One reason RSS makes publishers anxious

Publishers are still struggling understanding the meaning and implications of RSS syndication. Can they harness the power of syndication without winding up in the harness themselves?
This anxiety is illustrated by a dustup in Romenesko’s journalism weblog today. The LA Times (along with the Guardian) is beta testing Consenda’s private-label newsreader software.
This led the LA Business Journal to report, “Conceding that online readers want a smorgasbord of news rather than a limited menu, the Los Angeles Times is developing a new Web site that would include content from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other rival news sources.”
Well, not exactly. And the Times is understandably sensitive about the subtle distinction between creating an aggregation site and distributing RSS software (which will apparently feature contextual ads). The LA Times replied in a letter to Romenesko that no, they weren’t planning a site. They were going to distribute newsreader software.
Rather than let the matter die quietly, editor of the LA Business Journal emailed Romenesko, blaming the LA Times PR machine for blinding him with copy.
So let me get this straight — the Times is not using content from other news sources but it offers us a chance to “get perspective from other news sources.” Huh?
Seems like the PR department might not be in sync with the new media department.

This back-and-forth illustrates a problem that could vex only publishers. Can they welcome newsreader users while keeping other websites from aggregating their news? Can they distribute an ad-bearing newsreader while working themselves in a lather over other sites that sell ads on pages that contain their headlines? Is there any meaningful difference between an aggregator site and a newsreader? Is it a difference that you could explain to your mom or a PR copywriter — or a newspaper editor, for that matter?
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.