RSS Advertising needs the right Feed Function

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Do you like adverts in your RSS feed? Do you like to find new RSS functionality around the Internet?

I say yes to both, but you need to beware of the_content_rss.

The RSS Feed Problem

There are two basic formats for RSS feeds: the excerpt or the full content.

For many years, I used the excerpt. Like many webmasters, I wanted to tempt my readers to visit my website. To a certain extent, this worked. I encouraged subscriptions using FeedBurner email service. Click rates into my website from my RSS feed were significant and, at the time, AdSense earnings from FeedBurner were reasonable.

When FeedBurner stopped AdSense monetization of feeds, I was alarmed, then happy. Not happy at losing revenue, but happy that I could replace AdSense with other adverts by adding the appropriate code to my RSS feed. I’ll come back to that code in a moment, but first let me explain my considered view of the feed format.

RSS Feed Credibility

As an online business owner, I rely on visitors to my website. I do not want to shove advertising down my visitors throats. However, if they are in mind to shop online, I’d rather it be through me. That way, I can keep improving my services with little or no charge to my visitors.

Visitors are the lifeblood of any online business, and they deserve the respect of myself, and webmasters everywhere. When I realized that I had a fast turnover on my busiest RSS feed, I stopped to wonder why. Quite obvious really. People signed up to get information in their inbox, not to be bombarded with advertising. An excerpt is my advert for the article I have written. I configure my websites to tempt search engines into listing my excerpt in search engine results. So my readers get my article advert decorated with related product adverts. No wonder subscribers soon cancelled.

As soon as I realized this, I tried to regain RSS feed credibility by switching all formats to Full text. You can check yours in the WordPress Admin area. Go to Settings – Reading and review your selection for the option labeled: For each article in a feed, show . This should be set to Full text, not Summary.

I changed that setting on all my feeds. After a few weeks, I could see less RSS subscription cancellations. Unfortunately, I saw a bigger than expected drop in advertising revenue.

RSS Feed Advertising

I was prepared for a drop in revenue when I switched my RSS feed format from excerpt to full text. However, I did not expect it to fall to zero. It was not hard to see why – the adverts did not show on my full feed, only on excerpt feeds.

The code I used is widely available around the Internet. I have seen it on so many websites, I do not know who should get the credit. If you know who originally created the following RSS advertising code, please let Keith Taylor know, and I will include appropriate acknowledgement.

The function for preparing the code, insertAds(), varies according to exactly what you want to advertise. I will cover various options in a separate article. Here, I am concerned with calling the function. In the much-copied code from around the web, the hooks are:
add_filter('the_excerpt_rss', 'insertAdsRSS');
add_filter('the_content_rss', 'insertAdsRSS');

The upside is that by calling insertAdsRSS() for the excerpt and for the full text, the code should work with either of the RSS feed format settings. The downside is, it doesn’t work.

In WordPress 2.9, the_content_rss was deprecated, and replaced with the_content_feed.

If you, like me, are something of a code scavenger, make sure you change to:
add_filter('the_excerpt_rss', 'insertAdsRSS');
add_filter('the_content_feed', 'insertAdsRSS');

Check your code now, and replace the_content_rss with the_content_feed.