Google Ads in RSS and Atom Syndication Feeds

by Harold Davis

In a contextual sea change, Google has announced a beta program that allows publishers to embed AdSense contextual ads in RSS and Atom syndication feeds.

"This is gonna be huge… like HUGE HUGE HUGE!!!" gloats Jason Calacanis, the President of Weblogs, Inc., which - as you might expect - publishes a bunch of syndication feeds. As a publisher of syndication feeds in a small way, I suppose I ought also to be glad. But actually, I think monetizing RSS and Atom feeds in this way in part defeats the purpose of having a feed. Feeds are simply an information stream that point to further information. If they get cluttered, they cease to be useful, and subscribers will cancel. In some sense, the RSS or Atom feed is an advertisement for the full content in and of itself.

Case in point: it is against the policies of Hot Feeds and Syndication Viewer to display feeds that carry ads.

Here's the way Weblog's unofficial Apple feed, which Calacanis is using to test the syndication AdSense program, looks (with ads) in Syndication Viewer. Each Google AdSense ad is simply an HTML table embedded in feed items like this [identifying numbers and actual link omitted]:

The good news: it ought to be trivial to parse these ads out of incoming feeds, simply by eliminating table tags and their contents from item entries if in no other way. I will certainly do so in Syndication Viewer.


2005-04-30 13:03:40
Feeds are what they are.
Feeds are simply an information stream that point to further information.

Um, no. Feeds are simply whatever people use them for. Feeds ARE an information stream, however pointing to further information is totally optional. There is a vast domain of people who use this technology in a way unlike what you describe. I agree that placing ads in the streams will probably be very annoying, but it does not in any way "defeat the purpose" of feeds. Personally, I dislike feeds that don't give me the whole story and I'm generally not inclined to subscribe to them.