NevOn NevOn is the archive weblog of Neville Hobson, a British business communicator based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, a record of commentary and conversations from December 2002 until 22 February 2006. This site is no longer updated - please visit www.nevillehobson.com.
Beta 2 of FeedDemon 2, the RSS aggregator for Windows, was released this week. If you've been testing FD's development versions since release 1.5, this latest beta is worth getting.
I've just installed it and the first thing I notice is how much faster the application seems to be overall compared to beta 1. The release notes outline a long list of additions, changes and fixes since that first beta.
It's often a good idea to just click on things on a website as you might discover something new.
That's what happened this morning on the IABC website as I was reviewing information there about the 2006 International Conference which takes place in Vancouver in June (I'm speaking at that event; a post about it soon).
In the Updates section on the home page, there's a link to the new IABC News Centre, a media resource with the latest news and information about IABC's programmes and leaders (it says).
The new resource uses PR Newswire's MediaRoom tool, providing a dedicated section with detailed information such as contact details, news releases, photos, logos, backgrounders, bios, white papers, etc. All the things journalists - and interetsed IABC members - need to get that accurate and rounded picture of what IABC is and what it does.
This is a very long overdue, and very welcome, addition to the IABC website which itself was relaunched in October. Finally a dedicated place to get the news and information about IABC and its activities. The News Centre is being managed by IABC headquarters staffer Joseph Ugalde, who's in charge of marketing and communication for the association. Yesterday's official press release here.
The best news, though, is that the site offers six RSS feeds where you can sign up to get all press releases and information including about the International Conference, the Gold Quill Awards and the IABC Foundation.
No more hunting and pecking for accurate news (the old info page really was dreadful).
I sense the hand of some willing and skilled member volunteers as part of making the News Centre happen especially Shel Holtz, my podcasting partner, who in one of our recent shows (can't recall which) alluded to some new things coming soon to the IABC website.
The acronym itself and the little orange icons with 'RSS' or 'XML' you see everywhere really are not helpful to the average person in helping him or her understand what this RSS thing is. Even if you read a definition such as the Wikipedia entry, most people would still be completely non-plussed.
As we discussed in our conversation, we should be telling the RSS story that focuses on 'subscribing' not on weird acronyms, and talking about this technology in terms that benefit the user, in ways that people can understand.
Now we could have one step towards a standard visual clue as to what RSS means with news yesterday that Internet Explorer 7, due next year, will include the same RSS icon as Firefox uses. This is it:
[...] We’ll be using the icon in the IE7 command bar whenever a page has a feed associated with it, and we’ll also use it in other places in the browser whenever we need a visual to represent RSS and feeds. Look for more details on the look and feel of IE7 when we post the public pre-release build next year.
Collaboration and agreement between Microsoft and Mozilla. A small but significant step.
Now it needs everyone out there who has a website or blog and who offers an RSS feed to also adopt this new icon and thus help make it become a standard. I'll do my bit as soon as I see it there on Microsoft's Presspass RSS subscriptions page. Why wait? It's there now.
Rick Klau is Vice President of Business Development at FeedBurner, the market-leading feed management provider. He is responsible for cultivating and managing relationships with large media companies, entertainment networks, newspapers and a variety of other commercial publishers. Prior to FeedBurner, Rick held the same role at Socialtext, the first enterprise social software company. Previously, Rick was Vice President of Vertical Markets at Interface Software, now part of the Lexis-Nexis family where he held the position of company spokesperson. Rick has also held senior marketing positions at iManage through an IPO.
An accomplished public speaker, moderator, panelist and author of a popular blog, Rick has received extensive coverage in a variety of major media publications throughout his career including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CIO, InfoWorld, Inc. Magazine, Internet World, The Washington Post and more. He has published a number of books and columns covering the topics of technology, law, ecommerce and online security. Rick earned AB Degrees in International Affairs and French from Lafayette College, a JD from the University of Richmond School of Law and a Baccalaureate Degree from l'Université de Bourgogne.
Interview Segment Time Points:
00:29 Neville introduces the conversation
01:29 Rick talks about his background and what he's doing at FeedBurner
04:02 About FeedBurner
05:40 FeedBurner's tie-up with Reuters, announced today: expanding delivery of text news via RSS and to enable advertising
07:03 Advertising in RSS feeds: where this is heading and FeedBurner's role
11:00 Measuring RSS feed readership and manipulating statistical data
12:41 Shel: Todd Cochrane's criticisms of FeedBurner's Total Stats Pro service
13:23 Feed hosting and stats; Total Stats Pro primarily designed for text feeds not yet podcasts
15:52 Portability of FeedBurner RSS feeds
18:12 What happens to your feeds if FeedBurner changes its business or you don't want to continue using FeedBurner?
