The hype is shifting from search engine marketing to RSS, the trendy abbreviation for really simple syndication or rich site summary, depending on who's doing the selling.
But a new report from JupiterResearch claims RSS will not have a significant effect as a supplemental alternative to e-mail marketing.
“Most marketers remain skeptical of using RSS as a mechanism to supplement their e-mail marketing newsletter content,” states the report written by JupiterResearch's David Daniels, Zori Bayriamova and Eric T. Peterson.
According to the New York market researcher, 45 percent of marketers have no plans to deploy RSS to supplement e-mail, and only 5 percent currently do so. The findings were based on a recent executive survey.
Media and entertainment companies represent the largest percentage of marketers publishing newsletter content through RSS. They account for 17 percent of respondents who deploy RSS to distribute newsletter content.
As defined by encyclopedia Wikipedia, RSS is a family of XML file formats for Web syndication used by news sites and Web logs, or blogs.
RSS typically is used to offer items with short descriptions of online content, accompanied by a link to the full version of the article. The content is delivered as an XML file called an RSS feed, RSS stream or RSS channel. An orange rectangle with the letters XML often links to a site's RSS feed.
A feed reader or aggregator program checks RSS-enabled Web pages on behalf of a user and displays updated content that it finds.
RSS saves users from the need to repeatedly visit favorite sites to check for new content or be notified of updates through e-mail. Most major news sites now have RSS feeds. Bloggers use RSS to share the latest headlines or the article's full text. Sometimes even multimedia files are attached.
“It is more consumer friendly and it won't become truly marketer friendly until more consumers realize the convenience of it and begin to use RSS,” Daniels said.
JupiterResearch admits that RSS is ideal for media firms and publishers that use e-mail as a broadcast tool to use as an alternative for newsletter content distribution. Yet there were reservations.
RSS is not well suited to promotional-offer-oriented content because it does not offer the targeting and personalization capabilities of e-mail, the report said. However, even for use as a supplemental or alternative e-mail broadcast tool, the adoption of RSS for marketing purposes will remain low during the next 24 months.
“The immediate benefit for direct e-mail marketers is that RSS removes the e-mail delivery hurdles,” Daniels said. “However, that benefit cannot be immediately recognized since the adoption of RSS is low.
“The real impact will be on e-mail marketing providers as these deployments will begin to steal from the e-mail marketing pie,” he said. “Accordingly, we're seeing a number of e-mail marketing vendors beginning to introduce RSS capability, if for no other reason than to hedge their bets.”
Even marketers using RSS do it to satisfy market pressure. Thirty-five percent of the surveyed marketers have deployed — or soon will — RSS because of consumer demand.
But consumer adoption of RSS readers remains low. Only 6 percent of consumers have one deployed at home. The adoption rate will change little until the reader's functionality is embedded into browsers or e-mail clients.
RSS is free from the delivery issues plaguing e-mail and can be implemented at little or no extra cost. But these factors should not be the main drivers of using RSS as a marketing channel.
Spam and ensuing delivery issues partly occurred because of the low cost of e-mail marketing, the JupiterResearch report said.
“Without such economic barriers and self-regulation in place, and keeping these low-cost drivers in mind, RSS could possibly become as cluttered and confusing to consumers as the e-mail marketing channel is currently,” the report stated.
Marketers publishing newsletter content through RSS should treat it not just as a low-cost delivery mechanism, but also as a revenue opportunity. Only 19 percent of marketers told JupiterResearch they were exploring RSS for extra ad unit revenue opportunities.
RSS is more ideal for media and publishing firms than for e-mail marketers oriented to promotional offers. This is because RSS feeds essentially are Web pages, and the construction of ad-supported page templates is easy.
“Because consumers' adoption of RSS remains low,” the report said, “publishers should have realistic revenue goals.”
Marketers planning to deploy RSS are hesitant. The main challenge for 40 percent of them, they told JupiterResearch, is the lack of resources and experience to deploy, which they can overcome.
JupiterResearch said many e-mail marketing service providers, like SubscriberMail, have added RSS publishing functionality to their offerings. This enables publishing of e-mail newsletter content as an RSS feed.
“Although these solutions have yet to take hold with marketers, many RSS publishing tools and resources exist in the market today,” the report said. “However, RSS publishing still faces many hurdles: measuring traffic at least on a subscriber level is nearly impossible to do, which will relegate RSS to a broadcast marketing tool in the near term.”
That said, RSS will have some sort of direct marketing application.
“Most of the adoption of RSS readers have been among more technically savvy internet users,” Daniels said. “If you primarily cater to an audience that is technically savvy you should begin experimenting with to gauge your audiences interest.
“For direct marketers, your time is probably better spent in optimizing your existing e-mail marketing campaigns by doing more targeting, testing and personalization in order to improve the relevancy and ultimately the performance of your email campaigns.”
Marketing consultant Renee Blodgett said the effect of RSS and blogging — online personal journals, also the rage of the moment — on direct and interactive marketing will be additive rather than disruptive.
“Just in the way e-mail didn't replace the phone and instant messenger doesn't replace e-mail, RSS won't replace e-mail,” Blodgett said. “It's a supplementary and complementary communication tool to reach a large group of people with an important message, such as a subscriber base to a newsletter or customers in one vertical market.”
Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters