E-mail marketing firm IMN is introducing a new feature Monday enabling its clients to use trackable RSS feeds for their IMN-based online newsletters and blogs.
RSS is an XML-based technology created in the 1990s that pulls headlines and text from Web sites and displays them on users' desktops or Web sites in RSS readers, or aggregators.
RSS feeds are getting a lot of attention from marketers and publishers, since they avoid often spam-clogged email inboxes. The format has grown popular among bloggers, and Yahoo last week integrated search and its RSS reader, a move expected to help popularize the format. Drawbacks for marketers, however, have included the difficulty of tracking usage.
Newton, Mass.-based IMN, best known for its e-newsletter offerings, claims to be the first to implement trackable RSS technology.
"We're the first to the market to introduce RSS that is customized and trackable," said Kathleen Goodwin, president and CEO of IMN. "RSS has been out there for a while but we're allowing people who are running the feeds to know by whom and how often those feeds are being accessed," Goodwin said.
"We've encoded all the links -- usually with an RSS feed you get a subject of an article and a link. Every link provided is a unique trackable link. When you open up the feed we know it. Every time you refresh the feed we count it. And when you click to read a particular article we register that," Goodwin said.
At least one other company, newly launched RSSAds, claims it will provide RSS tracking. CEO Chad Williams says his company tracks ad views by means of a simple transparent image file. Whenever the RSS reader calls back to the server for the image, it counts as an ad impression, according to Williams.
IMN's RSS technology without the tracking capacity will now be bundled as part of IMN's services at no additional charge. Trackable RSS will cost extra.
IMN, which has mostly large enterprise clients and counts General Electric and Shell Oil among its roughly 900 clients, expects its RSS offering will be used in a wide variety of situations. One example: a large student loan banking services group wishing to reach graduating high school seniors could use RSS syndication to feed information to high school Web sites. These feeds could be offered to students who could choose to subscribe to specific feeds of interest.
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