Email Morphs Into A Feed: The Progression from Email to RSS Content Distribution & Marketing

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Not long ago, email was emerging as the most powerful, ubiquitous communication mechanism on the planet; it was an easy, efficient, direct connection between people, businesses and commerce. The prospects for marketers seemed grand – a communication channel with current customers and a means for acquiring new ones.

As we all know, this marketer’s utopia quickly became a haven for intrusive offers, fraudulent operators, and schemers. Mailboxes filled with garbage and the opt out process seemed endless. Spam filters have become much more effective in recent years, but we still receive the occasional Viagra renewal notice. Branded advertisers are shying away from email marketing because of the negative connotation associated with a channel fraught with spam. Consumers are becoming hesitant to subscribe to anything for fear of having their email address appear on “opt in” lists and getting caught in the spam “spiral”.

So, is there an alternative that can provide some of the same nuances that email promised and did not deliver? The answer is time will tell, but the emergence of RSS provides hope that one-to-one marketing has found a home in this new emerging platform. The proliferation of RSS as an outbound mechanism for content distribution continues to grow at a very rapid pace*. The ability for people to subscribe to their favorite feed will become much more intuitive with release of the new IE7, MyMSN, and MyAOL.com.

Content increasing and subscription rates rising, again a very appealing prospect for marketers. There are some unique features that RSS presents:

-100% opt in
– conduit for direct subscriber-marketer messaging
– simple opt out process
– requires no personal identification
– user control over update frequency
– cannot be externally spammed
– no limits on feed subscriptions
– appropriate for contextual advertising
– potential to reach micro audiences

What’s the attraction for feed producers i.e. news services, blogs, ecommerce companies, newsletters etc.? Feed producers (publishers) view RSS as a distribution mechanism that allows readers to subscribe to their feed and receive it directly into their portal page or newsreader. Publishers can utilize feeds as a very effective method for communicating their information and/or point of view. Nytimes.com was one of the most significant early adopters of RSS in the branded media world. They currently offer 65 RSS feeds and a dozen different regularly updated podcasts. Because a user is subscribing directly from the content source, the feed cannot be externally spammed. So the onus is on the publisher to provide relevant content, non-intrusive advertising messages, and be respectful of their subscribers’ sensitivities. It’s easy to opt in, but also easy to opt out.

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