RSS Aggregation Thoughts: Bottled Water

So I wrote my first RSS Aggregator. It wasn't that hard actually, I'm not sure why it took me so long. I mean, it's not Net News Wire, but good enough for a quick hack. It's still running a day or so later, aggregating a dozen feeds (RSS and Atom) without duplication. That's better than anything else I ever tried. :-)

I have to say I haven't gotten nearly as much traction on mOlympics as I thought I was going to - the domain is perfect, the topic is current, the fact that it's mobile means that the site is available world wide to hundreds of millions of handsets... It's surprising how little interest it got. My 24-hours of pre-launch excitement about the idea and the late night coding didn't seem worth it at the moment. It's amazing how wrapped up in an idea you can get only to watch it fall flat. I mean, 115 page views? Talk about complete lack of buzz. I've gotten more traffic talking about what I had to eat for breakfast.

Here's mOlympics' RSS Feed. Maybe that'll help the non-mobile masses spread the word?

Regardless, I love having this new tool available to me. I can now set up aggregated mobile news site for any topic. Today it's the Olympics, but tomorrow it could be anything. Not just news, but anything with a news feed. I created a new mOlympics weblog with Blogger, which I shared out to Erik and Matt, am posting it to my server via sftp and am aggregating the Atom XML feed into the main mOlympics index. All that took me 30 seconds to do. There's obviously a lot of difference between a small site like this one and something that processes thousands of feeds like JavaBlogs, or millions like Technorati, but it's surprisingly useful for the amount of code involved.

After I launched mOlympics, one of my thoughts was, "should I put ads on the site?" A few days ago I re-instated my Google Adsense account. My year-long boycott of Google Ads has produced little except for a reduction in the amount of money I've seen in my wallet. In the run-up to the IPO, no traditional news organizations ever picked up on the fact that Google can be at times at least a little evil, even though that page is quite accessible from Google itself. So I gave up and turned the ads back on. You don't see them now (if you're reading this on my site) because I only have them enabled for people who are referred here from Google itself - those people are already searching for something, so the ads - which are presented in a big box at the top of my post page - are actually very useful. Everyone else could care less, so I don't bother displaying them. The theory seems to be working as yesterday I had almost 1000 referrers from Google, and 44 of them clicked through for a total of around $25. Not bad. It helps that I post mostly about mobiles which, I'm sure, demands high prices for those keywords right now.

But what about mOlympics? I can put ads on this site because it's all my content, but on a site with a bunch of external feeds - several of which are marked for Personal Use Only? That doesn't seem either right or legal. The whole idea, actually, of putting ads on other people's content just doesn't seem right. I'm not the only one. Anyone else besides me notice that neither Bloglines, Technorati or Feedster have advertisements? That's nice, but how are these sites going to make money? And how different is aggregating RSS feeds from what Google does (aggregating HTML pages)? I mean, they put ads on a summary of my pages, just like an RSS feed. They also have an archive of my site online as well, which is against my personal copyright of this site, but no one seems to mind just yet. There seems to be this craze for organizing and displaying all the info out there for profit - but I wonder if that's enough "added value" to justify charging for that service. I guess it is, as Technorati, Feedster and NewsGator have all gotten funding.

I wonder how long you can add value to a free service and charge someone money for it? I guess we bottle water, right?


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