Finding the enterprise RSS trigger

Marshall Kirkpatrick writes a very interesting post at ReadWriteWeb entitled “RIP Enterprise RSS.” The essence of his argument is that demand for RSS simply never arose and that the market is over.

I’m in the UK and largely agree with Marshall’s view that enterprise RSS has died although I suggest that an actual birth never really happened, or certainly hasn’t yet, even after universal adoption of the symbol you see here (and which does have a high recognition factor in my experience).

What is RSS? you may be asking. You could read the Wikipedia definition; here are the first couple of sentences:

RSS is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format. An RSS document (which is called a "feed", "web feed", or "channel") includes full or summarized text, plus metadata such as publishing dates and authorship. Web feeds benefit publishers by letting them syndicate content automatically. They benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.

That’s probably as clear as mud to most people. Here’s a much better way to understand it – RSS in Plain English produced in April 2007 by Lee LeFever:

I do a great deal of training and awareness-raising of social media as part of the communication mix. Thinking back over the past year and the workshops, conferences and other events I’ve spoken at in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, as well as the internal corporate workshops I’ve delivered, I’d say that even base awareness of what RSS is and what it enables people to do is still a minority view.

And even then, use of RSS in the workplace is piecemeal with very few (read: hardly any) organizations with any kind of tactic let alone strategy that includes the use of RSS as a tool to improve productivity, enhance communication and facilitate knowledge- and information-sharing.

What would make RSS grab attention within the enterprise? Heh, if I knew the exact answer, I’d be sitting back and picking up those royalties!

What I tend to focus on is helping the people I talk to – organizational communicators largely: people involved in PR, marketing, employee communication, etc – understand the benefits of their using RSS as a time-saver and listening tool.

You can see people getting their ‘light bulb moments’ when you illustrate the simple example of getting content from their ten favourite websites automatically delivered to them rather than having to visit those ten sites individually to see if there’s anything new.

Indeed, here are just three examples of the real value you can get from RSS that I’ve recently written about in this blog:

You can find more in the RSS category. And if you want to get some terrific tips and tricks on getting the most from RSS, take a look at Steve Rubel’s many posts on the subject.

In his post, Marshall argues that one of the showstoppers to greater take-up with RSS in the workplace is the tools themselves, the RSS readers and aggregators that aren’t ‘enterprise class.’

I certainly do agree with him in his view that an email program is no place for RSS feeds although I’m not so sure that tools like Google Reader aren’t up to scratch in the workplace.

I use FeedDemon, which in my opinion is simply the best tool for RSS on computers that run Windows (try NetNewsWire if you run a Mac).

FeedDemon (and NetNewsWire) is owned by NewsGator, one of three RSS companies that come in for some criticism by Marshall in his post (and who do produce enterprise-specific RSS apps).

Be that as it may, the fact is that RSS has not captured corporate imaginations. What do you think will be the trigger, the tipping point if you like, that will make decision-makers within corporations sit up and take notice?

Leave a comment here, or head on over to Marshall’s post and join the conversation there.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Derek

    I agree with a comment on the RWW article: RSS is actually the wiring and not the end part of consumption. It should quietly be populating the dashboards of managers and the infostreams of knowledge workers without them knowing about it.

    RSS has an endearing logo, but a confusing acronym and shouldn’t be exposed to end users. Like XML, HTML, XBRL, FTP – these are great protocols but if we step out of the bubble we’ll find the recipients and users of them are intimidated.

    Sometimes teaching these concepts is dangerous. Thank God for Facebook which made your average person into a photo-uploading, UGC, posting, micro-blogging, presence-aware being without having to know these technical terms or packages.

  2. Mike Coulter

    Terrific, timely post Neville.

    I’ve witnessed the light-bulb moment too, when explaining social media tools to enterprise clients.

    If I may, I’d only add one thing to your excellent piece.

    I’ve found that when showing some PR/HR/MKT people how rss can make their lives easier, introducing friendfeed to the conversation makes the light glow brighter.

    When they see how it aggregates stuff, and the ‘richer’ suite of features than regular rss readers, (not least imaginary friend, and threaded comments), many get really interested.

    Of course, it has a much steeper learning curve that regular rss readers, but then that necessitates more return visits/coaching sessions for me, so I’m not complaining.

    Oh, and I would add one more thing, re learning curve/’getting it’.

    The usefulness to them of rss should be judged not only by ROI, but ROT: Return On Time.

    One reason, in my humble opinion, why more corporates aren’t embracing rss and aggregation in general:

    Too much effort. They won’t take time to learn this stuff, and so discover the great benefits.

  3. Tom Raftery

    I think a tipping point might come if ERP apps providers started publishing RSS feeds of ERP data!

