mehack is a blog about taking what you’ve got and pushing it further. Recent posts include installing Linux on your mp3 player, extracting the drive from your mp3 player and free car diagnostic software (which probably doesn’t play mp3s). So it’s kind of fitting that they’ve hacked advertising into their RSS feed.

One of the big complaints about RSS from content providers is “how do we make money?” There are a couple schools of thought on this, the first using RSS to drive traffic to their site. Sites like Slashdot, Wired News and the like don’t give you the entire text of an update in RSS. Instead, they provide teasers that force you to visit the site for the full story.

By contrast, what mehack does is displays ads as RSS items, displayed just like any other story. What’s really impressive is that they use Google ads to provide advertising based on whatever they’ve posted. You can see what it looks like in Bloglines to get a better idea. The ads are clearly labeled, so you don’t confuse them for site content.

I’d like to see mehack document their technique and experience with this. It could provide incentive for other sites to provide RSS feeds, or it could just get really annoying. Hopefully it won’t make RSS stand for Rudely Syndicated Spam.

There’s an interesting side effect of using Google text ads with RSS. mehack posted about an open source an ODB II reader over a week ago. Since it’s still on the front page and appears to be the most popular text ad term, they keep posting ads for ODB II stuff even though it has nothing to do with whatever new item shows up in Bloglines. Maybe they should tweak their code to pull the text ad for their permalink entry instead of their frontpage.

I just received an email from r, the person who runs mehack, about his or her RSS ad system. I’ve reprinted it below with permission. Direct any questions to

i absolutely hate sites which do not provide full RSS and i find excerpts to be completely annoying. i hate how slashdot’s rss feed does not have the full content — i want all my information to be in one place and i don’t want to be having to switching between netnewswire and safari just to see a story (for many sites that i read very often, i have a python script that screen scrapes the site and produces rss that i can read in my reader.

but, as you mentioned, if i provide the full text content in my rss feed (which i actually do not. there have been stories that have a “more” link on them on my front page, and those render the same way into rss), then there is barely any incentive for people to go to my site. i don’t mind, actually. my design isn’t that great, and i don’t even allow comment posts (for now). the only way for the adwords to “work” were either for me to always write really long posts with “more” on the bottom (to do that honestly, and not have it seem that i’m posting an excerpt on the front page means that i have to take even -more- time to write a simple post, and i don’t have that time to spare), or for me to include adwords into my rss feed.

there are lots of technical difficulties in getting the adwords into the rss feed. google urls change often (even for the same ad), there is no documentation on how to do it properly (so i have to every once in a while painstakingly reverse the whole process), and its questionable whether this is even within their terms of service. i’m personally giving the blosxom plugin to people who want to use it with the restriction that they do not distribute it, and if they receive questions about it, to direct it to me. i want to stay under google’s radar until i know they won’t pull the plug on the only way i can pay for site hosting.


One response to “mehack and RSS advertising”

  1. BizPitch says:

    90% Crud: mehack and RSS advertising

    I’ve been thinking about the future of advertising in RSS feeds recently, and just came across this interesting post at 90% Crud, highlighting the use of Google Adsense in an

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