Via InstaPundit come links to two views of where syndicated content is leading - The RSS is killing our ad stream view, and the everyone is going that way view.
This is a lot like what PVRs (TiVo, Replay, etc) are doing to TV. It used to be that you could time-shift (and even skip ads) with the VCR. It took planning - you had to manually program the VCR regularly and swap tapes. After an initial fuss (the Sony case of the early 80s), the media industry decided that this wasn't that big a deal - they could sell/rent videos, and not that many people went through the hassle of setting up a taping schedule. You still got plenty of eyeballs in front of the ads (or at least, you could convince the people buying the ads of that).
The dawn of the PVR changed that. It's trivial to have a PVR pick up your favorite shows for you. I suspect that a lot of people, like my wife and I, watch their favorite shows later the same day simply to enhance the viewing experience. Why watch "Lost" over an hour with 15 minutes of ads when you can start the show 15 minutes in and just blip over all the ads? This is what terrifies the media industry, because it's a threat to the basic economic model of TV. There are things they can do (banner ads during shows, product placement, etc) - but it's a wrenching change they'd rather not make - and you see that in the fight to get ReplayTV to drop the commercial skip feature.
That's what RSS is doing to the web. If you follow bookmarks in a browser, you see all the ads splattered on a site (and possibly all the annoying popups). If you subscribe to their feed, you skip all that and see just the content. Sure, ads can be slipped into a feed - but they are pretty easily ignored there. As well, most aggregators strip out lots of the tags and scripting that advertisers use. That leads to this kind of response, from the first view above:
Sorry for the inconvenience...
..but we have had to change our XML/RSS pages back to excerpts instead of whole entries. Too many of you didn't come to the site at all and it has killed our blogad revenue, despite continued high bandwidth usage. This is a very expensive site to maintain, unfortunately.
I know, I know, I like to read the whole post in bloglines myself. We are truly sorry.
The trouble is, this runs smack into the leading edge usage of RSS that you see posited in the second view:
If you're like me, virtually all of your time is now spent between two inboxes: your email and your RSS feed (which I read with the excellent web-based Bloglines). Indeed, I've pretty much stopped using bookmarks altogether. If I do visit a site, it's usually via a link in my feed and only then if I feel pretty sure the full text there will be worth the trip.
That describes my usage of the web as well. There are very few sites that I like well enough to put up with partial content - I've simply stopped reading a bunch of them. I've also done something else - I've written scripts to scrape the content into a full content feed on my local hard drive for a number of sites that offer only partial content. Now, that's beyond the capabilities of most aggregator users, sure. But the "it's not worth bothering" behavior certainly isn't. Thus the problem for a lot of sites - they need to drive people to their sites to view ads, but their audience would much rather see just the content - just like what PVRs are doing to TV.
Where is this going to go? One thing is for sure - like the betamax case I referred to above, it's a safe bet to assume that we'll see more lawsuits. Based on the behavior I've seen so far, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see some kind of legal attempt to prevent site scraping...