RSS marketing offers often-overlooked benefits for advertisers

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Although research indicates that more Internet users are subscribing to really simple syndication (RSS) feeds, many companies still overlook this effec­tive marketing medium.

Only about 13% of online advertisers have advertised within third-party RSS feeds, according to Emily Riley, senior analyst at JupiterResearch. “But about 23% plan to in the next 12 months, which is pretty decent growth,” she added.

RSS feeds are a way for news sites, blogs and online publishers to syndi­cate their content. Users who subscribe to these feeds can automatically track changes to their favorite Web sites. By using feed-reader software or setting up a personalized home page, subscribers can display all their feeds in one place.

RSS provides very good targeting, Riley said: “You have a high-quality audience that you can put your ad in front of.”

In addition, RSS feeds allow companies to connect with their customers in the way they prefer, said Mark Carlson, CEO of SimpleFeed.

Expedia.com visitors, for example, can sign up for RSS feeds on the company's Web site. Using a drop-down menu, users can select whether they want to receive information on flights, hotels and/or cruise deals. The company also uses RSS feeds to power one of its Google gadgets, according to Michael Eggerling, an Expedia spokesperson.

At first, RSS marketing was seen as a way around e-mail. “And that's still a value proposition,” Carlson said.

Still, RSS hasn't replaced e-mail mar­keting, according to David Berkowitz, director of emerging media and client strategy at 360i. RSS can be used as an alternative to e-mail or in conjunction with it, he said. For example, some RSS service companies like Feedburner offer e-mail versions of their feeds.

“It's been one of those active but quiet areas in the online marketing world,” he explained.

Carlson credits the growth of RSS adoption to social networking sites like Facebook, where people subscribe to RSS feeds without even knowing it.

RSS marketing is still a relatively small part of the social marketing sphere, most probably because it gets much less hype than MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, Riley speculated.

According to a Universal McCann sur­vey published in March, 33.7% of active Internet users subscribe to an RSS feed. The survey polled 17,000 Internet users in 29 countries. However, according to the survey, only 18.6% of active users in the US subscribe to RSS feeds.

“The US is often behind other markets, because the US market is so big,” explained Tom Smith, research manager at Univer­sal McCann. However, he added that the number of people in the US who subscribe to RSS feeds has grown since Universal McCann started publishing its social media study in September of 2006.

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