RSS: TiVo For E-mail

RSS (really simple syndication), like TiVo, gives consumers control over their media exposure and consumption. Just as advertisers can't afford to ignore the impact of digital video recorders on TV viewing habits, you can't afford to ignore the growing and inevitable impact of RSS on your e-mail program.

If, like me, you were not an early adopter of RSS consumption, it's time to do so. Go to one of the many RSS aggregators and sign up. The easiest way to "get it" is to use it.

An option offered by is an endless number of "throwaway" e-mail addresses to use for content available only via e-mail. This service allows consumers to combine commercial e-mail and RSS in one location. If this becomes a common feature of RSS aggregators, even traditional e-mail will be read in an RSS environment.

To continue the TiVo analogy, RSS allows you to "record" e-mail-like content and view it at your convenience. While perhaps not technically correct, this is a useful way to think about it and help clients understand it.



What does RSS mean to e-mail marketers?

As with recorded TV shows, RSS feeds are saved and ready when the consumer chooses to read them. That means they're likely to get more focus and attention. An RSS message is less likely to get lost amid spam, business and personal messages--or suffer from having interrupted the consumer at a busy time. RSS messages also won't be tainted by the negative halo effect that legitimate e-mail picks up from spam and poor quality e-mail.

With greater control, however, comes greater discretion. RSS readers will be more selective about the content they receive and less hesitant to unsubscribe. The onus will be on marketers to provide more consumer value and soft-pedal the marketing message. Companies that ask, listen and place customer needs first will be the early winners in RSS marketing.

RSS is in its infancy, and there are many predictions about how quickly it will reach widespread use. History has shown that any tool or medium that gives people more control and less advertising will be adopted. So get up to speed now and be ready for the next wave of customer-controlled marketing.

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