Don’t Tell Mediafed That RSS Is Dead

All DocumentsIt’s not clear what Google’s plans are for FeedBurner, its feed management and syndication platform. By the looks of it, FeedBurner has become a neglected platform, and I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it would get the axe in one of the company’s next rounds of “spring cleaning.” Not too long ago, Google decided to discontinue its AdSense for Feeds service, which was really the only way the company was monetizing the services.

Even though Google doesn’t quite seem to know what to make out of its RSS service and apparently didn’t think it was worth trying to monetize it anymore, there are still quite a few businesses that are thriving in this space. Earlier this month, I talked to Mediafed CEO Ashley Harrison, who told me that his company’s services reached about 170 million people across the globe in October. Over 72 million of these were mobile visitors (up from 54 million in September).


Just in the last six weeks, Mediafed added 45 million new users as it expanded its partnerships with publishers across the globe. In total, Harrison told me, the company monetized over 200 million stories in the last quarter and powered over 3 billion article views in October.

The company, which also recently acquired the mobile news-reading app Taptu, has offices in Australia, Korea, Brazil, Russia and China. In total, Mediafed is now working with publishers in 55 countries across, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Unlike Google, Harrison told me, London-based Mediafed is mostly going after premium publishers and premium advertisers. Among the company’s clients are the likes of the New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian and Sueddeutsche. For advertisers, Harrison argued, an RSS subscription is a very powerful signal that somebody is interested in a given topic. While Google went with its traditional pay-per-click model for AdSense for Feeds, Mediafed is using a CPM model that is more typical for premium online advertising campaigns.

The publishers in its network get a set of tools that are quite similar to what FeedBurner currently offers, but sadly, Mediafed isn’t planning to open its services to anybody yet. The company is, however, seeing a lot of interest from publishers who are looking for an alternative to FeedBurner and AdSense for Feeds. As Harrison told me, the company is also looking at how it could serve smaller publishers if Google decides to close FeedBurner at some point in the future. That, however, would mean having to deal with very different scaling issues on the Mediafed backend and, for the time being, the company is focused on helping its publishers get the most out of its services.

In a way, of course, Mediafed’s focus on all things premium makes things a bit easier for the company to turn a profit. FeedBurner, after all, is open for everybody, and many publishers that use the service don’t actually use the monetization service. The infrastructure is surely also pretty costly to run, and while the old Google didn’t care much about burning some cycles for an unprofitable but popular service, the new Google is becoming notorious for closing services that aren’t performing well.

Despite the fact that RSS as a consumer technology – as in users subscribing to feeds and reading them in NetNewsWire, FeedDemon, Google Reader and similar readers – never quite caught on, it still forms the underpinning of popular apps like Flipboard, Pulse and many other services. As these become more popular, the role of RSS as the plumbing to bring content to their users will only increase, even as consumers’ awareness of it continues to slip. Maybe Google will also realize this and try to bring FeedBurner back from the dead, but for the time being, competitors like Mediafed are waiting in the wings to replace Google’s service with their own.

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