free html hit counter Playing With Feedburner - John Battelle's Search Blog

Playing With Feedburner

By - October 24, 2004

FeedburnMany of you may recall my comments in the past about RSS and business models, I’ve brought the topic up a lot over the past few months. More than half of many blogs’ traffic comes from RSS, and most of that traffic is blind – we don’t know who is reading or why, or how much. Also, unless you stick ad postings onto your site (a practice I’m not really into), none of that traffic sees your sponsors or advertising, should you have any. Net net, not a great business model for serious publishers.

Feedburner is an application that promises to change at least some of that. (Dick Costolo, the CEO, had been a prince helping me set it up. He’s the guy who co-led our RSS Business Models workshop at Web 2.0). I’m playing with it starting this weekend. For every second post over 50 words, Feedburner will burn in an Amazon advertisement. If anyone actually buys something from clicking on those ads, I get a few coppers in my affiliate account. Loyal Searchblog RSS readers don’t have do do anything to see this new feature, it happens automatically.

Again, as with the advertising on the upper right of the site itself, I am not doing this to get rich (any profits made will be given to schools), but to learn about the options and get smarter on the whole new ecosystem. It won’t be long, I predict, before Feedburner and services like it start rolling Overture-like ads into feeds. Then, perhaps, we can change this lame “headlines and summaries only” RSS approach taken by most of the mainstream publishers.

So, feed on, and let me know what you think of the service, and if there are any problems with it. I think the approach of affiliate PPS (Pay Per Sale) is interesting, and we’ll see if it pans out.

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9 thoughts on “Playing With Feedburner

  1. Jon Gales says:

    I too am testing it out (at and it has proven to be very slick. I haven’t added any advertisements, but I have enjoyed the stats.

    The big thing I noticed was that I had about 200 people a day clicking on my RSS link in their browser (and getting XML that scares them). Now FeedBurner has a slick stylesheet and explains what RSS is, and such. Very very slick. Not only will that increase my RSS readership, it will keep 200 people a day from thinking we suck.

  2. With PPS you always have to remember that this only works, especially for big clients, if the system is performing well. There are lots of variables in PPS that are not yet taken care of. What if I buy later in a shop? What if I don’t buy exactly that but something else? What if I didn’t know the shop before and now will become a return buyer.

    It will probably either move to pay per lead or life time value. I am talking about the long run.

  3. I think it’s a little ironic that feedburner and the likes are just catching on to this style of putting ads into rss feeds. Moreover news has been inserting ads into their feeds for well over a year now. Even though RSS wasn’t the term they used to describe their xml feeds (initially) that’s pretty much what they are, just not in atom or any RSS version. They tailored their xml flavor to whatever parser you used. I use the wddx flavor prefered by ColdFusion 5.

    Moreover makes the first item in every feed an Ad and they don’t try to hide it, which is a feature most of us like. The url is prefaced with ‘Ad –‘.

    I’d like to see something similar where the first feed is just an ad and clearly labeled so and the rest of the feeds are the content of the site. Then I’m not wondering which part of a post is an ad and which part is actual data.

    I guess putting an ad inside a post isn’t too bad but I certainly don’t want to see one ther in every single post. I think that will deflate the value of contextual ads in general and make them a little on the spammy side.

  4. Ian Kennedy says:

    Curious if everyone else seeing the same Amazon Ad as I.

    Van Halen – Without a Net?

    I guess those guys burn things too so a post about Feedburner might be relevant. . .

  5. I think everyone IS seeing the same ad. I am not sure how contextual the Amazon ads really are. You have to pick categories – DVD, Books, Electronics, etc. – for each of your categories, if you have them. I’ll find out about the contextual issues.

  6. Tony Gentile says:

    Hey John –

    More FeedBurner goodness for you to play with:

    Snippet: has announced “SmartCast”, a new way for FeedBurner’s service to tweak your RSS or Atom feed.

    What is it (and why should you care)?

    It allows those who don’t have an easy way of building an RSS feed that properly structures enclosure elements to do so (semi) automatically. And, it works with all a variety of versions of RSS and Atom (which fits nicely, as one of FeedBurner’s first offerings was RSS->Atom conversion)…

  7. Nick says:

    “none of that traffic sees your sponsors or advertising, should you have any”

    No sir. The traffic is clicking through to your blog post. That post sits on a page surrounded by whatever ads you may have. It’s only the feed that doesn’t display your ad. The whole point of a feed is it’s a neat summary of all the stuff you might want to refer to it. You refer to it, you get the ad. So don’t go putting ads in your feeds.

  8. Steve says:

    “I am not sure how contextual the Amazon ads really are.”

    John, I know you’ve played with both FeedBurner’s Amazon implementation and with Waypath’s Blender prototype. I’m curious how you feel they stack up with respect to relevance.

  9. Steve, it’s not a fair comp as Waypath is a prototype. Dick at Feedburner tells me the Amazon stuff is really contextual if there is anything remotely connected to a product. My site however is not really the best place to find that…