The big problem with ads in RSS feeds

Filed under: — 6:00 am

Matt Haughey writes about why he thinks ads in RSS are a bad idea, and brings up an objection I haven’t heard much of in the endless debates about RSS ads. He divides his visitors into two categories: daily, devoted readers and random searchers, with the random visitors accounting for over 75% of traffic. RSS subscribers tend to be in the first category—devoted readers who don’t want to miss a single post—and he’d rather not annoy this group with ads.

I agree, and this is half the reason I don’t run any ads in RSS feeds. The other half of the reason: as I wrote about in Making Money from Content Sites last month, the devoted readers are far less likely to click on ads than the random searchers. And clicking on ads is all that matters, since the current options for RSS advertising (i.e. AdSense for Feeds) pay strictly by the click.

In short: it seems to me that ads in feeds not only annoy the last people you’d want to annoy, they also make little to no money due to lack of clicks. That last part’s just a theory, so I’d love to hear from anyone who has made money using ads in RSS.

Since I make my living from web advertising, I certainly have nothing ethically against RSS ads, and I personally don’t find them terribly annoying—I just doubt they’re a viable profit source right now, and I’m not sure they’ll ever be.

3 responses to “The big problem with ads in RSS feeds”

  1. Chrispian says:

    A couple of thoughts on ads on RSS. First, no one says any of us have to use the ads, obviously. At least not on our own sites. And if a site owner is truly concerned with keeping his loyal readers then its just to easy to setup 2 RSS feeds, one with ads and one without. Let the user choose. Win/Win.

    The only problem comes as a RSS subscriber when a site only has a single feed and it has ads. But the problem is that big. It’s a best a minor annoyance. I would say 50% of the feeds I get have ads. I haven’t clicked a single one and I’ve already trained myself to tune them out.

    RSS ads are as much a non-issue as ads on a web page. It’s overly hyped, if you ask me, and makes no difference in any way.

  2. As I said, ads in RSS don’t particularly bother me either. I have nothing against them and they’re not ruining my RSS-reading experience.

    I think they do annoy a certain segment of readers, though, and more importantly, since nobody clicks on them, there’s no point in running them…

  3. Visitor from Search Engine vs Daily – Issues with Ad in RSS feed? Both Matt (A While Lotta Nothing Blog) and Michael ( has posted their view on Ad in RSS feed. They mentioned that the subscriber are usually the daily readers who you don’t want to annoy them and they are the one that brings in less click t…

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