20:40 Neville: what is FeedFlare, announced today?
21:15 How FeedFlare tags and makes feeds more dynamic and interactive
24:49 Shel: most PR pros still don't understand what RSS is
25:26 The challenges for easier adoption of RSS
27:03 RSS adoption: signficant industry advances in the coming year to aid easier takeup
28:54 Neville: 'subscribe', not 'RSS' or 'XML'
29:38 Talking about technology in terms that benefit the user
31:03 Reader-friendly RSS feeds when you click on that RSS icon
31:58 Complexities of multiple RSS feed aggregation
There is quite a bit of technically-focused information in Dick's report, much of which goes a bit over my head. However, a couple of major points immediately caught my attention.
The report makes it clear that RSS feeds are rapidly-evolving as a delivery mechanism that goes far beyond blogs:
[...] In early 2003, it was probably accurate to say that almost all blogs had feeds and almost all feeds were derived from a blog. Today, however, while almost all blogs still have feeds, there are innumerable feeds that are unrelated to blogs. Commercial publishers have embraced feeds wholeheartedly; most web services and many search engines now provide subscribed results; and podcasts and videocasts are entirely feed-based while not necessarily tied to blogs.
The bold emphasis is mine as this is a key point in what's happening with RSS. Why? Because I think RSS will develop (is developing) beyond purely being a delivery mechanism and becoming a content connection source as well as a content provider in its own right, and not tied to a specific place on the web (eg, a blog).
This is what the FeedBurner report also gets at when it goes into some detail in discussing the important connection between 'items' (the individual news or information within an RSS feed) and 'threads' (a way to describe meta-data and connect it to items):
[...] If we manage syndicated content at a more atomic level by attaching "threads" to the item, we can provide tools to publishers that enable not just the tracking of the thread, but also use the thread as a communications line between the world of web services and the content item. We can essentially staple rules, patterns, and meta-data to the content in a live and "always on" way, wherever the content goes.
Now, I may not have correctly or even fully grasped the technical bits behind what I see as a significant development in RSS and how organizations can use it as a means both to automatically communicate news and information and connect seemingly-disparate content together. If that's the case and if anyone else has a better description, please let me know.
Which leads me to the second part of this RSS story - the introduction by Microsoft yesterday of Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE), a technical specification that would extend RSS far beyond its one-way operation (or "uni-directional", as Microsoft terms it).
An article in eWeek does a good job in outlining some of the areas where SSE would make RSS become a multi-directional communication channel. This would be valuable to people as a means of enabling them to publish or change information where SSE automatically synchronizes such changes or updates with connected information other people have. The eWeek story uses such every-day things as calendars, contact lists and schedules as examples.
Watch for demos and example applications that no doubt will appear within weeks if not days. That will be the time to best understand how this will work.
[...] Microsoft's new approach to synchronizing RSS and OPML, using methods pioneered in [Ray] Ozzie's earlier work, and keeping the "really simple" approach that's worked so well with networked syndication and outlining, combines the best of our two schools of thought, and this creativity is available for everyone to use.
The north-east of England probably wouldn't be the first place that would spring to mind where you'd expect to find one of the hottest gatherings of communicators eager to learn about the new PR - the place where communication and the new media ecosystem (blogs, wikis, RSS, podcasts) intersect and connect.
As I mentioned in my brief post yesterday, this is the first conference I can recall being part of where everyone who signed up, showed up. Not a single no-show.
Not only that, people travelled far and wide to be part of this event. They came from the north-east, from Newcastle to Stockton. They came from Scotland. They came from the Midlands. They came from London (and you know this must be something compelling for anyone from London to take a train or drive nearly 300 miles up the M1 for a one-day conference). And they came from continental Europe, from as close as Belgium and from as far as Latvia.
Yes, this was a very special day for the development of PR and new media.
BBC News: Tesco is bombarding UK consumers with a massive e-mail marketing campaign. Way ahead of its supermarket rivals, it issued 44 separate e-mail campaigns last month, more than Sainsbury, Asda, Waitrose and Somerfield put together. According to e-mail marketing firm Interactive Prospect Targeting Services, Tesco is blitzing the nation with 16-20 million e-mails per month.
Whatever the evangelists say about new communication channels like RSS, the reality today is that email as a direct marketing tool still reigns supreme among online media. As a push-tool used in the way Tesco illustrates, it can't be beaten for its ability to reach enormous numbers of people, and reach them quickly and interactively.
