Download the MP3 (10.8 M
Topics we cover in the interview
Full transcription of the interview
- How is FeedBurner impacting on the way we understand media?
- What kind of information about their readers do media and advertisers want?
- RSS and television, what's the relationship?
- How can RSS be developed?
SD: I'm speaking with Steve Olechowski, one of FeedBurner's co-founders. It seems to me that the impact that FeedBurner could have on how we understand media and how media is going in a bilateral way is quite profound. Would you care to speak on that a bit?
SO: We totally agree: I think that's part of the value that we offer to all of our publishers and part of the reason that we find most of the major media companies around the world using Feedburner. What really attracts them is that we help them understand their audiences in this changing world of media - where their audience is going as far as blogs and RSS feeds and everything else.
SD: So, would you see yourself as a presenter of aggregated information or data?
SD: Talking about that changing landscape, from what you've been seeing, what's the weight of a story that runs in USA Today as opposed to - and I know there's all different tiers of bloggers, but how do you weight those, or how are they being weighted, by the numbers that you see?
SO: Well, I think it's changed quite a bit over the last couple of years. USA Today is one example that was using feeds very early on so they were one of the early entrants into using RSS and I think in general those early entrants are doing very, very well. It's all over the map, certainly when we look at the long tail that exists of feed subscribers the head is made up of some of the very large blogs, so a lot of the largest blogs in the world are leading the pack as far as RSS subscribers and because they were early entrants and they've been doing this a couple of years they've had a head start to really grow their audience, but I would say that major media is catching up at an alarming pace if not eclipsing it right about now, so we're starting to see those lines cross, where commercial media companies like USA Today, Reuters and some of the other major media companies that we represent, have very large subscriber numbers and we think that's a good thing, it'll continue to grow.
SD: I think you answered some of this in the Q&A after your session at the Future of Web Apps, but how about advertising agencies, how are they approaching the data that you're providing?
SO: Well, the agencies are really interested in figuring out how to reach the audience that's consuming blogs, I mean that's extremely interesting to them right now. So, we go to them with data that shows the reach that RSS and blogs have and they want to know how they can reach and tailor their message. The large brand advertisers are always concerned about making sure it's being presented with content that upholds their brand so that's always a concern, but more often than not they're now more interested in reaching this audience.
SD: So, RSS. Television. What's the relationship at this point in time and where will it be in the future?
SO: Right now I'm not sure there's a huge relationship beyond a lot of the media companies are starting to use RSS as a way to make awareness of their television programmes known, new episodes and things like that. I think certainly what we've seen with the iTunes store and Yahoo and some of the other large podcasting engines are that they're starting to do deals with some of these large media companies to actually distribute television shows via RSS and I certainly see that as something that'll happen very soon, that there will be feeds of TV shows that people can subscribe to instead of having to go sit in front of their TV at 9PM on Tuesday night, they'd rather "give me the feed, I expect at Tuesday night 9PM there's going to be another thing here, I know I can either watch it then or I can watch it later."
SD: Is Tivo obsolete?
SO: No, Tivo's not obsolete. Tivo is fed by a feed, it may not be RSS format, but in the future I wouldn't be surprised if it is fed by RSS feeds and that's how content providers are distributing their content to people instead of over a cable network, over the lines. Certainly there's IPTV as well, that's starting to become popular in mainland Europe, and something that I think the networks there are looking at very, very closely, in terms of how that'll change how things are measured, and certainly RSS will play a big part of that I think over the next few years.
SD: What are you offering right now that no other company is offering?
SO: Well, we're offering, we think, top notch statistics of who's consuming, presenting publishers with who their feed audience is, so we're helping them analyse their data and provide analytics. We're helping them really promote and distribute their syndicated content in ways that we don't think they could do by themselves, and then we're helping them monetise that in ways that we don't think they can do by themselves, so those three things are what makes Feedburner unique. Part of what we bring to the table is a) the scale of our network, it's huge. It's so much larger than anything else out there and that allows us to do a lot of things that maybe other companies couldn't do by themselves.
SD: Where do you see the development of RSS? where do you see that evolving, because you've been helping to really shape how it's used?
SO: Again, I think it's going to develop more and more to deal with things like rich media. I think it's already done a pretty good job of dealing with that but it's going to continue to grow in that facet. One of the things I think will have to be solved by someone, if not us, is how authenticated feeds can work. Right now it's very difficult to have private data propelled via feed because it's just shareable and things like that, so I think that's something that's going to have to be solved and hopefully we can play a part in working with all the major parties to make sure it's done the right way and can be presented to people.
SD: In the larger context, what is the focus for you over the next couple of years?
SO: We want to continue to grow what we're doing today. We think we're doing a great job today of dealing with serving the needs of publishers and advertisers but we don't think we're doing a good enough job. We think we still have a list about a mile long of things we think we could do better. So we're going to prove out what we're doing and help optimise it as much as we can, but on top of that we really deal today with media publishers and advertisers that follow along those suites, but feeds are going to be coming out of all other sorts of other places so we need to make sure we can cater for those publishers as well. As an example there are all sorts of retail companies like Target, very large retailer that's here, which is starting to have feeds of daily offers, so the circulars that they normally would put in the paper every week are available over RSS feeds. That's not a publisher that we cater to very easily. We don't do a lot for them today but I think that's something that we're working very, very hard on, in making sure that we can deal with RSS feeds no matter where they come from.
SD: Do you have any advice for individuals who are going through the start-up entrepreneurial process for the first time?
SO: This is the third company I've started and I've learned something every time. The most important thing is to understand who your customers are, and make sure you're listening to and serving to them in a very controlled, but almost rabid manner, and build your business around that. You may have some great technical ideas that are the foundation of what you're building but you really have to look at your customers and your audience and make sure you're serving them. That's been the biggest key to our success over the companies that we've developed. So that's number one. From a development side of things, don't over-engineer up front. Basically, do what you need to do to get your product to market quickly and iterate very quickly, spend a lot of time optimising and be able to deal with that scale that's going to come on the next level, but if you spend all of your time up front thinking about that, you're just going to spin your wheels and somebody will pass you up, so get to market quickly, always be very, very conscious about optimizing what you're building, but don't spend too much time on it up front. Those are my biggest pointers.
SD: Thank you so much, wonderful.
Transcribed by Scott Morris
Like this article? Digg it!