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  • Twitter Friday: Is Twitter the New RSS?

    Twitter vs RSS

    Lately a discussion about the RSS format flared up. Without RSS blogs and the whole infrastructure of the current Web would not be possible.

    Some commentators argue that RSS is already a format of the past. A few of them add that Twitter replaces RSS for end users.

    Does it really? There is some truth to it. This is just a subjective impression though. Statistics indicated already a year ago that RSS is not really popular. Fred Wilson or rather a commenter on his blog summed it up pretty well. In my own words: RSS is alive but not (yet) kicking.

    The focus of this blog post is not to discuss whether RSS is dead, dying or alive and whether Twitter really replaces it. Today I will attempt to assess the ramifications of the current move from RSS to Twitter or if you prefer it the addition of Twitter to many people’s daily reading habits.

    At first I have to admit that I never got used to RSS. This is really a surprise to myself as well as I blog professionally for several publications. Also I have tested at least a dozen RSS readers and use 3 of them. Mostly I use RSS readers to test whether my RSS feeds actually work for others. Once or twice a week I will check my Netvibes subscriptions.

    On the other hand I check my Twitter stream several times a day. Additionally I use several tools to determine who writes or tweets about me and about terms I care for. Last but not least I check several social news like Twitter aggregators to find out what’s hot and what not.

    Nonetheless these tools are not enough to use Twitter in a RSS reader like manner. An advanced Twitter client like Tweetdeck allows you to subscribe to different keywords or users though. You could argue that this use case is really replacing RSS.

    In a way not Twitter is a replacement of RSS but FriendFeed.

    On Friendfeed you can not only subscribe to a blog but to everything an author publishes are at least wishes to share on FF. Thus Feedburner, the Google owned leading company offering RSS enhancement and management has recently added FriendFeed subscribers to the overall subscriber count of a blog. Many people, including me, disliked this measure.

    From a marketing and SEO perspective RSS subscribers and Twitter followers (and FriendFeed subscribers as well) are quite a different pair of shoes. The main difference is:

    You don’t own your tweets.

    You just use a service that allows you to contact others. They might close it down any day, ban you or make you pay for it. A blog or any other publication that harbors content and offers an RSS subscription is online real estate. So from the publisher perspective an RSS feed is much more important than a Twitter stream.

    Also you don’t offer a subscription to your blog via Twitter. Even in the case of publishing your new posts via Twitter it’s not really the same. Many people subscribe to your Twitter stream for other reasons than reading your blog. Thus the number of clicks to your blog posts will be most likely smaller than the number of people actually reading them via RSS.

    So for web publishers, bloggers, SEOs alike RSS is the more important way of spreading your content. We can’t ignore the emergence of Twitter as a RSS like news reader. Many professional bloggers already automatically tweet whenever a new posting gets published. We at SEOptimise do that manually as well. This is somewhat obvious but primitive.

    It’s as if we would offer TV programs on a radio, Twitter being the radio in this metaphor.

    You can’t fully appreciate an RSS feed via Twitter. In the end it’s just a link you might overlook among the plethora of other updates.

    Trying to gain and to retain your subscribers via RSS while at the same time getting more Twitter followers is the best way to go. You have to offer RSS enhancements to make people stick with RSS. For instance on my blog I offer Feedburner powered links to social sites which display the number of votes and the number of comments.

    Also I use YARPP, a related posts plugin for WordPress blogs that also shows related postings on your RSS feed. Both enhancements create win to win situations for publishers and readers. On Twitter you should add value by not only publishing your RSS feed automatically. Twitter is for socializing and one to one communications as well. I even use it for crowdsourcing.

    In future we’ll see more useful ways to use RSS and Twitter and combine them. TV has not replaced radio, cars haven’t replaced bikes and planes haven’t replaces ships. It’s the way you combine and use them.

    Many thanks to my Twitter followers SEOHolicc and kieronhughes for providing the two sides of the same coin.

    I help people with blogs, social media & search. I help you succeed on the Web. I've been online publishing for 15 years. I started back in 1997.

    7 Responses to “Twitter Friday: Is Twitter the New RSS?”

    1. Alex Juel says:

      I think Twitter is a great place to get news, but there is just too many other things going on in my stream for me to feel like it’s useful for industry news, or not as complete of a resource to replace my feeds. It’s great for trending topics though.

      In Google Reader I can subscribe to only news/article updates without having to worry about missing what all the other SEO’s out there posted throughout the day.

    2. Haha, didn’t think you were using my tweet as the basis for a blog article!:)

      It’s quite strange really, because I thought of doing a similar article a while back but never actually got round to it.

      Interesting sides of the debate. There is pro’s and con’s to both really. Alex touched on a good point in his comment; with RSS you never actually miss an important article, because it will still be waiting for you (in the case of Google Reader anyway) when you next log in. With Twitter you can miss important posts as they may have been posted while you were offline, and unless retweeted, may never appear again.

      The thing I love about Twitter is that it is an instant gateway to a huge amount of content. Even if you have never read a particular blog before, or heard of the person, Twitter somehow connects you to them through a series of friend circles.

      Nice article, cheers.

    3. Aktuelle Links (gespeichert vom 04.09.2009 bis zum 05.09.2009) « Der Webanhalter says:

      [...] Twitter Friday: Is Twitter the New RSS? | SEOptimise (September 4th, 2009 by Tad Chef) Interessanter Diskussionsbeitrag zum "Tod" von RSS. [...]

    4. Randy Kemp says:

      There are some services – like Tweetfeed and ping.fm – that feed blogs to Twitter. I really think RSS will still be around, but I take a wait and see attitute.

    5. Mickfuck says:

      Twitter suck’s, its full of spammers and hackers, full of rubbish people.

    6. Is Twitter Overhyped? - Geeky100 says:

      [...] RSS is NOT dead; Twitter has (ironically self-imposed) [...]

    7. Oscar Del Santo says:

      Tad does it again! A great thought-provoking post.

      I think that Tweeter is becoming more dependent on tools and apps and the speed with which Tweeter displaces RSS will be heavily dependent on those.

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