    That data is the lifeblood of the co. If CxO’s and snr mgmnt could subscribe to feeds which said alert me whenever a sales lead comes in >$100k, for eg or tell me whenever an order comes in for greater than x units, or tell me whenever line fallout on a batch goes above 5%, or…

    Well, you get the idea.

    When this data is available to be consumed by RSS, then the demand for RSS Readers in the Enterprise will bloom.

  4. broadstuff

    The death and life of Enterprise RSS…

    A piece by Neville Hobson commenting on a post on RWW talking about the Death of Enterprise RSS asks:

    …the fact is that RSS has not captured corporate imaginations. What do you think will be the trigger, the tipping point if you like, that will …

  5. Anne Marie McEwan

    Hi Neville

    I posted the following response over on Marshall’s blog: –

    I am not a geek. My line is management education; I co-design practical action learning programmes for senior execs. When I ‘got’ RSS a couple of years ago, I wrote a short exec briefing, ‘The ABC of RSS’. The view I took was ‘why should you, a time-pressured and busy manager care?’ and listed as many uses as I could think of.

    Like Tom (post above) says, when I show execs what RSS can do for them, they are usually very impressed. Maybe RSS in the enterprise is quietly alive, its use growing slowly and yeast-like. Especially if knowledge really still is power in organisations?

  6. RSS: It’s not about the techonology | Rocketseed

    […] RSS has been the cause of great migraines for marketers as they struggle to “sell” the idea to mainstream society. In fact, Marshall Kirkpatrick reckons the market has died completely. Not that there was much of a market to begin with, especially in terms of small businesses and consumers using it. What blows his mind, and mine too as a matter of fact, is that people don’t comprehend the convenience of viewing multiple websites’ contents in a single program. […]

  7. Corvida

    While RSS is a timesaver for some, it’s a time sucker for others. I used to spend HOURS in Google Reader attempting to get through my feeds. When you realize just how much information you can attempt to consumer with an RSS reader, you can go a little crazy with things.

    On the other hand, I agree that RSS could be intimidating. Even the interface of some RSS readers would confuse the average consumer who doesn’t have a clue about RSS let alone Enterprises that are testing the RSS waters.

    All in all, it just might be too “geeky” still.

  8. cision.net&c

    I think Derek, above, is right to say there’s a branding issue here. Compare “RSS” with “email”: it’s immediately apparent what the latter is and does. Moreover, the impact of email (and, to some extent, blogging) is immediate, while the value of knowledge-sharing within organisations (and thus technology that supports it) takes longer to manifest and is generally less tangible.

    Mind you, email’s been kicking around in one form or another since 1971…

  9. Al Shaw

    Enterprise RSS isn’t dead; it’s barely been born. I’ve been in internal comms for nearly ten years and to my shame I only ‘discovered’ RSS about six months ago. And as you know, once you’ve discovered it, it changes everything. When you talk to people in the internal comms world (who have been in this game for years) the level of awareness of RSS is practically zero. Heard of it: yes. Know what it does: nope.

    In internal comms it changes everything. Because we’re typically small teams dealing with multi thousand people audiences, we tend to prioritise large issues that have a bearing on large numbers of people. We just don’t have the time for the smaller other issues – that are nevertheless business critical – and the ones that need day to day work with smaller, niche audiences. RSS enables that communication to happen easily. Plus when you put employees in charge of the news and issues they want to pay attention to, that has a positive impact on employee engagement.

    I know you all know this, but internally, corporates just aren’t in this head space.

    And all of this is difficult to define into hard data. So I’m not sure what a tipping point would look like. All I try to do is encourage people to try it then see for themselves. But Enterprise RSS is absolutely not dead.

  10. neville

    Great comments, everyone, thanks.

    My sense from what everyone is saying is this: enterprise RSS certainly isn’t dead if we mean that the model hasn’t really been tried yet. As Al says, “Enterprise RSS isn’t dead; it’s barely been born.” The thrust of Marshall’s post is that it has, it’s been found wanting and thus has failed.

    So if it has barely been born (which is how I see it as I mentioned in my post), what’s to be done? If the tech is great, is it then largely a matter of communication, the need to better explain what RSS can do for people and organizations?

    Or maybe the best we should expect is what many people are already doing: telling the story in small groups and helping individuals themeselves see the pros and cons.

  11. Philip Scott

    I like Mike’s term Return on Time.

    Address the two stumbling blocks of – reducing the time and increasing the value – and we may just tip the scales sufficiently to reach the tipping point.

    This is the challenge we are tackling at topikality. We are in the later stages of beta testing. Examples of our work are shown at http://www.youtube.com/user/topikality

    We would love to hear your feedback.

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