It's called RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication. More content providers are syndicating content through RSS every day. As a technology, it's still in the hands of the early adopters, but shows promise with regard to uptake because of its simplicity and lack of advertising clutter.
Internet users can access content delivered via RSS by way of a RSS reader, many of which are available as freeware or low-cost shareware. Content providers that follow the RSS spec can provide news feeds that end users can subscribe to. Users can also use RSS readers to request topical information aggregated from multiple feeds.
The permission model here is different from anything we've seen before. For one, the consumer has a lot more control in this situation when compared to that of e-mail newsletter subscriptions. Spammers have no power here - if the consumer doesn't like what they see, they can unsubscribe from any feed. No opting out. No worries about abuse of permission.
So now we have an opportunity to support this new standard of content distribution with advertising. Let's learn some lessons from the channels we've already screwed up.
Should RSS take off, it will be a welcome relief from subscribing to e-mail newsletters. These days, my e-mail Inbox is simply unmanageable without Cloudmark's Spamnet, and I still get at least 10 pieces of spam for every legitimate communication. Indeed, e-mail is screwed up. It's screwed up because the technology allows for easy abuse of permission. In RSS, we have a permission-based push vehicle that allows the consumer, and the consumer only, to be in control of the permission situation. In other words, content providers will have to be consistently vigilant about their signal-to-noise ratio if they choose to syndicate content with RSS. Otherwise, subscriptions will immediately take a nosedive.
Speaking of signal-to-noise ratio, we should learn some lessons from the mistakes we've made in web advertising. RSS users are not going to stand for the RSS equivalent of four banners and two pop-unders per page of content - They'll unsubscribe. Ads will have to be more contextually relevant and fewer in number.
Marketers - we've been given a second chance with this new medium. Let's take the time to figure out how to make it work for marketers, publishers and - most importantly - consumers.