Home  › Marketing › Strategies

What Does RSS Mean for Advertisers?

  |  May 2, 2005   |  Comments

Contextual RSS ads are here. What are the considerations for marketers?

RSS (define) isn't anything new (Variety.com launched the first commercial news RSS feed in June 2002). But like so many things that bubble up through the Internet, it now seems to be coming into its own. Publishers like the ability to send news feeds to users who subscribe to them, users seem to enjoy having information delivered to them (instead of having to search for it), and advertisers are discovering RSS as a way of pushing ads out to ready and willing consumers.

Last week seems to have marked a bit of a watershed in RSS commercialization. AD:TECH San Francisco had two sessions on the protocol, Google started testing contextual advertising within RSS feeds, several smaller ad networks have begun experimenting with RSS ads, and even Yahoo is supposedly looking at jumping into the fray.

If you listen to the AD:TECH speakers, consider your own RSS usage, and remember two of the biggest networks on the planet want to get in the RSS advertising game, it seems pretty clear it's time to pay attention to RSS as a viable advertising medium.

But since my job here at ClickZ is to push the envelope a bit, I'd like you to look beyond the technology and consider why RSS is becoming so popular and what that implies about what works online.

Consider RSS's characteristics. Forget about the technology for a second: for marketers, it's not all that important to understand the ins and outs of the RSS protocol (though if you want to know more, Wikipedia is a good place to start). No, what are really important are what RSS does and why consumers like it.

Basically, what's so attractive about RSS (versus email or even the Web itself) is it allows consumers to control incoming information streams. Unlike with email, consumers can limit what they receive to exactly what they want. If they like a site, they subscribe. If they don't read the subscription, they can just delete it. In most RSS readers (or browser-based aggregators, such as those in Firefox), the only thing a subscriber must deal with is a list of headlines. These are easily scanned and either read or ignored. There's little "cognitive overhead" to checking RSS feeds; take a couple of seconds to scan the headlines and you're up to date.

And unlike email, RSS feeds don't demand to be read. There's no chance you'll miss an incoming message from a potential client because you mistake it for spam. Basically, there's no spam in RSS at this point (and little potential for it to occur). You don't have an address to which things are sent. You're the one in control. You can read the entries or not.

The control aspect is probably what makes RSS so popular. If you look at the most successful consumer technologies over the past couple years: MP3 players such as the iPod; TiVo and other PVRs (define); VOD (define), all are about placing media control in users' hands and allowing them to experience what they want, when they want. There's been plenty written here recently about podcasting and PSPcasting. RSS fits into the consumer control trend that's sweeping the media world (and, to be technically correct, both those "casting" methods rely on RSS).

People are bombarded by increasingly more information every day, much of it out of their control. From TV to email to innovative outdoor advertising schemes and stealth-marketing techniques, consumers are overloaded with incoming data streams. They're starting to fight back, not just because they're uninterested but because they simply don't have enough time or attention to deal with it all. Heck, there's even new evidence the so-called "info glut" makes people stupider. As if we need that to happen!

From a marketing strategy standpoint, RSS's ascendancy is just another indication the world always seems to find a way to route around advertising whenever it has a chance. Consumers crave control over their media and are flocking to technologies that provide that control.

RSS advertising is probably an excellent idea. But we can't forget if we abuse the channel into consumers' browsers, they can do what they've always done with TV: switch the channel. When considering new ways to reach consumers, we can't ignore the fact that while we weren't looking, they seized control.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!


Sean Carton

Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?


    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...