Related: 31 percent of US Internet users use RSS, and most of them do so through My Yahoo.
Also related but contradicting: Recent research conducted by Yahoo! and Ipsos reveals that while 12% of surveyed Yahoo users know what RSS is, only 4% of surveyed Internet users use it (PDF) (and know they use it).
Interesting data but I'm not sure that I see the contradiction. My Yahoo uses RSS as a foundation technology. A fair number of people use My Yahoo but don't know (and in many cases care) how Yahoo is grabbing the feeds they're reading. That aside, a few thoughts:
In a recent post of mine about "Web 2.0" hype and definition, James Governor commented:
i am afraid you're showing your age buddy. kids under the age of 20 have never heard of web 2.0
they use services, but aren't thinking in the abstract. its us old bores talking about it. i hate to say it, but nicholas carr probably called it right when he called us elitist-hippie-boy-scouts
I tend to agree, at least up to a point. This data is a perfect example. People use RSS but they don't think about it. To take another example, how many people using various rich web interfaces like Google Maps have any idea what AJAX is?
At the same time, though, if RSS is truly used that narrowly outside of My Yahoo, that surely argues that blogs and related forms of personal syndication are relevant to a mighty narrow sliver of the population. Without RSS readers (and presumably the knowledge that one is using RSS), anything more than the occasional look-see at a favorite blog or two, or catching the odd post from a Google search, is well nigh impossible.