Tim Bray writes that Technorati & co. should start charging for their services. Maybe large companies would pay for it — budgeting it as just another press clipping service — but all the search feeds I have aren’t really worth any money to me, an individual, non-business user. Here’s why:
- I can’t use them to search for my name because both Michael and Cot&ecaute; are very common words, in English and French respectively.
- Not enough people link to my websites that I can keep up with referrals via my server logs.
- And, the one clutch of search feeds that are useful to me — news about where I work — aren’t really worth paying money for: it’s just interesting content to come across.
- As Baus pointed out, frankly, most of the services aren’t that good. (Like he said, Blogdigger seems to be the best one so far.) Blogline‘s searches work out pretty well too.
Paying With My Eyeballs
I understand those folks need to pay the bills. Vally leases and racks don’t pay for themselves. I for one am all for RSS ads. It makes sense to me: just put text ads at the bottom of each RSS item that are contextualized to the content.
There’s a belief that The People will revolt if there’s ads in RSS. Maybe they will, but I think overall, people accept ads on the ‘net. More importantly, when it comes to getting services on the ‘net, there are 3 forms of payment:
- Pay nothing…except maybe being tracked.
- Seeing ads along with your content.
That is, seeing ads is a form of payment. In my book, if I have to pay for a service, seeing ads is (usually) a much more desirable than paying real money for it, or, not having that service at all. The last web thing I paid for (besides hosting) was my Flickr account, which has been well worth it. But, until then, there hasn’t been that much (blogger back when they had a pro setup) worth paying for.
Give Me Ads, or Give Me Nothing
So, to sum up: if Technorati & Co. started charging for their services without the option for seeing ads instead, I’d definitely just stop using it. I have a gut feel that thousands of other Technorati users out there are in my same boat as well. I’d wager that the 0-25% of the folks in the ocean liners — medium to large companies — would pay for it. The rest of us would just stay in our dinghy, happy to be afloat at all without all that fancy service
Real Search Feeds
What would I pay for in this area? I’d pay for RSS feeds of updates to Google search results. For example, I could enter in the query “link:www.drunkandretired.com” (the list of pages that link to this weblog). When I first subscribed to it, it’d contain all of the results. Then, as Google found new results, it’d throw an item in the RSS feed.
My user-goal with this setup would be to find all the new sites (blog, RSS, traditional web page, or otherwise) that link to my site. Put another way, it’d tell me about each new site Google found that linked to my weblog. I’d want to be able to do the same thing with any Google query: I don’t want to subscribe to the current results the query would return, I just want the diffs since I ran the query last. I want to new just the new results in the query every day/week/whatever.
With Google, I have to manually do this today and sort out the new links from the old links. It’s tedious, repetitive, and time consuming: the kind of stuff those amazing computers are really good at. Long ago, before weblogs, when we had to walk to each website we wanted to read (usually up hill, both ways, through snow), I’d do this manual searching about once a month for my websites.
The Context Bound Search
I’d probably pay a small fee for Google News Alerts in an RSS feed too…but don’t hold me to that. Which brings up another good point: search feeds that encompass the entire internet, or web, really aren’t as valuable as those that do searches over just a section of it. That is, it’s nice to have editors for your search that select which sites will be indexed, throwing out irrelevant ones.
That’s why I’d pay for Google News Alert feeds: I know the results will only be news sources, mostly of the traditional media type. Which is fine with me if I’m interested in keeping up with traditional media content-streams…which I am.
So, maybe that’d be another thing for the search feed companies to do: get more editors. I used to think About.com was a joke of a site (despite showing up all the damn time in my searches), but apparently, someone thinks it’s worth some serious cash. Despite all those framed search results and flashing banners, About.com did, and is doing, all right.
What would be better, for me, would be if the search feed companies had a bunch of editors like About.com: the editors would create context bound pools of content — like Google News does — to return search result from. Hopefully, this would remove all the crud.
Clearly, about.com has the chance to get crazy with RSS on it’s so called blogs (brother, whoever sold the notion that about.com was a bunch of blogs is the P.T. Barnum of the week). I’d love to subscribe to “blogs” like the Austin site. Sure, the content isn’t stellar, but it’s still another batch of content in bloglines.
And, as most of you, dear readers, know all too well, when it comes down to it, that’s the only user-goal I have: more content. Feed the content-hungry Coté!