It’s both heartening and kind of hilarious to read stories like this where Mic, in this instance, talks about how it feels the need to make changes to distribution to more intentionally and directly reach the audience, not relying on Facebook or other intermediary platforms. Facebook, an exec says, has done too much to deprioritize their material with various changes over the years and is no longer a place to reach an active and engaged audience, much less one at scale.
That newfound clarity is heartening because it’s true and something some of us have been saying for years, ever since it first became evident Facebook was going to start throwing its weight around after promising audience reach. It’s hilarious because not only did it take so long for reality to set in but because many of the publications espousing these beliefs feel email is the answer.
Yes, I know email is seen as the saving grace of the media industry. I completely agree there’s no more valuable space you can get into than someone’s inbox. It’s an opt-in bit of real estate that most people engage with to a high degree. There’s also no platform people would rather see less intrusion into. How valuable is it if your newsletter is going to the crap account someone setup specifically because their primary account gets too many emails already?
Contrast that with RSS, where items accumulate worry-free until you’re able to zip through them. Spend a couple days experimenting with RSS reading and you’ll see just how “heavy” email feels and never go back. There may be some newsletters or promo lists you continue to subscribe to but I virtually guarantee you’ll switch whatever you can to RSS. It’s easy to save items for reading later, ignore the stuff you’re not interested in and otherwise manage your experience in a way that’s meaningful and appropriate for you.
As I’ve said before, I can’t believe RSS isn’t a bigger part of the current media conversation. Perhaps it’s because there’s not a clear way to monetize it. Publishers can insert sponsored posts, but because the individual doesn’t leave any information behind on the site there isn’t the kind of data collection that can be sold to advertisers.
You’d think that “nearly zero footprint” idea would be welcome by people suddenly wary of how much tech and media companies know about them based on their browsing and search data. Even privacy advocates, though, don’t seem to be embracing a switch to feeds despite the higher level of anonymity afforded.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.