies build that functionality in, it makes syndicating to several social networks easier, plus it would actually keep people contained on Facebook and Twitter, rather than having them click-through to stories their friends shared and being directed elsewhere.More eyes and more time means more money for these companies…so really, RSS isn’t dead,it just hasn’t been monetized and exploited by the major social networks yet.I don’t think that you’ll ever teach the universal “my mom” type of person to use Google Reader. But if Facebook and Twitter start using RSS under the hood, it’ll still be useful.Basically, it boils down to ease. Most people don’t know what the RSS button does…but they do know how to “like” things.


    May not be dead, but its being eaten by various other services. I think the basic problem with it is the lack of conversation. People want to be engaged. Unfortunately the lack of conversation is a fundamental part of RSS. RSS is originally a broadcast medium. Twitter is an interesting mix between a broadcast medium and conversations. Perhaps twitter is the primary cause?

    1. fredwilson

      great point

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Following the Monty Python theme, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition ;-)If not familiar with it:…I suspect RSS finds itself in a similar situation, through no fault of its own…

  39. Kapauldo

    You can’t “mark as read” twitter links, so RSS will live for a long long time for people’s work reading, but for leisurely browsing, twitter links are fine. In fact, the biggest problem with Flipboard is that you can’t mark items as read, so you never know when you’ve read everything.

  40. Alan Warms

    Yes – agreed completely on a) readers who don’t click through and especially b) twitter referrals not showing up correctly in analytics. And of course on your main point – why we just made every individual app library an RSS feed on and .

  41. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Absolutely, Fred.(Wearing my hat, moi? Yes, but objectively, honest!) ;-)Happy New Year, all.Best wishes for 2011, everyone.

  42. Aaron Salis

    I read AVC via RSS. If it wasn’t for RSS I might not.Google Reader lets you use “sort by magic”, which helps filter out the noise. AVC always rises to the top… and so I always read it, and I’m never disappointed.If other channels like Twitter and Facebook actually filtered content to remove the spam and garbage, _then_ it might be worth talking about the death of RSS.

    1. fredwilson

      i know twitter is working hard on relevance right now

  43. Chris Gift

    Great post and interesting comments. It is like the annual “RSS is not dead” discussion. One of the challenges in these discussions is that RSS is many things and this is borne out in the comments. It is a ubiquitous standard for syndication of web content and thus can help with distribution and traffic, along with a “reader” it is a tool for consumption but serious information consumers and perhaps most importantly it enables a new generation of solutions to acquire digital content. In that later context RSS has the greatest impact to the greatest number of people but it is also just a means to and end. Wether it is innovation around personal consumption such as Flipbook or innovation regarding business/professional information management that we are focussed on at Atttensa – RSS is a facilitator making it possible leverage the potential of the knowledge and information available today.Simple acquisition is not the end goal, certainly not in larger organizations, as we too rapidly devolve into information overload. Google Reader does a reasonable job of organizing a limited number of feeds, and Flipboard does a great job of transforming the consumption experience. But none of these and other super-aggregator products solve the real problem relevancy. For that we need to look to a new breed of products, such as Attensa, that give you the tools to not only acquire content, but then filter, sort, organize and then deliver that content to those that need it most, where they need it most.The positive message in this thread is that RSS in general supports many different requirements and the evolution continues.

  44. vruz

    RSS is not dead for the same reason electricity is not dead when you don’t see the cables.RSS is all over the place and binds together uncountable pieces of web plumbery, whoever says “RSS is dead” really doesn’t have any idea what they’re talking about.Quite frankly, people who make noise about “X is dead” at large, usually are either really dumb, have a pony in the race, or are bored journalists trying to justify a salary somehow.

  45. HowieG

    I wrote a blog post recently that if a blog has great content I will go directly to the site almost every day. Seems you have that kind of following and deservedly so.To often I think Facebook trying to prove its inflated fictitious value (which I destroyed today in a blog post) want people thinking RSS is dead hoping more traffic gets driven by them.On that note Fred. If Facebook could go public tomorrow at $30bil wouldnt they do so? My finance degree and my investment banker friends see a coming pump and dump. For the same reason you wrote this post. Reality is not always what is written in the news.

  46. steveray

    The (fill in blank) is dead meme is so ridiculous. Technorati are always trying to point to killer apps, when they are the exception that proves the rule. For every betamax vs. VHS or iPod vs. walkman there are thousands of shared markets.That being said I use twitter exclusively and never use rss readers anymore. And I read the LA Times. 🙂

  47. Yigal Chamish

    RSS is definitely not dead. The thing is that it is positioned as a tool used by geeks and not as a universal tool for maintaining your learning and communicating.My contribution to understanding the importance and significance of RSS is here: Chamish

  48. marfi

    RSS is safe and sound and continuously evolving and even becoming sexier. Take for example Pulse, Flipboard and now the Sony Ericsson’s Live View device that brings RSS on your wrist! More on this I have shared here:

  49. Brennan Knotts

    “The direct visits of ~80k per month include a substanital amount of Twitter third party client traffic that doesn’t report to Google Analytics as Twitter traffic.”You can fix some of this yourself by setting up a “twitter” segment in Google Analytics. It’s extremely easy.Here’s a step by step:…It of course doesn’t solve the whole problem.

    1. fredwilson

      does that actually work?will all third party twitter clients contain the word twitter in the source?

      1. daryn

        Nope. It still won’t capture direct links from desktop clients that open links in browsers.

  50. Nathan Parcells

    Fred or someone else can you explain a little more on what the twitter third party direct traffic is that doesn’t show up on GA?

    1. fredwilson

      mobile and third party desktop and web clients

      1. Nathan Parcells

        Thank you!

  51. JB Holston

    “Federico Franco is STILL dead!”, as SNL used to put it.. RSS (broadly writ) continues to be an important protocol for connecting people to content and increasingly people to people. We rely on it for all our (newsgator) product lines, including SocialSites for the Global 2000, extensively… But it’s just wiring — albeit perhaps the extremely highly valued Copper in an always on world….

  52. Kevin Burton

    It’s not just Techmeme and Hacker News. There are hundreds of companies (mostly powered by my company, Spinn3r) which index RSS but you’re not AWARE they’re using RSS under the covers because they’re either search engines, or do something other than content base surfacing but instead have NLP engines which perform statistical analysis.Also, Facebook, Twitter, etc. all have RSS feeds which the publish and as well as APIs directly (which are essentially feeds in another name).

  53. allubarbosa

    In this context then, the RSS has the greatest impact on most people, but it is only a means and end.Motorcycle Parts

  54. Brad Balfour

    Fred: you are exactly right. Of course RSS isn’t dead. But facts have never seemed to stop some bloggers from making outrageous headlines in pursuit of traffic.Your analysis is spot on here. You are considering both the feedburner read rate and the, smaller, RSS click through rate for traffic.I wish there was a mechanism to move things back another level of indirection when looking at Twitter driving traffic to ones website. It’s one thing to say that traffic came to due to a short link in a tweet. It’s another to try and determine where the original tweet found the blog post. My unscientific feeling on this is that many power Twitter users are getting their links via their RSS reader and not just from somewhere else on twitter.Read more: http://www.businessinsider….

  55. rsschomp

    For a moment there I was trying to imagine how a dead RSS feed could be banged on a table in an ‘rss shop’ (monty python dead parrot sketch)”RSS is dead” is just media pishposh. However, echoing many of the sentiments on here already, I don’t think it has been fully exploited yet.

  56. William Mougayar

    Thanks Charlie