Weblogs, Inc. network now serving ads within RSS feeds

Reading through my RSS inbox today, I noticed that Tom Biro’s excellent AdJab– a member of the Weblogs, Inc. network- is sporting Google’s all-new AdSense-In-RSS feature.

A quick check at Jason Calacanis’ (Weblogs, Inc. founder) blog revealed that the entire Weblogs, Inc. network- more than 70 blogs- is now one of the earliest adopters of Google’s new AdSense-in-RSS program. Calacanis provides some details about the program:

In case you didn’t notice, some of your favorite Weblogs, Inc. blogs now have Google AdSense in the RSS feeds.

What does this mean?

Well, it means we know we can make money off of our RSS feeds and that we can justify providing you—our readers—with free “full” feeds to our content. Many folks are moving to headline only feeds so that you have to click through to the Web… I can understand this, how else is a publisher going to make money? Well, that question is answered and we’re psyched to be part of it.

What it also means is that people who have been stealing our content are now going to be stealing it with advertisements in it… so, while we don’t allow others to re-publish our full-feeds to the web (headlines only please!), at least we will make some money off it when they do!

As a big RSS’er himself- he regularly follows over 300 feeds- (see my earlier interview with him), I figured AdJab’s Tom Biro (disclosure: he’s a friend) might have some thoughts about his publisher’s new advertising model. He did, and he was kind enough to send me an email with some thought-provoking commentary on the whole RSS dealie:

As someone who subscribes to a large amount of RSS feeds a day, I’m not sure that this will change any of my habits, personally. WIN has had ads in RSS before, as have other publishers. Google’s involvement is just the latest evolution in the market, and it happens to be coming from one of the largest (if not the largest) contextual advertising provider. WIN isn’t the only site with ads in their RSS feeds, either. PaidContent has had a post per day that shows up, is labeled as advertising, and allows Rafat Ali to monetize the site’s feeds (discussed here).

As a blogger, you’re always concerned about the perception that people have of the distribution channel through which your writing is seen. Site design, RSS feeds, browser compatibility are just a few of the things to think about. RSS has become a way of the world of sorts, and when sites are publishing full feeds or extended feeds, there are definitely subscribers who hit the feed and don’t click through as often as before, hence the advertisements. I understand that there is a need for advertising in the feeds, and while it may not always be perfect, a contextual advertisement is probably better than anything.

Think about it this way: let’s say there never was the Web in the manner in which we currently surf it. If RSS had started as the prominent way in which content was published, and it evolved into having advertisements, people would “complain” about it the same way they did when other websites began having ads. You can never please everyone all the time, so it’s about finding the happy medium, or medium that makes the most sense for your site.

With regard to the community at large, this again isn’t really the first foray into RSS advertising (for WIN or anyone), it’s just one that people have shown an interest in because of the players involved. Yahoo’s Overture offered a similar service a few months ago, in fact. WIN co-founder Brian Alvey points out that the sites have even had their feeds “sponsored” before.

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