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January 10, 2005

CNN goes RSS. Finally.

Only 5-6 years after some of us started using RSS inside the organization, CNN has launched public RSS feeds. Here's a page with all the CNN feeds, one with all the CNNSI.com feeds, and one for CNN/Money.

Why did it take so long? No one still at CNN is likely to say so, but for a long time, CNN.com made a lot of money from an affiliates program, where local TV stations could use CNN.com content on their website (and CNN.com would direct users looking for local news to their website). CNN's fear was that making the same content available "for free" would mean no one would pay to be an affiliate.

I can't speak to the current health of that program, since I can't find any sign of it on CNN.com today. Meantime, other news providers are providing RSS feeds that serve dual functions: free to end users, commercial to resellers. Reuters, for instance, offers 17 different news feeds, and my company is one of the commercial customers (would that all our content partners had RSS feeds; sometimes we have to screen-scrape to get their content).

The feeds that CNN does provide look terrific. It's going to be interesting to watch their "most popular" feeds updating in real-time, like a single-site Blogdex or Daypop's Top 40. They're slightly limited because they can't re-syndicate wire content, which makes up a significant chunk of their news. The only other news provider offering the variety of feeds CNN is publishing is The New York Times, with 30 feeds, including a dedicated feed just for David Pogue.

I'm really looking forward to spending some time with CNN.com again. One of my old co-workers had asked me about RSS, and some suggestions on setting up these official feeds, and I told him:

... CNN has almost vanished from my browsing world. Some of that is from the site changes when editorial functions moved back to the networks, but largely it's because I can use the newsreader as a newsfilter; Paul Beard and I used to debate whether that possibility was a net good or bad thing, since it means I don't get exposed to some news that's probably "good for me" in a nagging Mom sort of way. Whether it's good or bad, it's happening, and for CNN to ignore it would be like saying 'We're good with cable -- we don't want to be on satellite TV.'

One other note: If you've been pulling CNN from one of the several services (or through server scripts) that have been manually building feeds, you should probably switch over to these new feeds. They're guaranteed to work going forward, while some of the services scrape some fairly non-standard pages that might not survive for much longer.

Update: On my first trip through the new feeds, I found a story on Walgreen's (a stock we hold), a story on Macworld tomorrow, a story on a "little medieval armor shop" I forwarded directly to Shane, and two (2!!!) cycling stories.

January 10, 2005 in CNN | Permalink


I think it was partly the lucrative newsource business but also licensing agreements with the wire services: you see that in the feeds themselves, in which ones have extracts and which have placeholder text.

All I can say is it's nice to have that red logo in my aggregator and know it's not at the mercy of some dude with a screenscraper script.

Posted by: paul at Jan 12, 2005 12:52:45 AM