Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Not Really Simple – RSS Adoption

RSS Adoption is slow. With only 9% of adult internet users fully aware of the meaning of this term, marketers are conservative or rather suspicious of using RSS as an alternative marketing channel. As per Jupiter, by 2006 June only 8% US Email Marketers used RSS as their marketing tactics. The adoption rate will change little until the reader's functionality is embedded into browsers or e-mail clients.

The Jupiter report has provided an expected and not surprising trend on RSS in marketing roles - there are many challenges with RSS, but it is also true that the most (widely successful) disruptive technologies exhibit similar traits.

So, should these players that are busy exacting the channels for direct marketing, try to fit in another piece – RSS – in the puzzle of communication mix? Well, the statistics show this is not the right time yet. This also shows that marketers are playing the wait and watch game.

Sometimes some weird reasons cause the growth of a channel. Big players who have a large feel of internet user’s pulse are already developing solutions to embed RSS for common consumer use. For example, RSS with IE 7.0 may not be a weird, but a quite likely reason for growth in RSS adoption, when IE 7.0 launches early next year. This will stir once again the competitive battle of browsers, possibly benefiting the technology (channel) in question.

A survey that was conducted by Slashdot and published in marketwire, provides a more optimistic and forward looking insight into the adoption of RSS. The Slashdot RSS Study explores current usage of RSS feeds and future applications for fulfilling daily information needs at the desktop as well as in new media platforms. Survey highlights of the 230 respondents include:

  • 73% will increase their use of RSS feeds in the next year.
  • Most users received their feeds through a Web-based RSS syndication service but many users do not use traditional methods to read their feeds, instead relying on mobile and other devices to obtain their feeds.
  • Receiving feeds through mobile units such as cell phones, SMS messaging, voice mail, WAP or portable audio players will increase.
  • Technology will improve as RSS use increases, making RSS feeds easier for users to read and for publishers to deliver.

As I see the biggest understanding that one needs while assessing RSS as an alternative channel for e-marketing is not necessarily its adoption rate but the business values that it promises to bring. It is important that marketers acknowledge, or at the best speculate upon, the value proposition that RSS brings to the plate, and what have you:

  • RSS applications: RSS can be used as a tool not only to deliver content to end-users, but also to improve search engine rankings (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and to drive new traffic through the use of various RSS specific search engines and directories.
  • Freshness of contents in newsletters and search results: RSS allows companies to republish online content to provide their visitors with fresh content from multiple sources.
  • Personalization- RSS is only a delivery channel. The content to be delivered can be logically pulled out from the back-end technology and database supporting the delivery. There already are several out-of-the-box solutions for RSS personalization, such as ByPass and RSS Auto Publisher. Services such as SimpleFeed already allow for content targeting, based on end-user behaviour.
  • RSS Metrics – There are already few services that are capable of tracking individual RSS feed subscribers, even individual subscribers over multiple RSS feeds. Measuring traffic on a subscriber level is easy using unique feed URLs, such as what SyndicateIQ, RSS AutoPublisher, SimpleFeed and many others are doing, with companies like Nooked and Feedburner using yet other means for measuring RSS.

While the analysts’ reports study the present to paint a picture as it is, marketers do need to prudently weigh these figures along with market dynamics, thus saving themselves from getting hurt in the long-term, and preventing from being wrongly swayed away from RSS.

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