E-mail Focus: Thinking Outside the Inbox

RSS removes the guesswork and gives consumers control

In a previous life, I was an e-mail marketer. From the days of text-based e-mail marketing all the way through sophisticated html, I was there. E-mail was a high-return marketing medium offering a direct line of communication between marketers and consumers. Then, a few years ago, I left the e-mail game to learn all things RSS.

RSS offers exciting new benefits to marketers that e-mail and other online marketing mediums do not. While the adoption of RSS is not nearly what e-mail is today, the growth has been quick and steady, and it is poised to explode over the next year.

As adoption of RSS grows, marketers need to look to it as an alternative to e-mail marketing campaigns; at the very least, all e-mail marketers should be experimenting in this new medium. RSS eliminates many of the problems faced by e-mail marketers today and has proved to be a great way to effectively target an audience and receive a high return. Here are some of the reasons why you should consider RSS:

>RSS eliminates privacy issues. One click of a button subscribes a user to an RSS feed; no e-mail address or name is required. As privacy has become a big issue for consumers, people are choosing not to provide this information, making it more difficult to increase e-mail subscription numbers. People shy away from unsubscribing or even opening e-mails for fear of "validating" their e-mail address and exposing them to an onslaught of spam. RSS eliminates the need for personal information transfer, yet provides the same one-to-one communication capabilities of e-mail.

>RSS avoids spam, phishing, and blacklists. Along with e-mail's growth came spam, phishing, and blacklists. Many e-mail inboxes today are crowded with marketing e-mails, personal e-mails, and phishing e-mails. All incoming messages must contend with a slew of spam filters. RSS aggregators only receive content that subscribers have requested, so the user is in control of what content they read, eliminating the need for spam filters, blacklists, and phishing paranoia. Once users opt in, they are guaranteed to receive the RSS content in the way they want it.

>RSS costs less. The price of an e-mail campaign is almost three times that of an RSS campaign. E-mail requires delivery monitoring, filter services, and e-mail list hygiene on top of the spend required to create content. RSS eliminates these expenditures; it lets marketers focus on creating great content and rest assured that it will reach their target audience.

>RSS offers easy unsubscribe and user control. A recent study by the Nielsen Norman Group found that it takes an average of 1.38 minutes to unsubscribe from an e-mail newsletter. While this number has come down from an average of 3.5 minutes in recent years, it is far longer than the three-second single click it takes to unsubscribe to an RSS feed (in some RSS readers, you just press delete and you're unsubscribed).

>This is an example of a larger RSS trend: RSS puts users in full control of their content. Consumers can read what they want and add, delete, or change their subscriptions. Individual RSS feeds allow people to choose exactly what they want and don't want from marketers in the feed.

RSS isn't the perfect marketing medium, but as adoption continues to grow, marketers are taking notice. Where we are now reminds me of the early days of e-mail marketing. Forrester reports that 57 percent of marketers say they are interested in adding RSS to their marketing mix. The release of Internet Explorer 7 with RSS integrated into the browser will expose millions of new users to RSS, and the potential widespread audience is one that marketers will want to reach. The next year will be an exciting one for RSS marketing and a great time to start thinking outside the inbox.

Bill Flitter is the founder and vice president of marketing of Pheedo Inc. (

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