In the past ten years, the established consumer delivery channels for news, information and entertainment have been attacked by new technologies. Newspapers are dying due to online delivery of news and, more importantly, online classified ads. Broadcast TV viewers have moved to cable networks, pay-per-view movies and digital video recorders. Consumers increasingly want to see movies at home instead of in theaters. Recorded music and movies remain vulnerable to file sharing, even with the Grokster verdict. Radio is under attack from satellite, iPod usage and now podcasting.
Little of this has had much affect on the business information marketplace. Although broadband access at the desktop is ubiquitous, the main benefits have been to lower information delivery costs for publishers and aggregators and bring consumer-level information to the workplace.
Outside of the training area though, audio and video content are rarely used in the business information arena. There’s no file sharing. It’s tough to time shift business information; now or faster are often the only options.
But the innovation that is likely to have a significant impact for business information consumers is RSS. There is significant demand for well-filtered, current awareness information but prior to the widespread acceptance of RSS, standards did not exist for the consistent delivery of disparate types of business information. Alerts have been typically sent by publishers to email boxes where they lost impact.
I don’t know if the opportunities in RSS warrant an RSS-focused venture capital fund, but given its widespread appeal and applications, both for consumers and for businesses, RSS is in the early stages of an extremely large adoption curve. RSS might be trapped in geekland now, but not for long.