Bloglines Bows Redesign, Ad Model as RSS Heats Up

RSS feed aggregator Bloglines has redesigned its interface and launched a blog creation tool, called Clip Blog. The company also said it plans to roll out advertising on its popular RSS reader at some unspecified future date.

The enhancements come on the one-year anniversary of the platform’s launch and at a time when RSS is earning increased attention from venture capitalists and major media companies.

Clip Blog is the first blog creation tool to be fully integrated with an RSS reader. Other new or upgraded features include Bloglines Directory, a listing of all news feeds indexed by Bloglines; Bloglines Top Links, which picks out the most popular links on any given day; and Recommendations, a personalization service that delivers feeds and blogs a user might value based on his or her current subscriptions.

Bloglines CEO Mark Fletcher said the company is moving towards an advertising-based revenue model. While he offered no timeline on the launch of paid ads within the reader interface, Fletcher said the company will use its substantial knowledge about its users’ interests to target ads, just as Bloglines’ Recommendations feature allows for the targeting of content. When they do appear, the ads will be in text format.

“We’ll be able to extend [the recommendation] feature when we do go into advertising,” he said. “In the future we may consider pay services.”

Fletcher added the company is gunning straight for the share-of-surfing now owned by behemoth search engines.

“Search portals are rooted in the past, and are ill-prepared to handle the tsunami of rich syndicated content that is now crashing onto the web,” he said. “For many people, Bloglines is replacing traditional sites like Yahoo and Google as their home page of choice because we do a better job of keeping them up to the minute on the topics they care about.”

The Bloglines redesign is only one of several developments to raise the stakes in the RSS environment. Several other companies operating in the space have received funding in recent weeks. They 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.

The format received an additional boost with the news that Apple’s Safari browser will be upgraded to include built-in support for RSS.

While marketers are clearly trying to insinuate themselves into RSS, 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 a traffic-driving vehicle only.

“We just publish RSS to get more traffic,” Denton said. “There’s no easy way to sell advertising in feeds.”

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