Study: RSS Still Not Widely Adopted

New research from Yahoo and Ipsos suggests that although blogs and feeds are trendy among the technorati, awareness of RSS remains quite low among most U.S. based internet users.

The study found that only 12% of all users were aware of RSS, and just 4% had knowingly used the technology for reading feeds from blogs, news sources and other regularly updated content sources on the web (if you’re unfamiliar with RSS, see the SearchDay series, What is RSS, and Why Should You Care?).

An interesting twist on those numbers, however, is that 27% of users actually consume RSS on personalized start pages without realizing that it’s the underlying technology enabling what they read. Sites such as MyYahoo, MyMSN, and the Firefox browser with its active bookmarks provide easy access to regularly updated RSS feeds with little or no effort from users.

Who’s using RSS? Among aware users, the majority are male (71%), between 18-34 (50%), with a college level or higher education (67%) with an average income of $74,000.

What kids of feeds are people reading?

World and national news are the two most popular categories, with 52% subscribing. Roughly a third of all users subscribe to entertainment, science and technology, weather and local news feeds. Surprisingly, although blogs and RSS feeds are often confusingly interlinked in people’s minds, just 22% use RSS feeds to follow blogs.

Why do people like RSS? Ease of use and choice of content are top reasons. Another surprising finding was that just 7% of users liked RSS for its instant updating capability, a core benefit of the technology.

Other stats shed light on how much RSS content is being consumed. Among RSS users, the average number of feeds people subscribed to is 6.6, and on average people spent 4.1 hours per week reading feeds.

The study suggests that users of more advanced RSS aggregators such as NewsGator or FeedDemon might be more likely to subscribe to a greater number of feeds. But the survey also found that even tech-savvy users preferred simpler, web-based feed readers. Unsurprisingly, My Yahoo was the favorite, used by 52%. Firefox’s live bookmarks followed, with 47% and My MSN was next, with 27%.

It should be noted that Yahoo has done more than just about any other major search engine or content provider to publicize RSS and make feeds easy to access and consume. The “add to my yahoo” program that allows content publishers to place a button on a page that automatically subscribes a feed to the user’s My Yahoo subscriptions has proven quite popular. You can also easily subscribe to feeds that appear in Yahoo web search results.

Yahoo’s findings suggest that RSS awareness and usage is static, primarily the domain by savvy internet users. In a study on the state of blogging by the Pew Internet Life Project last January, just 38% of all users knew what a blog was, but 5% said they used an RSS reader or aggregator to get news and information from frequently updated web sites and blogs.

What about the current podcasting craze? Despite all of the hooplah and media giants rushing to join the bandwagon, fewer than 28% of all internet users are even aware of podcasting, and just 2% actually consume podcasts.

The study was conducted on behalf of Yahoo by Ipsos Insight, which surveyed 4,038 respondents during August of this year.

A white paper describing the study is available here:
RSS: Crossing into the Mainstream (pdf)

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

Community Questions to the MSN Web Search Team
SEOmoz Oct 11 2005 9:55PM GMT
Selling Guaranteed AdSense Revenue
Search Engine Round Table Oct 11 2005 9:44PM GMT
Google Maps update may ease Taiwan tensions
San Luis Oct 11 2005 9:43PM GMT
Canadian startup takes on search engine giants Oct 11 2005 9:17PM GMT
Search is Key to Online Shopping
Internet News Oct 11 2005 9:17PM GMT
Closing Thoughts on Web 2.0 – Ajax, Business Models & More
SearchViews Oct 11 2005 8:16PM GMT
AdSense Service on Ebay Should Likely be Avoided
Search Engine Guide Oct 11 2005 7:15PM GMT
Google Revamping Catalog Search Section
Operations & Fulfillment Magazine Oct 11 2005 7:08PM GMT
Chris Pirillo’s Metasearch Plus Ease of Use For Mobile Searchers
Search Engine Watch Oct 11 2005 5:37PM GMT
Google Adds Tagging
Google News Channel Oct 11 2005 5:36PM GMT
Online Car Shoppers Search for More Than Price
MarketingVOX Oct 11 2005 4:29PM GMT
Yahoo Podcasts Search Skims Surface
eWeek Oct 11 2005 3:41PM GMT
MSN Recruits Search Marketers
Media Post Oct 11 2005 3:02PM GMT Bows White Paper Search Engine
Media Post Oct 11 2005 3:01PM GMT
Film resources on the Web
ALA Jan 1 1970 12:00AM GMT

Related reading

Simple Share Buttons