Is Enterprise RSS Dead? Newsgator CEO: "Who cares?"

Enterprise RSS promised to be far more than just Google Reader on steroids.

It allows groups to keep abreast of private updates using push technology without cluttering up e-mail. Similarly, I use SM2 everyday to monitor news about CrunchBase. Currently I get a daily e-mail, but it’d be nice if I could subscribe to a password-protected RSS feed.

On Monday, Marshall Kirkpatrick claimed enterprise RSS is dead–citing Newsgator’s continued infusion of cash as evidence the market is dead. Brad Feld responded with his thoughts on why enterprise RSS is alive.

Yesterday, I spoke with JB Holston, Newsgator’s CEO, and asked him for his thoughts:

You’re known for RSS readers–what problem do you want to be known for solving?

First, though our brand is associated with consumer RSS readers–FeedDemon, NetNewsWire, iPhone RSS reader–we never intended to build a consumer-focused product and flip it to Google. From the beginning, we were targeting the enterprise.

We want to be known for solving collaboration problems. We have social widgets, for example Reuters widgets use our technology. We also have a Social Sites application that basically turns Microsoft SharePoint into Facebook for the enterprise. [Screenshot below.]

Our enterprise RSS service has two sides: a Saas deployment used by approximately 150 vendors, and an on-premis server that sits behind the firewall–currently about 125 clients.

Why do you keep raising cash?

Newsgator was first funded four and half years ago–really, we’ve had three rounds of funding from separate groups. Technically it’s been six rounds, but only three events with different lead investors. So far we’ve raised $39 million.

This seems like a lot if we were just an iPhone developer (our iPhone application made TIME magazine’s top 10 list), but as I said before, we’re very focused on the enterprise. Raising $39 million is common in this space.

What’s your response on the death of enterprise RSS?

Who cares? It doesn’t have to be called enterprise RSS because that’s just the backend protocol. From our perspective, enterprise RSS–whether deployed for CMS, or portal enhancement, or social computing, or replaicing external information sources–is just the enabling technology.

Our customer’s don’t come to us and say “we want enterprise RSS”. They come with specific problems like “fix our portal”, “help us drive collaboration”, etc, and then we go use RSS. They don’t care how it happens.

From our point of view, the conversation has moved beyond RSS in the blogosphere. It’s a little startling to see people saying “because enterprise startups require cash, the enterprise RSS market is dead.”

RSS is fabulous technology, and if no one is talking about it, that’s just because the market matured to emphasizing solutions, not technologies.

It’s certainly an interesting argument, but I don’t think the market’s moved into understanding the power of enterprise RSS.

Maybe we’re just too stuck with bad inbox habits to worry about disentangling news from our inboxes. Certainly we’re just beginning to use online collaboration without having to think about it. Only time will tell how deeply RSS penetrates the enterprise.