To Charge for RSS or NOT or Can't? - The RSS Blog
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Mon, 20 Jul 2009 21:46:17 GMT
To Charge for RSS or NOT or Can't?
Blake Snow wrote a piece on GigaOm that peeked at the subject of paid RSS feeds. He sent me two round of questions, but my answers weren't interesting enough for inclusion ;)

I'll reproduce the Q&A between Blake and myself here.

Round 1

Blake Snow questions...
Amid recession, there seems to be renewed interest by some in trying to sell things online the old fashion way (aka charging for a compelling product). For example, ATM machines were free for a time (like RSS is now), after which banks starting charging fees for ATM use once they were widely accepted. That said, do you think it's possible for online content producers to charge a nominal fee for RSS, which is a convenience to the user? Why/why not?

My answer...
Is it possible for online content producers to charge a nominal fee for RSS? Yes! In fact, this can be done today, by simply authenticating the RSS URL. Unfortunately, the implementation is extremely problematic.

First, many, possibly most RSS clients cannot handle authenticated RSS. My Reblinks surely doesn't, mainly because it's a security nightmare. Accidentally pulishing credentials could create an undesirable liability.

Second, nothing would stop these credentials from being used by multiple users. This would prove impossible to control for the both the publisher and aggregator. If two users subscribed via Reblinks to the same feed using the same credentials, the publisher would have little clue to this violations, since the aggregator need not present a different behavior than if only one user was subscribedd. Further, what happens when two users susbscribe to an aggregator with different credentials? Do you poll once or twice?

Although feasible, the implementation is uncontrollable. Is there another possible implementation? Certainly! And it's already in wide use.

The solution is to provide a public unauthenticated feed with summary content. This is actively being done by hundreds, if not thousands of existing pulishers. The user is presented with a brief summary and link that entices them to click thru. When the user clicks thru the link, he is requested to authenticate. Without existing credentials, he pays a subscription fee to view the full content. Of course, the content has to be very compelling if the user is gonna give you his PayPal or Visa numbers.

Round 2

Follow up question...
Say you and I are neighbors and we split the cost of the daily newspaper. It comes to my house, then I pass it along every day. A credential, multi-user violation has been made, but that doesn't mean the paid subscription model should be scrapped entirely, no? Provided the majority plays a long, it might not be that big of a worry, right?

  My answer...
Unfortunately, it won't always be two people sharing one subscription. It'll quite often be dozens, possibly hundreds. Paid RSS subscriptions doesn't seem feasible. But as I mentioned, partial feeds that entice clicks and subscriptions are likely the desired solution.

Reader Comments Subscribe
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Thanks for sharing a good blog to read. As you just said, sharing the cost of daily newspaper  plays a non conjugal property between neighbor.

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