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RSS Mystifies Most Blog Readers

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NEW YORK Blog readers, thought of as a young and tech-savvy audience, by and large do not understand how RSS works, according to a study.

Nielsen//NetRatings polled 1,000 members of its research panel who read blogs. It found that nearly two-thirds of the respondents either never heard of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) or did not know what the technology is used for. The study found only 11 percent of Web log readers use RSS to monitor blogs.

Web logs were early adopters of RSS technology, which routes headlines and content snippets from Web publishers to users' desktops. By using RSS aggregators or Web pages like My Yahoo, readers can monitor and access personalized content without visiting individual Web sites.

According to a Pew Research survey released in January, less than 6 percent of U.S. Internet users take advantage of RSS. Despite the low adoption figure, RSS is poised to become more common in the near future. Microsoft said this month that its new Vista operating system due out next year would display an illuminated icon to indicate an available RSS feed while users are browsing the Internet, allowing them to subscribe with a single click. AOL, Yahoo and Google offer personalized pages for users to subscribe to RSS feeds.

Most major Web publishers offer readers the technology. The New York Times, which provides over 30 different feeds, said that in March its Web site generated 5.9 million page views via RSS, a 342 percent increase over the same period a year ago. Advertisers like Sun Microsystems and Citrix Online have begun running ads in RSS feeds.

Nielsen//NetRatings found blog readership has grown 31 percent since the beginning of the year, as blogs attracted 29.3 million visitors in July. About one in five Internet users visit blogs, the research firm said. ComScore Media Metrix, another Internet research firm, last week released a study that found blog readers are younger and more affluent than other Internet users.