Interview: Fergus Burns

Nooked CEO

Nooked CEO

Nooked is a Dublin-based provider of RSS technology. The company counts PR agencies and their clients as customers, providing the ability to syndicate press releases and other documents to anyone using an RSS reader.

Burns talked to PRWeek.com about his company's service, the future of RSS, and how the technology has spread through the PR community.

Q: How would you explain Nooked services?

A: Nooked is an RSS service provider. We have a series of solutions for use of RSS within the corporate or enterprise market. We have a product called the Nooked FeedWizard, which has been [available] for six months, which lets corporations publish via RSS. And we launched a directory, dir.nooked.com, in February 2005, where one can locate RSS feeds published by corporations, like Microsoft or Cisco.

Q: And the directory has non-Nooked feeds?

A: Yes. Anyone can submit his or her feeds to the directory. We have an editorial filter on it, though, because we want to keep the quality quite high. It's not a directory for personal blogs, even though we include corporate blogs, like Sun's and RedHat's. We leave personal blogs to other good services like Technorati and PubSub.

Q: You visited to a bunch of PR firms and corporations at the beginning of the year. What was the knowledge of RSS and how has it changed since the onset of your business?

A: [Prior to my trip], in 2004, [discussing RSS] was an education mission where you gave the RSS 101. The only companies using it were the Cisco's and the Cape Clear's of the world. There was a relatively small [adoption]. The barrier was confusion over blogging and RSS - the terminology scared people. They were confused, thinking that it was only for technology companies.

A lot of things have happened since then. Government organizations are adopting RSS and there are events like the New Communications Forum, which attracted a lot of communicators. You also have regional events, and evangelists like Steve Rubel [from CooperKatz] and Robert Scoble [from Microsoft]. People are now telling companies that they need RSS for their corporate communications and marketing messaging. Most of your standard publications and trade publications are now talking more about RSS. It's coming along in leaps and bounds.

Q: You've been circulating a survey to journalists and PR professionals about RSS. Have you found any interesting data so far?

We have two surveys at the moment. The standard questions we were receiving six months ago were 1) what is RSS and 2) who is going to read [the feeds]. They wanted to know if people like Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal and Jon Udell [from InfoWorld] read RSS feeds. Then we decided we were going to take action and determine which journalists, analysts and even bloggers read RSS feeds. [We found that] not all bloggers use an RSS aggregator to keep on top of what's being said [in other blogs]. But we're getting some great feedback from people that a high percentage of people in the technology space are consuming via RSS. And the people who are not [reading RSS feeds yet] are planning to do it soon. There are people who will never do it because they're not going to change their work practices. But some may be waiting for it to be part of the Outlook experience. We're looking to get as much traction as possible [on the survey]. The other survey we're running is to get a feel the level of RSS knowledge there is in the agencies. I've been fortune to meet with quite a few agencies that are leading the charge [in new communication techniques] like Voce Communications in Palo Alto, Bite Communications, Topaz Partners, and Hill & Knowlton in the UK. They're making people aware of RSS within their organizations. They are becoming the educators, by getting their clients on board.

Q: Some RSS commentary suggests that while not everyone is going to adopt RSS, the so-called influentials will most likely do so and they are bound to affect the purchasing and information habits of others. Do you agree?

A: Yes. And there are currently two types of RSS users, as well. Some use Yahoo! to subscribe to RSS feeds, but that's a [limited] service right now. If you go beyond reading five feeds, it becomes a bit confusing to know what's going on. Then, you have people like Rubel and Scoble, who are subscribing to multiple RSS feeds with tools like PubSub and Technorati. There's a bit of learning curve for using something like PubSub [in comparison to My Yahoo!]. Our proposition on the publishers' side is relatively straightforward. We have direct clients, which are generally the marketing or communications person within an organization that wants to RSS-enable their press releases. They want an easy-to-use service, which we provide, [that quickly enables them] to publish and syndicate their data through simple forms. We do all the heavy lifting for you. We create the feeds, we make sure they are well formatted, and we syndicate them to 14 - and growing - sources, and we provide metrics on what click-throughs you're getting from your feeds, and where they're coming from. It gives the power to the communication or marketing professional, rather than requiring them to worry about the technical implementation of the feeds. We also work with agencies, as partners, on how they can offer RSS to their clients. We have a partnership program that fits the agency's needs. We're the technology provider and they handle the client relationships. They see it as a trend where they can get an advantage with the journalists and analysts. RSS is disrupting a lot of the ways communication is flowing at the moment. If the trend continues, it will become part and parcel of everybody's workday, in the same way that e-mail had an affect in the past. RSS doesn't replace e-mail. RSS is maybe the way the web meant to be. But from a consumption perspective, it won't be a mass-market play for another year or two.

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