Blog-To-E-mail May Change the World

A few weeks ago I wrote an article called "The Trouble With RSS." In it, I outlined why RSS is more hype than reality when it comes to fulfilling marketer's needs. I predicted adoption of RSS would be slow and limited and that as far as advertisers are concerned, RSS isn't there yet, and wouldn't be for quite a long time if ever.

I've come to rethink that position. In a way...

The problem is, most people--vendors and the earlier adopter evangelists--see RSS as a better delivery vehicle. The great e-mail app killer! The No. 1 advantage they claim RSS has (when they are talking about potential advertisers) is that it avoids the inbox, and all the messy deliverability issues that entails. The vision is many and multiple "RSS readers" proliferating across the desktop landscape. The desktop is the holy grail, and RSS will deliver it.

Well, I believe that this reasoning was wrong a few weeks ago, and I still believe it today. RSS Readers are dead-end. If it is not in the inbox, it won't be read. Period.

So what made me change my mind?

It was seeing a write-up on site called TechCrunch.com about a new tool from FeedBurner that provided a blog to e-mail translator. It allows blogs to be syndicated and delivered in a nicely formatted HTML e-mail to the Inbox. And it suddenly dawned on me: RSS isn't a great delivery vehicle. RSS is a great content development vehicle. From an end users perspective, they sign up just as they'd sign up at any e-mail newsletter opt-in. The content is delivered in an e-mail directly to their inbox. But from the content developers' standpoint, they now have an easy-to-use content development platform that allows them to incorporate other RSS feeds into the body of the e-mail as well as provide links to blog comments and HTML graphics to support an advertising base.

And because it is delivered to the inbox, it might actually get opened and read. I've subscribed to the TechCrunch blog now, and it has become a must-read: the graphics are clean and readable. The blog-in-an- e-mail format is intriguing and makes me want to read more. And I'm compelled to check out the comments to the article: all the things that I like about blogs, except that I never remember to go to them. A blog-in-an-e-mail, however, is something that pushed to me, and that makes me all the more likely to read it.

The TechCrunch article quoted New York VC Fred Wilson (and investor in FeedBurner) as expecting "One e-mail subscriber for every five RSS subscribers." I think that number is reversed. Once this thing rolls out to a mass audience, expect five e-mail subscribers for every RSS reader subscriber.

So is this really RSS? Or is it e-mail delivered in a different way? My guess is, the eventual audience won't know--or care.

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