3 minute read.

Google+ Circles as a new subscription model.

Paul Anthony / July 11, 2011

Posted in: Archive

Many have argued that RSS subscription is dead, or at least fading slightly from the mainstream as social takes a stronger grip on the web, we are relying more and more on personalisation driven distribution of content. Techdirt writer Mike Masnick got it right years ago, with the prediction that good content finds us – and its clear that this paradigm shift is already upon us.

One of the most interesting uses of Google+ I’ve seen is that of a content curation tool in its own right. Many of my friends and associates on the service are not only broadcasting content to their own pre-curated circles, but asking if their audience would like to ‘opt-in’ to a particular circle.

For example, Paul Watson developer at Storyful has his 5@5  tech circle, a place where you can opt-in to read stories about tech. Mellisa Wiley has an opt in content circle called ‘Meta’ of interest around Google+ itself, and also shares content on the topic of special needs, again via opt-in.

It’s not surprising that this use is being adopted by the web community at large, social media platforms make this easier than ever before, and Twitter has been facilitating this kind of subscription to content curated by others for some time. Various curation startups have popped up to capitalise on this trend.

What is interesting however, is that Google+ and its ‘circles’ concept has provided a much more granular level of control than it’s competition, which may play an important role in its business page adoption.

Not launched that long ago, Twitter’s new follow button is a one dimensional binary relationship with a brand, website or person. You either follow them, or you don’t, subscribing to everything or nothing. Facebook again, is similar, with the ability to subscribe to brand updates whilst you are browsing the site – delivering content to you on demand. But, how many websites have only one topic of interest? Or write only about one thing? As it stands right now, visitors are subscribing to the social web via a one dimensional model.

Yes or No.

Google’s circles, and the forthcoming Google+ Business pages are going to facilitate a more granular level of control, letting you subscribe to particular circles of interest inside that business. As we’ve seen with relationships with people, which are complex in what we share – the same is true with businesses. We subscribe to them for a variety of different reasons.

For example, you may follow Benny’s Ice Cream parlour, because they offer ice – cream recipes (content) or you may follow them because they give out discount vouchers for the physical store (promotions).  These two promotional methods attract two different audience types, one to the website, and one to the store – and having a circle for each would make sense. It would also highlight the effectiveness of marketing and promotional tactics, based on the subscription level for each circle. Generalised updates will of course reach everyone regardless, giving a base line of content for the users who don’t yet know where they fit.

Widgets like this, could easily be implemented to drive adoption from around the web.

I for one would welcome the ability to broadcast alternative content to each of the different audience types subscribed to this website, and offer a personalised, and exclusive content circle to distribute to. I’m pretty confident something like this has to be coming for brands and businesses, and will make a fundamental difference to how we think about subscription to content via social platforms overall.

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