I stumbled on a fascinating history of RSS; while the preamble deals with the evolution of the standard and the constant bickering of the community that led to it’s “demise” or the rise of “Atom” (a competing standard), the critical takeaway is here:
Today, RSS is not dead. But neither is it anywhere near as popular as it once was. Lots of people have offered explanations for why RSS lost its broad appeal. Perhaps the most persuasive explanation is exactly the one offered by Gillmor in 2009. Social networks, just like RSS, provide a feed featuring all the latest news on the internet. Social networks took over from RSS because they were simply better feeds. They also provide more benefits to the companies that own them.
There’s another write up in TechCrunch (interestingly, well written, considering that Techcrunch is trash journalism). The author argues that it is “undead.”
Here’s a very pertinent issue:
RSS doesn’t allow publishers to track user behavior. It’s nearly impossible to get a sense of how many RSS subscribers there are, due to the way that RSS readers cache feeds. No one knows how much time someone reads an article, or whether they opened an article at all. In this way, RSS shares a similar product design problem with podcasting, in that user behavior is essentially a black box.
I have been rallying against the user metrics because, number of views, for example, has nothing to relate to the conversion tech. For example, someone who puts in the “educational video” online with thousands of views- how can it be ensured that the people who watched it actually understood? There are numerous failings on the technology side, and I am not venturing in details there, but digital metrics are inadequate.
However, as media companies rely more on digital advertising to target users and perhaps earn revenues, RSS will be pushed further in background.
Yet, I remain bullish on RSS for my own content consumption. It is because it helps me to prioritize and surface content to write about.
I track over 150 sources per day- get informed about world events, but some blogs require a deeper level of engagement. It is impossible to set up a notification system without being overwhelmed, but I’ll share my newly minted workflow once I perfect it. Yet, RSS in conjunction with Inoreader is a perfect complement to reading.