Impressionistic transcript of Mark Fletcher's first public talk after AskJeeves acquired Bloglines, at the Media Center's Etech.
First slide is out of date, "one of the worst kept secrets on the web," now part of AskJeeves. Bloglines is where users meet RSS: search, subscribe, share and publish. Hide the technology as much as possible from users. Used to have his own bookmark list and going to 100 sites a day needed a better way. At the same time RSS began to get popular. Bloglines is my solution to this problem. Main screen is modeled after email, it does the work of tracking changes for you. Average number of subcriptions is 20, but that's skewed with some people having hundreds and they need a tool like Bloglines to deal with information overload. Three audiences:
- Consumers: managable access, spam free, web based, free
- Publishers: solution for building maintaining and measuring audiences; prevents "distributed denial of service attacks" from desktop news readers (they bear the burden of traffic as a proxy)
- Advertisers: a new venue, interesing info: subscribed to, read before, generates profiles which can be used in one scenario for advertisers. They have not focused on revenue (they have none), and will continue to build out the service with AskJeeves. Must be beneficial to users, content providers and advertisers.
Future developments: Convergence with web search, Mutimedia, functional RSS feeds for more than just news, Richer blogging tools, more sharing and social networking features. 3.6 repeat visits per day on average. Sticky vital part of their online experiences. Share your information and feeds with other people in your network.
Bob Wyman asks if he is the friend or foe of the publisher. We can't be the enemy, it won't work for our business, we have to be friends. Then asked about friendliness to readers. RSS is a friend of the user, our viral growth and addictiveness is a proof point. Business model hasn't been figured out yet for publishers.
Then Bob asked about content click through (as opposed to ad click through). Have not measured that at this point, have not been focused on a revenue model.
Steve Gillmor: you say you haven't figured out your business model, but I suggest you have.
Our business model is volume (kidding)... we have a lot of options, doesn't take imagination to slap ads on it or use profile data, or charging subscriptions, or PayPal for RSS feeds. Tons of possibilities, haven't figured out the right model for us. AskJeeves sees this as a way of driving search traffic. Still early, when you say syndication they think Seinfeld re-runs.
Make it easier by not saying RSS and hiding tech, it is an education issue and will take time. It is an iterative process to make it easier, a journey, no end point. Raising awareness with AskJeeves, which will integrate links.
So it seems that the merger means traffic and link sharing between Bloglines and AskJeeves, plus further funding of development. What I haven't heard is the user benefit from the combination of search and aggregation. Finding new feeds is not a big user problem, IMHO. Finding archive value has yet to happen. Finding each other in ways we can't socially process is a fascinating frontier.
Some end of the session discussion outtakes:
- Susan Mernit points out the erosion of brand value for news sources and the creation of services by users by subscribing to Craigs List as her personal early adoption story.
- A publisher: We play a key role in moving adoption forward in an easier way
- A publisher: Need for this to work at scale, which hasn't happened yet
- Wyman plugging his category: Two kinds of feeds: site specific or amalgamated
- How does this translate from fringe behavior to other more rational forms of behavior
- Steve Gillmor: Fletcher and Scoble are fringe, but solving their own overload problems. Scoble is the second most recognizable person at Microsoft
Some thoughts of mine about branding, prompted by this discussion... Which promise do you trust more? Promises you make to yourself, or promises a media brand makes to you? My guess is the former. They may end as broken New Years resolutions. But if you gain confidence in your own ability to produce, or at least manage your own consumption, you regain a lost sense of control. Then what happens when you gain affirmation beyond Stuart Smalley -- from your friends, your network. This is a core disruption to brand value. How value of self and social networks is a promise we want to believe.
UPDATE: Video interview with Mark on what's the big deal with RSS?