WSJ, NYTimes.com Embrace RSS

Two of online publishing’s most influential players gave XML content syndication a boost this week. New York Times Digital’s (NYTD’s) NYTimes.com expanded its offerings and brought publishing RSS feeds in-house while the Wall Street Journal Online began publishing in the format for the first time.

Neither organization plans to serve advertising in the RSS feeds themselves, but both expect to gain site readership, which will allow them to serve more ads on their sites.

“It [RSS] is a traffic driver,” said Christine Mohan, associate director of product development at NYTimes.com. “It has a very loyal user base and acts as a good complement to our site for folks who are news hungry.”

NYTimes.com has long made its headlines available through RSS feeds via a partnership with Userland Software. Mohan says the feeds typically bring in between 1 and 1.5 million page views a month.

In a sign that RSS is becoming more important to the company, this week NYTimes.com brought publishing in-house and expanded its offerings to 27 different categories. New feeds include the site’s most emailed articles, automobile content, features from the New York Times Magazine, and editorials. NYTD’s Boston.com site offers 13 different feeds. The publisher plans to add a specialized feed for the 2004 Summer Olympics.

“We can add and subtract feeds on the fly,” said Mohan, explaining the reasoning behind bringing the feeds in-house.

NYTimes.com publishes the headline, byline, and a short summary for each of the articles in its feeds. Links to all 27 are available at www.NYTimes.com/rss. To promote the feeds, NYTimes.com has begun adding links to the bottom of every article on the site, at the bottom of the home page, and on every section page.

“We’re looking forward to tracking the growth as adoption continues,” said Mohan.

The Wall Street Journal took the plunge into RSS feeds for the first time this week, aiming to boost subscriptions and drive repeat traffic to its paid site. So far, the company is offering eight different feeds for its subscription content: What’s News – U.S., What’s News – Europe, What’s News – Asia, What’s News – Technology, U.S. Business, Market News, Opinion – Review and Outlook, and Personal Technology/Walt Mossberg. Anyone can access the feeds themselves, but only subscribers can get to the full text by clicking through to the site. The company also has five different feeds for its free specialty sites.

“The main drive, because we are obviously an editorial organization, is to keep our readers abreast of news throughout the day — breaking news and headlines,” said Mike Jones, project manager at the Wall Street Journal Online. “Obviously from a business standpoint, we see it as a great way to hopefully alert people to the quality news and quality headlines on the Wall Street Journal, and hopefully drive subs accordingly.”

The Journal has chosen to publish headlines only — without bylines or story summaries — a policy it says is consistent with its syndication in other formats.

The company is currently promoting the feeds on the home page of its site and plans a permanent promotion on the main technology page.

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