Feedster Unveils New Look, Sponsored Links

  |  July 9, 2004   |  Comments

Following in the footsteps of fellow RSS player Bloglines, San Francisco-based Feedster unveils a new version with sponsored links in its search results.

Following in the footsteps of fellow RSS player Bloglines, San Francisco-based Feedster will roll out a new version with an ad model next week.

Feedster, which is a search engine that trolls XML feeds, will begin running sponsored keyword-targeted links from Overture with its search results next week, according to Scott Rafer, Feedster's CEO. The links will appear in the traditional position, on the right-hand side of the search results page. "The links will be clearly labeled as sponsored links," Rafer said. Feedster's ads will go live next week.

Rafer said two more revenue streams would be unveiled in August and September, but refused to divulge further details. Asked if the new revenue streams would involve embedding ads in RSS feeds, Rafer said only, "You figure we would get around to that sooner or later. We serve more RSS feeds than anyone on the planet."

The revamped site rolling out next week will have a new look and feel, with the search results page more closely resembling what users are used to with larger search engines, Rafer said. The revamped Feedster will also offer the ability to search by URL. Users can input, for example, the URL of the homepage of a given site and get a list of every other site that is linked to it. Competitor Technorati already offers such a capability.

Searches will also be faster on Feedster, the CEO said, because over the last couple of months the company replaced its server infrastructure. More updates are planned for August and September. Beginning in August, Rafer said, bloggers and others featured in Feedster's results will be able to add an icon or photo that will appear next to search results from their feeds.

The redesigns of Feedster and Bloglines are not the only recent developments in the RSS arena. As the space continues to heat up, several other RSS-related companies have gotten venture capital funding, presumably to fuel further growth. These include RSS stats firm FeedBurner, funded by Portage Ventures, and aggregator NewsGator, which recently won an investment from Mobius Venture Capital. Another company to win seed money is Pheedo, a developer of ad solutions in the RSS environment.

Rafer said Feedster intends to pursue funding as well. "We certainly are in a position where we could grow much quicker. We could go out and pull an institutional round (of funding)," he said.

RSS has many appeals for marketers, such as bypassing the problem of spam intrinsic to email marketing. However, there are technical challenges.

The format lacks an easy mechanism for including ads in feeds. A few publishers, including CBS Marketwatch, have started including sponsored links within feeds, but most appear not to include ads. When asked this week about Gawker Media's strategy with regard to syndicated feeds for its blogs, publisher Nick Denton said RSS remains solely a traffic-driving vehicle.

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Janis Mara

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