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Why Attention.xml Could Change PR Forever

Steve Rubel
Expert Author
Published: 2005-03-10

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Attention.xml is a new technology standard that's being proselytized by influencers like ...

Steve Gillmor, David Sifry, Robert Scoble and Jeremy Zawodny. Basically it is metadata that records and shares information on the "attention" users give to their RSS feeds and blogs.

Scoble said that by the end of 2005 we'll all know what attention.xml is and why it's important for the services we choose to support it. Listening to this podcast with Steve Gillmor and Chris Pirillo today, I could not help but agree.

Aggregated metadata (definition) projects like attention.xml and Richard MacManus' collaborative Feedburner stat project, could have a lot of value for PR professionals. Attention.xml could tell us who looks at a blog or feed, how often they look at it, where those viewers come from, and more, according to a piece Gillmor wrote for Release 1.0.

If it really gets off the ground, it could have a massive impact on the PR professional because it will solve some of the industry's measurement issues (we still have to talk about how we boost the bottom line!).

Before attention.xml can get going, however, there are some stumbling blocks such as privacy/technical issues and questions over who should own the standard that need to be overcome first.

One of the questions I get often is "how can I tell how influential a blogger is/isn't?" As Scoble says, you can look at how many subscribers they have on Bloglines, how many in-bound links they have on Technorati, etc., but we need more.

Now imagine for a moment you can look at an RSS feed on My Yahoo and see how many people have read the same post you're reading or how many page views it is getting, etc. What if you could get an RSS feed that notifies you every time there are blog posts that are read by more than 100,000 people? Attention.xml as I understand it could make that possible (correct me if I am wrong please). I don't know about you, but I would subscribe to that feed.

Going a step further, consider the possibilities if the mainstream media (MSM) adopted attention.xml as well. This could happen if the big RSS feed aggregators get behind it.

The MSM is increasingly merging with the blogosphere into one unisphere. Some blogs break news stories and have thousands of subscribers. Meanwhile, media sites are launching branded RSS readers, blogs, podcasts and even adopting trackbacks and comments. It is conceivable that if there is a groundswell of love for attention.xml from the blogosphere, it could tip the hand of the big guys towards adopting it.

So, go with me for a moment. Let's say this happens in a year or two's time. Imagine how valuable this aggregated information would be. PR professionals and marketers could spec out the exact number of people who saw an article online - including both the site that generated it and the blogs that linked to it. There's no guessing.

Attention.xml or whatever becomes the standard would go a long way to helping the public relations industry measure the value of media placements, but it has to get off the ground first. I support aggregated metadata if it's a true standard (e.g. no one single company owns it) and the privacy issues are solved and urge everyone in PR to do the same.

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About the Author:
Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.

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