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The Buzz Continues: RSS and Newsletters

  |  February 4, 2004   |  Comments

Feeding your readers -- RSS and e-publishing.

A couple weeks ago, Rebecca Lieb discussed the possibility of RSS becoming a simple content solution. Rebecca also discussed the current pros and cons of this technology, which is attracting a lot of attention lately. I want to continue on that train of thought and, more specifically, address the potential pros I see for newsletter publishers.

RSS allows marketers (particularly newsletter publishers) to make their content available to any interested constituency in a number of new and interesting ways. With an RSS feed, readers can receive article-summary information, with headlines, short abstracts, and links to online content and full stories. People can subscribe to RSS feeds and receive them at the time and place of their choosing, often sidestepping many email delivery issues. (To see what a feed looks like, refer to EEVL's "RSS -- A Primer for Publishers & Content Providers.")

Here's where it gets interesting for e-newsletter publishers: With RSS you can provide loads of news and articles through an RSS feed instead of sending an email. Yes, instead of sending email! How cool is that?

"Is she crazy?" you must be saying to yourself. "Is she advocating not sending email? That's how we live and breath as newsletter publishers!"

RSS: A Complement, Not a Threat

With growing popularity of RSS aggregators such as FeedDemon and public directories of RSS content such as Syndic8.com, having an RSS feed attached to your newsletter means an additional avenue for promoting and registering new subscribers. Used this way, RSS isn't a threat but a complement to your efforts.

Add extra power to your newsletter publishing schedule with timely RSS feeds. You'll never be far from delivering the most-up-to-date news and information about your company to your best prospects and customers. Readers will thank for you providing the opportunity to get information in an RSS format.

Why? Your readers are traditionally better qualified (in essence, self-qualified) because as electronic publishers, we're scrupulous about opting in readers and vigilant about keeping a clean subscription base. (I've spoken to you a lot about the importance of both of these practices, including good permission and privacy policies in the past. Here's a checklist if you need one.)

But subscribers are becoming fatigued by the amount of spam and promotions they receive in their inboxes. What's worse, they think the increase in spam is because they've subscribed to our newsletters and we may have shared or resold their email addresses to paid advertisers. As a result, readers are increasingly less willing to subscribe to newsletters on our sites, especially if we're not fully known or trusted by them.

RSS Saves the Day

Here's where RSS's true beauty comes in. When you publish content in an RSS format, subscribers determine for themselves what content format they want to interact with. If they select an RSS feed, they simply "grab" the news feed address to receive your news in syndication. Your news and updates can be sent to readers as soon as it's published. Though you have little control over layout and formatting, each feed is an up-to-date reminder to readers to return to your site and check for more.

Rafat Ali, a colleague and the publisher of PaidContent.org, is thrilled with his RSS feed service (which he uses as part of his daily delivery mechanism). It's able to display his newsletter in its entirety. It works well for him and is easy to use; RSS readers love it.

Creating Yet One More Memory Shelf

RSS feeds are one more way newsletters can reinforce brand with loyal subscribers. Branding is building a memory shelf in customers' and prospects' mind. The challenge is to fill, on a regular basis, that memory shelf with good things about your company, services, and products.

Take RSS challenge. Let me know what you think!

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Strategies is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.


Kathleen Goodwin

Kathleen Goodwin is the former CEO of IMN (formerly iMakeNews), specializing in customer acquisition and retention through permission-based e-newsletters. For nine years, she was vice president of marketing for Ziff-Davis' publishing division, where she oversaw the marketing of all print publications and their early online siblings. She also serves as an advisor to early-stage companies and has been responsible for several successful new-business launches.

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