[This is a teaser of a post. I have original research data about RSS usage to report, but I ramble on and on first and only deliver the goods in the last paragraph.]
I’ll admit it, when I first discovered RSS, I was all excited about it, too. I even gave in to the hype and joined the popular speculation that RSS might be a viable alternative to email for marketing purposes. But then, like the guy in Monty Python’s Holy Grail who complained of having been turned into a newt, I got better.
Frankly, I’ve always been a bit underwhelmed by RSS. I know that’s not cool to admit (the gals over at BigBlogCompany will probably get their panties in a bunch to hear me say it), but there it is. Yeah, in principal it’s great, but having tried several RSS syndication apps, I haven’t been impressed with the execution. The main thing I hate about most of them is the ephemeral quality of posts: if you let a few days go by without checking in on your feeds, the older items scoll off into the ether, and if you want to go back and look at old links, you’re SOL. I did love NewsGator when I first discovered it and even paid the $30 for it. The idea of having RSS feeds turn into email messages really clicked for me. The only problem is I don’t use Outlook for my email. I’m a Eudora user and have been for many years and I’ll give up on Eudora in favor of Outlook when you pry it from my cold dead hands. For a while, I was using Outlook exclusively for my NewsGator RSS feeds, but somehow I couldn’t keep up the momentum of regularly using yet another Internet communications app; I haven’t checked my NewsGator feeds for months.
But I do have a point here aside from just my own lukewarm experience with RSS. I just came across a post titled Seven Reasons to Switch from EMail Marketing to RSS Advertising on Pheedo.info. Bill (whose last name is not apparent on the site; what’s up with that?) gives these seven reasons to back up his thesis:
- Sender ID
- CAN SPAM ACT
- Known Sender
- Email Filters
- Bonded Sender Program
- Cost of Sending Email
(Bill’s orignal post on Pheedo has links on all of those reasons for more context.)
I don’t get this. Aside from Blacklists, those all seem to me like reasons to stick with email marketing, signs that legit marketers are going to triumph over spammers in the end, or at least competitive advantages they have now to distinguish themselves from spam. Frankly, I’m happy to go on record predicting that spam is on the retreat. I firmly believe in 2-3 years, spam will be much less of a problem for email users and legit marketers compared to today.
But, more to the point, switching from email to RSS? Don’t be a fool. By all means, introduce RSS. Despite my personal lack of fascination with RSS, I do believe it has a role to play and a more promising future, even if that may not be in the near future. Note that the post I linked to above (on MarketingVox) where I had given into dreaming of a time when RSS may present an alternative to email, I was writing in the context of Microsoft saying it will introduce an RSS reader into its Longhorn operating system. When Microsoft comes out with a free RSS reader, particularly one built into the OS, then I think RSS will go mainstream. What they should really do, in my opinion, is buy NewsGator or just rip off the idea. But Longhorn isn’t due out till 2006, so let’s not hold our breath.
But here’s the kicker, the reason why I hope you made it all the way to the bottom of this rambling post. Why not kill your email program in favor of RSS today? Because virtually 100% of Internet users use email and virtually 0% of Internet users use RSS today. Sure, we all assume it’s not a lot of folks who use RSS, but I’ve got the actual number. This July, I conducted a survey for my client Quris, an email marketing services provider, of 2543 Internet users from Harris Interactive’s panel. I am still writing up the report for this research, so this is an unreported scoop, but I trust Quris won’t mind. One of the questions we asked was about various digital communications media and devices they use, including this choice:
I use a “news aggregator” to subscribe to websites (using “RSS” or another “XML” syndication language).
The response? Thirty-five people out of 2543 checked that option. That is 1.4% of the total, that five years after RSS has been available to the world.
Sure, go ahead and dump your email programs in favor of RSS. But don’t come crying to me when you realize how dumb of a choice that was.