I visited Technorati on Friday and we had a talk about the business side. Among other things, I argued that they should shut down their free service. I’m surprised that this is controversial.
Right at the moment there are several places on the Web where you can sign up and get a customized feed, an aggregation pulled out of millions of RSS feeds, of entries that contain some search terms or point to some particular URI. I personally use Technorati and PubSub, and I believe Feedster does this too, and there are probably more.
At the moment, they’re all free. Which is ridiculous; the notion that small companies with poor cash-flow should give things away is so 1999. The world has come to expect that when there’s a useful service on the Web, you either have to pay to use it (e.g. TheStreet.com’s RealMoney service), or that there will be advertising (e.g. Google).
Why on earth should feed-aggregators be different? If neither advertisers nor end-users will cover the costs, it isn’t a business, it’s a hobby or labour of love. Which is just fine. But I think that Technorati, and their competitors, should start charging—not much, but not zero—sometime soon, like next week.
I’d pay, and so would every Web-savvy executive and salesperson. And then the rest would have to, because you can’t afford to be less-well-informed than the person sitting next to you.
Alternatively, they could start inserting ads in the RSS feeds, but a lot of people are nervous about that, at least to the extent that they don’t want to be the first to do it. Emotionally, I’d rather pay directly for my information feed, but the ad-sales model is one that can’t be ignored.