Web news feed syncs up with ads

Moreover opens up its news aggregation software to the public for free--but the headlines will be delivered with ads.

Moreover Technologies has introduced a free, advertising-supported service that lets Web surfers set up a personalized collection of headlines from news outlets around the Web.

San Francisco-based Moreover licenses technology that aggregates headlines and makes news searchable for Web visitors to partners, including Microsoft's MSN. This week, Moreover opened up its Really Simple Syndication (RSS) news aggregation feeds to the public, reintroducing a service it once shelved for lack of a profit scheme.

The company now plans to make money from an "intelligent" advertising system that pairs targeted promotions with news feeds, Moreover CEO Jim Pitkow said. People can sign up to receive headlines on a news-reader Web page, and they will receive one related text ad per day, which should mean they won't be inundated with ads.

"We can control the frequency with which ads are placed," Pitkow said.

Hype about the promise of RSS has been seismic, but the question of how to profit from the news-syndication technology has remained unanswered for many Web outfits and investors. Several companies, including Moreover, are attempting to find the answer in online advertising.

Last month, RSS search engine Feedster said it's teamed with advertising network Kanoodle to seed news feeds with keyword-targeted text ads. In the coming weeks, people who subscribe to Feedster to receive headlines on a personalized Web page will begin receiving one to two ads every time their news reader "pings" Feedster, Feedster CEO Scott Rafer said. People can also pay a $10 fee to avoid the ads.

Rafer said he also plans to introduce a service soon that lets Web loggers sign up to add targeted ads to their RSS feeds, so that they can profit from their online diaries.

But there is potential for controversy. Publishers and bloggers that offer their news via RSS feeds could view any third-party commercialization of their content as unfair.

"When you're just slicing and dicing information, does that give you the right to sell it?," said Mary Hodder, a Web product manager for Technorati, a search engine for blogs and RSS feeds.

"There is a business model there, but you have to manage it responsibly, because the social media (of RSS) is different from old media--it's an active group, and they're not interested in being 'overmessaged' to," Hodder added.

Moreover said it's trying to manage the signal-to-noise ratio by limiting its ad delivery.

The company is working with Kanoodle to place text ads in news feeds. In addition, it has partnerships with news readers Pluck and FeedDemon, whose aggregation sites allow people to subscribe and receive Moreover's news headlines from roughly 330 categories of information.

In April, Moreover began testing a version of its news service called FeedDirect, designed specifically for noncommercial Web sites. Webmasters can add several lines of JavaScript code to their sites to receive Moreover news feeds for free, for only the cost of an additional ad.

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