Use of RSS Feeds to Push the Online Content to Users

Dan MA, Singapore Management University


Many websites use Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds to actively push their online content to users rather than waiting for users to pull the content passively. In this paper, I construct a theoretical game model to study the profitability of an RSS-PUSH delivery mechanism. The model assumes a general profit structure for websites and heterogeneous users. To access valuable online content, users incur a variety of costs. They choose either to visit the website in the conventional way (the PULL model) or, if it is supported by the website, to use RSS (the PUSH model). Interestingly, I show that although the use of the RSS technology always helps a website to attract more users, it may also reduce the website's profit. This happens because newly attracted users are not profitable enough to offset the website's increase in maintenance costs and decrease in advertising revenue. I also demonstrate that RSS adoption can result in first-mover disadvantage instead of advantage. Under certain conditions, the beneficiary of the new technology adoption is not the first adopter, but rather its competitor. Applying my findings to the practice, I suggest that certain types of websites should not use RSS feeds to deliver online content. In addition, I show that the key to successful RSS advertising is to strike a balance between consistently valuable content and occasional related advertisements. I also derive the maximum volume of advertisements that can be included in RSS feeds