PheedoPheedo places text ads into your RSS feed. Publishers are paid for click-throughs and ad impressions. For publishers with a substantial readership through RSS, this is a great option for monetizing traffic that may not always make it to your site.

We have integrated Pheedo into our RSS feeds here at InvestorGeeks and think that you should consider it for your own sites. (Apologies to any of our feed readers who may have witnessed some anomalies in our feed as we switched things over.)

The Problem
An RSS feeds main intention is to bring your readers content without forcing them to come to your site. This can be a problem as publishers would like readers to come to their sites; that’s where all the ads are.

A friend of mine, Andrew Cantino, runs the site AbsurdlyCool.com, which posts daily lists of “freebies” found on the web. The site is a perfect candidate for RSS, as users love the prospect of displaying a list of freebies in their favorite feed reader. Since the site’s only source of revenue was through Google ads displayed at AbsurdlyCool.com, Andrew was hesitant to add feed access that would remove any reason for visiting his site after setting up the feed. Still, users want to be able to access your content through feeds; it’s just too convenient. On top of this, the viral nature of RSS feeds can help your product grow faster than it would without them.

Some Solutions
Publishers in this predicament have a couple options:

(1) They can keep some content out of the feed, forcing readers to visit the site to get the whole scoop. For instance, we typically put only an excerpt of an article our feeds. This means that interested readers need to visit our site (and bare witness to our advertising) to finish the article. Conversely, putting just the excerpt in our feed lets readers quickly determine if they are in fact interested and avoid loading a page for an article they won’t read anyway.

For a site such Andrew’s however, which is mostly a list of links, there isn’t enough content to hold back. This is where option (2) comes in. Services such as Pheedo offer a way to monetize your RSS readers without them even seeing your site. Andrew ultimately decided to add RSS support to the site and monetize them through Pheedo. He tells me he is happy with the decision, and I’m sure his users are too.

Revenue
We will see as time goes by, but I’ve heard RSS ads can generate revenue comparable to webpage-based text ads. My guess is that click-through rates will be lower, but CPM (cost per 1000 impressions) rates will be higher. I don’t have data to support this yet, but it makes sense as our feed readers are subscribing primarily to read our content. Thus they will spend more time staring at our writing, which is good for CPM rates. Conversely, they are less likely to click on ads as our site visitors are (who may be coming from a search engine and really looking for a site such as those in our ads).

Hesitation
I have to say that at first I too was very hesitant to place ads in our feeds. In my mind, RSS feeds are “pure”. They are meant to be very flexible, for people to use as they wish, and I hate to exert too much control over them. I saw RSS as a way to move data, and advertising isn’t the data core to this site. Our writing is core.

But as I thought about it more, I realized that web pages were pure once too. At first, they were simply a means to move data. The world wide web was commercialized in the early 1990s, and now web pages are more like store fronts and newspapers than data streams. RSS is going through the same kind of evolution, and it is important to view our feeds not just as data streams, but as an extension of our site.

Money is important too. The primary purpose of this site is to educate, both ourselves and our readers, on how to become better investors. The money we earn doesn’t only go towards our liquor cabinets and expanding waistlines. Actually, all of the money we have earned so far has gone towards expanding the site. We have used our revenue to purchase subscriptions to Morningstar and TheStreet.com’s RealMoney, not-so-cheap services that will aid in our research and help inform our writing. Money earned is also used to attract more writing talent and to build up the technology behind the site.

The last reason I decided to move ahead with Pheedo is their customer service. Pheedo reached out to us and was genuinely interested in bringing us into their network. They were also very responsive and helped us through some technical issues with integrating with Feedburner. I think they have a great company and are running it well. If they wouldn’t have treated us so nicely, I’m not sure I would have gotten over my initial prejudice against RSS ads.

RSS ads in our feeds is an experiment. Let us know what you think. If you are a publisher yourself, you should check out Pheedo to see if it can work for you. (Feedburner has a similar service in the works but is so far open by invitation only.)

I just wanted to add that Andrew has also implemented some other tactics for keeping feed readers interested in the main web site. Absurdly Cool now lets users rate and comment on the freebies. This is crucial information that RSS readers will click through to get and helps make the site “stickier”.

Jason, thanks for the kind words about Pheedo and thank you for the opportunity to earn your business. We look forward to working with you.

Best regards,
Bill Flitter
Founder
Pheedo, Inc.

Although not 100% within scope of Investor Geeks, I wouldn’t mind seeing an offtopic posting on your use of Feedburner and Pheedo. Give us a little tutorial and blend in some investing or money stuff along the way, as you did on this posting. I’m sure other geek readers would love it…

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