We're talking quantity here, though, not quality:
[...] "More people shop with us online than with anyone else and we do communicate with a lot of them by email," said a spokesperson for Tesco. "We know that customers hate junk mail so we try to target them as much as possible and make it easy for them to stop receiving emails if they don't want them."
This is Tesco's toe in the water for RSS, I would imagine. Tesco is the only supermarket on whose website I could find an RSS feed - none of the others mentioned in the BBC story has a feed, not that I could discover. Yet I'd expect more supermarkets to embrace RSS. Still doing email, of course, but more RSS.
So my prediction is - more RSS feeds by consumer-focused businesses such as supermarkets. It's getting easier for people to use RSS (often without realizing it) and will get easier still as more businesses offer information via RSS, as simpler ways of describing it emerge (like 'live bookmarks,' for instance), and as it becomes ever more easier to get the information offered via RSS. (Related development: expect more advertising in RSS.)
I've been using the betas of this upcoming version for the past couple of months. With RC1, some of the cool new features that will be in the release version are now included - over two dozen new features, in fact. My favourites:
"Automatic unsubscribe" added to Advanced page in feed properties - enables automatically unsubscribing from feeds that haven't updated within a certain number of days (useful for comment feeds and other short-term subscriptions)
FeedDemon now remembers the login for secure feeds between sessions, so you're no longer prompted every time you update a secure feed
At startup, FeedDemon now checks for feeds in synched folders that were removed from NewsGator Online, and asks whether to delete or disable them in FeedDemon
"Reports" added which provide information on "Most Visited" feeds, "Least Visited" feeds and "Dinosaurs" - the feeds that haven't had new posts in the longest time
"Post to del.icio.us" added to news item context menu
The "Statistics" page in the feed properties dialog now enables showing FeedBurner statistics for FeedBurner feeds
Hot on the heels of PR Week's making available RSS feeds of much of the content of their US and UK editions, the publisher of the weekly PR industry journal is now offering free access to the complete content of PR Week US and PR Week UK online editions until the end of October.
Coinciding with PRWeek.com's relaunch, everyone will be able to access this site without needing a user name or password until October 31, 2005. On November 1, 2005, subscribers will be asked to create a password in order to gain access to articles or features on the site.
Previously, to access online content, you had to be a paid subscriber of the print edition, or register to receive free limited access. It looks like it will revert to that from November if you don't sign up and become a paid subscriber.
An interesting move and, as the magazine says, clearly linked to the relaunch of the title. While PR Week doesn't have serious competition from other publishers as the journal of record for the PR industry, owner Haymarket must be feeling a circulation and advertising pinch as are many other print publications, possibly more so with a title like PR Week where the vast majority of its copies are free distribution, ie, not paid for.
So perhaps this is a move to bolster paid subscriptions to the print editions by letting potential subscribers 'taste the content' online for free for a while. Or, set the scene for a big move in further developing the online editions.
Either way, it might work as long as the content is worth tasting.
But I use Winamp when I want to listen to podcasts on my PC. It's a compact program with a minimalist display that scrolls the show title and has a nice digital timer so I can see where I am in a particular show. Just what I want.
Over the weekend, I upgraded to the latest free version 5.1 released last Thursday. This new version has direct podcasting support with SHOUTcast Wire - a built-in podcast directory and RSS subscription service.
While you can subscribe to podcasts, there's no support for syncing them to your iPod (but you can do that with this plugin). What you can do, though, is double-click on a particular podcast in the SHOUTcast Wire directory, and it will stream the audio and start playing the podcast immediately. So if you have broadband or other high-speed net connection, it's worthwhile listening before you download. Neat.
There's now a lot of choice out there to get your podcasts and sync them with your iPod. Let's see... for Windows PCs, we have iPodder, DopplerRadio and iTunes, undoubtedly the Big Three podcatchers. There's also Odeo and a newcomer, Ziepod. There's also the FeedDemon RSS aggregator which will sync your podcasts with iTunes and thus to your iPod.
I've used all these apps at one time or another, and they all do a good job to achieve what you want. Currently, I use iTunes as my primary podcatcher with FeedDemon to get some shows that aren't in the iTunes directory, as well as acting as a sort of 'backup podcatcher' where some shows don't appear quickly enough in the iTunes directory.
As for which is the best one, or the easiest and most reliable to use, if the download stats from Libsyn for For Immediate Release are anything to go by, that's clearly iTunes - consistently the top podcatcher for getting our show over the past three months.