Every so often, the subject of advertisements in syndication feeds bubbles to the surface; here are some recent remarks by Winer and Searls. Dave Sifry has a riff on this that I’ve heard him give a few times, but the more I think about it, the more I think there’s major potential in doing this right.
Advertising As We Know It Is Broken · In the era of Tivo, and multimodal conversation, and bandwidth saturation, the idea that advertising, the way it’s done today, is worth the money we spend on it today, is not defensible. Clearly we need something new.
Let me propose three kinds of syndication advertising feeds: a Temporary Shopper’s Feed, a Permanent Shopper’s Feed, and a Personalized Sellers’ Feed.
Temporary Shopper · From time to time, I (like most people) get into a mode where I want to buy something substantial: a camera, a car, a house, a cello, an investment plan. This is usually a temporary condition; I shop around for a while, I buy, then I lose interest in the product category. I would cheerfully sign up for a syndication feed all about that product class. I’d expect it to contain comparative reviews, straight product ads, announcements of new categories, stories from trade shows, that kind of thing. I’d use this heavily until I made the buy, then I’d turn it off.
It would need some flexibility, you should be able to configure it to show only (for example) pocket-sized digital cameras that are for sale in Western Canada. The attraction for advertisers would be immense; anyone who subscribed would be asserting that they’re wanting to buy. This is not to say that it’s easy; if the material in the feed isn’t high-quality, informative, non-repetitious, and compact, well I’m just gonna unsubscribe, in a flash.
Permanent Shopper · Some people are more or less permanently in shopping mode for something or other. Here are two examples: a homemaker raising three kids on a tight budget, and a music lover looking for good new stuff. For that homemaker, if there were a focused, compact, newsy syndication feed focusing on food, household supplies, and kids’ clothes, it could be a huge time-saver for the shopper and a wonderful marketing vehicle for businesses.
Now, such feeds are here already. As a music lover, I’m already subscribed to an iTunes Music Store feed for new releases in the classical, blues, and reggae categories. Now this example is pretty dysfunctional, since you can’t buy music from Apple in Canada, and even if you did, 99¢/song is no bargain when the tunes are DRM-encumbered and also sold in a damaged condition. But the principle is sound, and the feed has alerted me to a few things that I’ve then bought on CD. Pure advertising, pure focus, (almost) works right now here today.
Personalized Sellers’ Feed · This is the radical rocket-science idea, and the idea that Dave and Doc were kicking around; a feed that tells me about things I don’t know I need. The idea is, I tell some feed provider a whole lot about myself, and they try to cook up a feed that’s generally aimed at alerting me to things that I might spend money on, even though they weren’t on any explicit agenda.
If it worked, it might be incredibly powerful, but boy, would it ever be hard. To some extent, glossy magazines serve this role, but they need to include a whole bunch of high-quality, expensive, non-commercial words and pictures to get me to read them.
I’m sure there’s some bright-eyed entrepreneur out there trying to make this one go, but it’s a long shot.
But as for the Shopper’s Feeds, they’re already starting to happen and I’m totally sure they’ll be part of the everyday landscape for more or less everyone before too much longer.