Dave Winer writes:
“Advertising in RSS is just starting now, for all practical purposes. If we wanted to, as an industry, reject the idea, we could, by asking the people who create the software to add a feature that strips out all ads. Make it default to on. Then, that would force the advertisers, if they want to speak to us, to do so respectfully, by our choice. Create feeds of commercial information that we might be interested in, and if we are, we’ll subscribe. If not, we won’t.”
Like many of us, I hate seeing advertisements everywhere I go. The problem isn’t just that ads can be annoying: it’s also that advertisers affect the content we see, and I don’t wish to give them that power yet again.
So, the question is, should FeedDemon strip ads? I’ve wrestled with this quite a bit, and I’ve seriously considered making it possible to apply your own filters to what you see in FeedDemon, so that you could filter out ads by choice. These filters could be shared with other FeedDemon users, much like newspaper styles are – and hey, wouldn’t it be nice if these filters could be used by any RSS aggregator, and not just FeedDemon?
But despite my personal dislike for some forms of advertising, in the end I’ve decided that FeedDemon should not strip ads, at least not by default. I don’t wish to deprive income from those who rely on ad revenue – that in itself would shut out voices we might wish to hear. Plus, ads may give some people enough incentive to offer full-text feeds instead of excerpts, since a big reason people use excerpts is to drive traffic to their site where readers can view their ads. I’d prefer full-text feeds with ads over excerpts without them (and so would Richard MacManus).
I do understand what Dave Winer is saying – he wants advertisers to come to us with separate feeds that we choose to subscribe to because they offer useful, relevant information, and that’s a nice idea (and I expect it will happen, too). But this doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue for those who write blogs, which is why Google ads in feeds are so attractive. And there’s nothing wrong with advertising in and of itself – it’s simply that too many advertisers rely on being annoying and intrusive, and really, that’s where we need to be vigilant.
The RSS ads I’ve seen so far are fairly tame and non-intrusive, but advertising is all about getting your attention, so we know where this is headed. Luckily, RSS readers like FeedDemon already strip much of the stuff that could be used for intrusive ads (popups, ActiveX, scripting, etc.), so really annoying ads aren’t as likely to appear in your RSS reader as they are in your browser. And I guarantee you that every developer working on an RSS reader will be on the lookout for advertisers that discover exploits that enable them to intrude, and we will keep working to prevent that.