Feed.Us - An Introduction and an Interview with Rick Stratton

Feed.Us is new and unique way of pulling and publishing RSS feeds from various sources to anywhere. It functions on tons of platforms and essentially works by pre-caching the RSS feed to a local file and then displaying it as needed.

We took some time to sit down with Rick Stratton, founder of the project and get into the nitty gritty details.

CC: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

RS: I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After college (1995), I worked for NBC and the USA Today in Washington DC on early web-related ventures. Eventually landed a job as a webmaster for a large outdoor company and started building some basic web publishing applications.

Which lead to a dotcom in 1999, Guitar.com.

We put together what could be called a social networking site for musicians. I helped create our own CMS, on the design side. When that company fell on hard times, we bought a copy of the software and started a company to do web projects for newspapers. That was called 1871 Media.

1871 Media sold in 2007 to a company called uxCast.com. 1871 was fine, but it wasn't great. Our main problem was that we were building, designing websites and then also building/managing a CMS for those sites. We realized we couldn't do either very well. That's how we started thinking about Feed.Us.

CC: Now, you mentioned that 1871 sold to uxCast.com in '07. What is your current role within that firm?

RS: Once we sold, I went on my own for Feed.Us. Our CTO of Feed.Us was also the CTO of 1871 Media.

CC: What was the initial idea behind the concept for Feed.Us? Something must have triggered you to purchase the domain.. what was your first idea for use?

RS: I'm not a developer and when we had projects at 1871 that were small and quick, I used to hack some stuff together using RSS feeds and javascript. It dawned on me that a very light weight CMS that created feeds could be used to make websites very quickly.

And again, we always thought that the CMS at 1871 Media limited the design and construction of the websites. We realized early on that the CMS could be and should be separated from the structure of the website. I was basically “feeding” content to websites. That was the main impetus of Feed.Us.

Plus the domain name was for resale for $300.

CC: In a previous interview of yours, you mentioned that your partner basically dreamed up the idea of the current Feed.Us Model.. perhaps you can take us through that?

RS: The first version of Feed.us basically used a javascript widget and some CSS to put content on “outside” (not hosted by us) websites. There are a number of problems with this, but the biggest is that google can't see content within a javascript. It's a dealbreaker. But John Welborn, our CTO, had a dream about using a caching system as a way to download content to a local file.

And our “FeedUs Grabber” system was born. It loads content into webpages via one local file and two lines of code.

CC: For the less technical, can you give us an example of how this may be used on a traditional website.

RS: Feed.Us is built to work with CSS and will work on PHP or ASP or ASP.net or even Ruby on Rails. So you don't need to download and install the CMS software. You build a site in CSS and then make it into PHP, for example. Then just upload one Feed.Us file on your server.

Then within Feed.Us, we have a series of drop downs that allow you to create two lines of code that can be copied/pasted into your php files. That code will then pull in the dynamic content.

CSS is great to work with. It's so easy to read. You don't need to learn a new process or a new system. Also there's nothing to download/unpack/install/update.

CC: Do you have a live example somewhere of an implementation?

RS: It works nicely as a CMS, but the customers that we're going to have are probably going to use us for syndication rather than CMS. One site in particular, www.winetweets.com is a good example because it's a Twitter “bot” website and it's built in php and uses some custom code to download tweets from Twitter. But it uses Feed.Us just for one area of content management.

CC: How do you plan to make money from Feed.Us? What is your business model?

RS: We're about to launch. Feed.Us will have a free, simple component. Then we'll have three pay plans that will be signup and pay us monthly. Plans will depend on demand and storage and cost between $25-$100 per month. But we'll sell a customized version of Feed.Us that will be more expensive. With Feed.Us, someone could make their own private label niche CMS or someone could syndicate all their content to other websites via our system.

We're working on a few projects for large publishers where we import their content from RSS or XML and then they can provide that content to their partner websites via javascript widget or serverside widget. Then these publishers can publish and control content on 100s or 1000s of websites very easily, and put ads on those sites as well. I think that is where we will make a business, rather than trying to compete with all the other great CMSes.

CC: When is the launch date scheduled for ?

RS: We're past our deadline. Which is mainly my fault because I keep moving the goalposts. Our updated version is due to all of our current, beta customers next week. Then we need to finish all the help stuff we can and get the payment system finished.

Meanwhile we've been adding ‘beta' customers and working on projects… so we're like partially launched. I don't want people to sign up and be frustrated. I want it to work really well when people signup on their own. That's the key.

CC: Any major players on board yet or still working on that?

RS: Not officially. But we've got two large newspapers demoing right now. But if anyone is interested, they can contact me and we'll put them through a demo and help setup the project if they want/need it!

We have 12 paying customers. And Feed.Us is working on over 100 sites now.

CC: What separates feed.us from something like just importing rss feeds using wordpress plugins?

RS: There are plugins for Drupal and for WordPress that probably do similar stuff but you can't put that stuff anywhere – it has to installed, then setup and the site has to have wordpress. Feed.Us will work on any site. It'll work within other CMSes

CC: I assume speed wise it performs well?

RS: Speed wise, we think it's superior. My partner/CTO has built some huge sites, so we have a lot of experience. But the key is that it is completely cached and it's just CSS and a local text file. There's no database running locally, etc.

CC: If someone wants to get a hold of you or is interested in the project, how can they do so?

RS: email – rick@feed.us

CC: Thanks for your time, Rick. We look forward to talking again in the future.

RS: Thanks Mike.