About 2 years ago, I probably installed my first popup blocking software. And I always remember The Washington Post as the last straw which drove me to find and install it. At the time, the popups on the site were so distracting to the user experience, I could barely get through a paragraph before the another one came up. The site is still desperately serving popups, but as a communications professional, I understand why. Newspaper’s old model is dying. The two cash cows of the newspaper business, classified advertising and subscriptions are disappearing thanks to sites like Craigslist and the easy access to free content on the web.
To combat these trends, several newspapers are trying anything and everything. Parts of the NY Times content online are only available through subscriptions. The Washington Post, in an effort to gain new revenue, recently started including text-based RSS advertising in many of their existing 125 news feeds available for subscription. Rssvertising has enormous potential because it’s the first opportunity that breathes new life into a dying idea from the "glory days" of newspaper publishing … the subscription-based model. True, the subscriptions are no longer paid – but the bulk of profit was never coming from the subscriptions anyway. RSS is giving newspapers a chance to publish compelling content with local/regional focus to a dedicated and loyal reader base once again.
Some might argue that banners (and interactive ad units) are on a much faster growth curve as a percentage of overall ad sales for online newspaper properties, however I think users can smell the desperation and thereby filter out most banner ads on newspaper sites. Oversupply and use of banners = diminished relevance. For the Washington Post, and perhaps other newspapers, RSSvertising really may be their last hope.