Recently I made an attempt at defining "The RSS Space". Based on some great discussions with VCs and wise people in the RSS business, we came up with the following categorization for RSS vendors:
Sub-categories: Content; Analytics; Feed Mgmt; Advertising
Examples: Feedburner; Nooked; Pheedo; SimpleFeed; Syndicate IQ
Reader Services (including RSS Aggregators and Consumer services/tools)
Sub-categories: Web-based; Desktop; Mobile; Enterprise; White Label
Examples: Bloglines; Del.icio.us; Moreover; Newsgator; PubSub
Sub-categories: Hosted; Standalone; Enterprise
Examples: Blogger; MSN Spaces; Six Apart; Wordpress; Yahoo 360
Content (including Podcasting, blog networks, news directories)
Sub-categories: Proprietary; User-Generated
Examples: Gawker; iPodder; Odeo; Topix.net; Weblogsinc
Sub-categories: Index; White Label / Microsites (e.g. Technorati Live8 promotion); Embedded (e.g. Google network and Technorati partnership with Newsweek); Market Research
Examples: Bloglines; Feedster; Google; Ice Rocket; Technorati
The initial mapping of RSS vendors to these categories has been published onto a public Wiki, so that it can be fleshed out. What I want to do here is talk a bit about what this categorization means and some of its implications.
If you look at the above categorization, you'll notice that 4 of the 5 categories are pretty much at the mercy of what I call The Big 3 of the Internet industry - Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.
Reader Services, CMS/Blogging, Content, and Search are all to various degrees becoming commoditized. It's probably most true in the 'Reader Services' category, because it's relatively easy these days to develop an RSS Aggregator. Yahoo was the first of The Big 3 to do it, on MyYahoo, which quickly became one of the top RSS Aggregators based on its huge existing user base. Microsoft and Google have both developed prototype RSS Aggregator products - start.com and Google Personalized Homepage respectively.
The Big 3 also have CMS/Blogging, Content and Search covered:
CMS/Blogging: Google’s Blogger, Microsoft’s MSN Spaces and Yahoo’s 360
Content: blog networks and news (e.g. MSN Filter)
Search: nuff said
Which leads me to believe that the great opportunity of The RSS Space is in the 'Publisher Services' category, because it's the one category in which The Big 3 have shown little interest in colonizing. That's not to say there aren't opportunities in the other 4 categories - there are, but they are in niche markets.
Publisher Services has a lot of potential and it may well be the category which delivers the next Google.