Real-Life RSS Marketing

How much more mainstream can RSS (define) get?

RSS reader apps abound, in every shape, size, and aspect of system integration (or nonintegration) imaginable. A lot of ’em are branded. RSS is baked into Firefox, the number two (and rising) Web browser. It’s integrated into Tiger, Apple’s most recent OS release. This week, every iPod owner in the country (a hugely disproportionate number of people) was introduced to RSS via the podcasts just made available on iTunes. And if Microsoft ever gets Longhorn released, the company promises RSS will live under the hood.

Portals, particularly Yahoo, are making RSS adoption ever easier. Over at AOL, VP and General Manager David Liu tells me RSS will be part of the company’s new, unwalled garden strategy (“but we won’t call it ‘RSS,'” he’s quick to add).

Even solidly mainstream media, such as the “Chicago Sun-Times,” have begun extolling the virtues of RSS as an indispensable, how-did-I-ever-surf-the-Web-without-it tool. “Thank God for RSS,” says the paper.

If you’re an RSS user, of course, you already know that (it wasn’t until Bloglines that I even had a home page).

Increasingly, marketers know this, too. Not only is RSS being used as an ad medium by companies ranging from Google to Pheedo, it’s now an official marketing tool. So I thought I’d share some examples of how RSS is being used as a marketing tool in real life and real time.

Coupon Feeds

Any number of online providers have made coupons available through feeds. Aggregators, including CouponBar, All Online Coupons, and CouponClock, are just a few consumer sites to have jumped on the bandwagon. Many, such as Deal of the Day and Phatdeal.com, offer customizable coupon feeds; just baby stuff or beauty offers, for example.

Affiliate Marketing

Why stop at aggregator-to-consumer direct coupon feeds when you can bring affiliates into the network? Coupons, and many other types of feeds, can be incorporated directly into Web sites and blogs with affiliate tags. RSS evangelist Chris Pirillo has an affiliate coupon feed on his site.

Affiliate programs are also using the technology to keep in touch with their affiliate networks, providing news and program updates. Program updates promote updated affiliate sites — hence higher search engine rankings.

And programs such as this one provide site owners with affiliate tagged “content.” This type of program is bound to grow in sophistication — soon.

PR (and IR, too)

The tech giants all feed their press announcements now. No reason why you can’t, either. Apple, Google, IBM, and Microsoft are just a few of the companies offering press releases via RSS.

The trend is fast gaining momentum. Boutique PR firms such as Misukanis & Odden in Minneapolis feed client announcements. The two major wire services, PRNewswire and Business Wire, now provide journalists with feeds (the latter’s high degree of customization makes it instantly indispensable; the former all-or-nothing lack of choice is useless).

On the IR front? In addition to corporate news text feeds, WILink Vcall just announced it will add corporate presentation podcasts, such as earnings calls, to its product offering. Podcasts will also be available on Business Wire.

Deal and Product Feeds

From Amazon.com to more modest e-tailers, one click feeds you all the deals, new and special offers, updates, and products that may interest you.

Examples? Research firms such as our corporate sister Jupiter Research feeds its 10 most recent reports (as well as analyst blogs and podcasts). Software companies notify customers of updates and upgrades. Continental and Delta airlines, as well as aggregators such as Pheedz, feed vacation and travel deals.

Want something more homespun? My co-columnist, Pamela Parker, is particularly partial to Burpee’s seed feed now that she has a garden to plant.

Even users who don’t want to know from RSS or RSS readers benefit from these types of feeds. All kinds of standalone apps have been developed to capture and display feeds in the most pleasing, graphical ways. Take Apple widgets, for example. You can check fuel prices, check out Woot’s deal of the day, or even get more widgets, all without even knowing you’re using RSS.

Forrester analyst Charlene Li enthuses about RSS apps. “This whole idea of light apps being built on top of RSS feeds. Why can’t consumers just visit a Web site and build them?” They can. It’s only going to become easier.

Classifieds

There oughta be a law making it mandatory to feed classified ads. Craigslist, which has long been RSSable, is killing newspapers across the country. Indeed job listings are also available as feeds, almost eliminating the need to visit the sites or subscribe to mailings from HotJobs, Monster, and other job boards. This represents a tremendous degree of lost branding opportunity and will only contribute to the demise of those who don’t get with the program.

“In classifieds, search-based, customized feeds are a big area. You can’t really do that by e-mail,” says Li. She’s currently researching non-blog related RSS usage in marketing.

New York real estate powerhouse The Corcoran Group gets it. The company now feeds company news, open houses, and, of course, property listings. To make it even easier, there’s a click-to-install feed reader link right on the page.

Podcasts

Podcasting is RSS too, and all kinds of marketers are experimenting with the channel, particularly automotive and entertainment marketers, such as GM, Audi, and Warner Brothers. These verticals embody the perennial pioneers of new interactive formats.

No sooner did Apple make podcasts available on iTunes this week than Lexus announced it would advertise in the channel.

Here’s where this gets really interesting. Lexus spots will be heard on feeds from National Public Radio’s KCRW. Currently, KCRW feeds are featured front and center on the iTunes podcast page. In podcast terms, this is the equivalent of being featured on Amazon’s home page. It’s shelf space. Lexus feeds are being spoon-fed to podcasting first wave of non-hardcore geeks, but early adopters nonetheless. Smart stuff.

Branded Content

From Purina’s pet care feed (ranging from coping with your cat’s emotions to dog pictures and profiles) to newsletters and corporate white papers, marketers are using RSS to keep their brands top of mind and establish thought leadership.

It’s almost inconceivable there isn’t a correlation between one or more of these real-life examples and your own marketing strategy. The opportunities just keep growing. Just yesterday, a $100 million RSS investment fund was announced.

Meet Rebecca at E-Mail Marketing, the first in the new ClickZ Specifics conference series, October 24-25 in New York City.

Rebecca is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

Related reading

marketing
GE emojis
Eight B2B brands that know how to use LinkedIn
social media tools
<