Feedless Hall of Shame: Most of the Fortune 100

Here’s an update for my Feedless Hall of Shame – this blog’s personal pit of ignominy for those organizations or online venues which really, really should offer at least some kind of minimal webfeed-based information services. In fact, they have no good excuse not to be doing so already!

I figured that the best business rationale for offering webfeeds – at the very least for press releases and investor information – would be major companies. I mean, these organizations live and breathe in tune with the gyrations of the fast-moving stock market and media. What better way to reach out to investors and the press than to offer webfeeds for those online audiences? Serve them up-to-the-minute information in a highly organized format, friendly to updating and syndication. Bingo!

With that in mind, I used Feedster’s Feedfinder tool to scan for webfeeds on the internet domains of the Fortune 100 (the 100 largest US companies, based on 2003 revenue, ranked by Fortune Magazine).

The results, in a word, were dismal. Currently only four Fortune 100 companies offer any sort of publicly-accessible webfeed under their primary domain – and only one (IBM) is making serious use of this valuable new communication channel.

As Homer Simpson would say: D’oh!

So which Fortune 100 companies are using webfeeds, which aren’t, and how could they all leverage this medium?…

The following Fortune 100 companies get a CONTENTIOUS commendation for using (or at least experimenting with) webfeeds:

  1. IBM: offers more than 100 webfeeds – mostly for its developer networks in various countries (such as Japan), and for its corporate news in various languages. Fabulous! However, I’m not too surprised. Since it missed the early boat on personal computers a couple of decades ago, IBM did a fairly successible about-face in terms of embracing new technologies. For instance, look at how IBM has been embracing and leveraging Linux. Nice to see this company on the forefront of corporate webfeeds, too. Way to go, Big Blue!

  2. Microsoft earns a second-place commendation, with 8 webfeeds. Interestingly, far more third-party (“scraped”) webfeeds of Microsoft content are available than direct feeds from the “Deathstar” itself. It seems that Microsoft is only just tipping its toes in this medium, but that’s more than most major companies are doing so far. Most of its webfeeds support its efforts in other countries, such as this feed aimed at Belgium and Luxembourg. Obviously, there’s a lot more Microsoft could be doing. But for now, this is a good start. Maybe Microsoft’s own blogger Robert Scoble has been doing some in-house evangelizing on the webfeed front? That’s just a guess, but obviously someone over there has got a clue.

  3. General Motors. I wouldn’t have expected a major automaker to be one of the first major US companies to offer webfeeds, but so be it! Actually, the five current GM webfeeds are offered in conjunction with GM’s GMability sub-site – which appears to be a corporate news/PR effort. I think this is an excellent pioneering use of corporate webfeeds, and I hope to see it emulated elsewhere. Since I happen to cover environmental issues in my work for the Society of Environmental Journalists, I subscribe to the GMability environment newsfeed. Thanks, GM.

  4. Intel. This tech giant offers only one active webfeed – which is a start, albeit a very modest one. This feed supports An Innovation Odyssey, an Intel educational technology project.

…That’s all well and good, but for now that’s it – only four of the 100 largest US companies are using webfeeds so far, at least publicly.

HALL OF SHAME: MAJOR COMPANIES THAT REALLY, REALLY SHOULD BE OFFERING WEBFEEDS

I know webfeeds are new, and I don’t expect every organization to recognize their potential and act immediately to leverage it. However, in my personal opinion, companies which are leaders in the fields of technology and communications (specifically media, computers, and telecom) have no good excuse to not be offering at least minimal public webfeed services at this time. I mean, really – don’t tell me that NO ONE in these organizations has never heard of or doesn’t use webfeeds.

Therefore, in dishonor of their conspicuous and utter current lack of webfeeds (despite how easy and cheap this communication channel is to implement), I hereby induct the following 16 companies into the CONTENTIOUS Feedless Hall of Shame, in order of their respective Fortune 100 rankings:

And of course, let’s not forget Fortune.com itself – which currently offers no webfeeds whatsoever. Hey, doesn’t anyone over there read Forbes? They might want to start – and also check out the RSS Weblog too.

WHAT COULD THE FORTUNE 100 BE DOING WITH WEBFEEDS?

A lot, that’s for certain! As I see it, here is the bare minimum that any major corporation should be offering today via public webfeed:

  • Media info: Press releases, event announcements, interviews, photo and b-roll availablity, etc.Investor information: Stock prices, relevant business news and announcements, shareholder events, conference calls, etc.

  • New products and services: With links to relevant Web pages, contact information, ordering and availability information, etc.

  • Market-specific news such as consumer, government, defense, commercial, education, scientific, etc. Or geographic markets such as Canada, Europe, Asia, etc. (in the relevant languages). Webfeeds may become especially important for business communications in developing nations because they consume so little bandwidth.
  • Job postings could be syndicated out to relevant news and industry venues.

In addition, here are a few ideas for how businesses in the various industries represented by the Fortune 100 might leverage webfeeds to their advantage:

  • Retail (Wal-mart, Best Buy, and others): Announcements of new products/services or special offers for both their online and real-world stores. Highlights of product reviews run on third-party sites, with live links to those reviews. News of special programs, such as home-repair services and warranty extensions.

  • Oil and Natural Gas: (Exxon-Mobil, etc.) Current prices and output, exploration and production news, regulatory watch, highlights of current news stories about the company (with live links).

  • Automotive: (Ford, Caterpillar, etc.) New models and design news illustrated with photos. Safety, environmental, and fuel-efficiency announcements. Parts availability and news. Feeds for specific popular models.

  • Manufacturing, aerospace, and defense (Georgia-Pacific, Nothrop-Grumman, etc.) Market-specific product and service news. Supply-chain and shipping news. Government contracting news. Environmental news. Corporate customers could request their own private webfeeds relevant to their dealings with the manufacturer.

  • Banking, Insurance, and Financial Services: (Bank One, American Express, Prudential, etc.) Interest rates, policy news, news relevant to specific types of accounts (IRAs, small-business insurance, etc.), money-management tips, cross-selling promotions (“Get the most out of Prudential”), regulatory watch.

  • Food and Tobacco: (Altria, Tyson Foods, etc.) FDA watch, consumer advice, supply-chain news, health news, legal news.

  • Healthcare, pharmaceutical, and medical supply: (Merck, HCA, etc.) Research and technology news, regulatory watch, insurance watch, healthcare industry news, tips for healthcare professionals.

  • Package delivery: (Fedex, UPS) Account-specific webfeeds, with links for online tracking.

There – did that get the gears turning at any of the Fortune 100 laureates? I hope so. It would nice to see the major companies actually leading for a change. Fortunately, webfeeds are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, technically. Just put a good developer and a savvy content professional on the job, start small, and watch it grow.