I shouldn’t be that
surprised when traditional media companies have a tough time transitioning to
the web and understanding the online world.
I wrote about one example of this in an
earlier article titled “
From A Laggard: FastCompany.com Shows How Not To Do Online Content
I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am, because it’s
just not that hard to get some of the basics right.
I found a similar problem
with Red Herring’s website recently.
a hi-tech oriented magazine, I’d expect that Red Herring’s readers are likely a
bit more tech savvy than the average web surfer.
As such, I’d expect that a higher than average
number of Red Herring’s online readers use RSS.
Even if this weren’t the case, one could make
the argument that
visitor to the
website that is an RSS and user and wants to subscribe is going to be more
beneficial than the average “random” visitor that wanders by and then leaves.
I compare this to the print world as
Having a subscriber to a magazine
is much more valuable (and monetizable) than people that are just reading a
magazine at the doctor’s office or something.
So, my basic point is that
RSS subscribers are worth more than random website visitors (no matter whether
you’re RedHerring or Sports Illustrated.
As such, you would think that online media
properties like RedHerring.com would take some basic actions to make it more
likely that people will subscribe to their RSS feed.
If so, you’d think wrong.
Here’s the deal:
How RedHerring Irritates RSS Users
For many RSS users, we use tools and widgets
that automatically “detect” when a given website has an RSS feed.
For example, I use FireFox and the Google
Toolbar within Firefox has an RSS icon that changes to orange when I’m on
a page that supports RSS.
is an snapshot of my Google toolbar when I visit SmallBusinessHub.com.
You’ll see the RSS icon (the orange one) and
the word Subscribe.
This indicates to me
that the site has an RSS feed, and I’m a click away from subscribing.
Very simple and my eye naturally goes to that
icon when I visit a page I like.
you go to RedHerring.com you’ll discover that there is no RSS feed to discover.
Here’s a snapshot of what this looks like
(you’ll notice that the icon and the word Subscribe are gray).
visual RSS feed:
The next best thing to an auto-discoverable feed
is prominent placement of the standard RSS icon somewhere on the page
where I can see it (and click on it).
Here again, Red Herring fails to make it
easy for me.
In fact, to actually
the RSS feed icon (which by
the way, they do support), I have to scroll to the very bottom of the page
where there’s a tiny button and link.
It almost seems like an after-thought.
No Simple Way
Ok, so once you click on the orange RSS icon,
things should start getting better.
When I do this on 99% of the other
websites I visit, what comes up is the content of the site in “feed format”.
Newer browsers (like IE7) will
actually detect this and give you an easy way to subscribe from within
Red Herring doesn’t do
this in the standard way either.
using some service called (ironically) “SimpleFeed”.
This service basically gives me a set of
checkboxes so I can pick which areas of interest I have with the purpose
of creating a “custom” feed.
this is cool, it’s non-standard and is decidedly
Distracting Use Of Branding In Feed:
So, if you go through all of this effort (which
I did), and finally succeed in subscribing to the feed, what you end up getting
is something that is very, very irritating.
Each item in the feed shows a large
RedHerring logo (and very little content).
It’s distracting to the eye and creates
One of the reasons people
like RSS so much is that it makes content easy to scan by making
everything look “standard”.
a regular RSS reader, you know what I mean.
Below is a screenshot of what the Red
Herring feed looks like in my feed reader (OnFolio).
Always surprises me how even major online properties can make such simple mistakes. Have you come across any other examples of print publications having a hard time really making the transition to the web? What about your website? Are you making some silly mistakes? You can find some of them easily by trying our free (while it's in beta)
tool. It catches some of the basics and gives your website a grade. Try it out and let us know what you think in the comments.
Originally published Feb 8, 2007 6:46:00 PM, updated October 18 2015