Feed Frenzy

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_This article is by Guest Contributor Kate Trgovac, reporting on the recent “BlogOn”:http://www.blogonevent.com/blogon2005 conference._
“The Feed Frenzy: Exploring New Channels for One-to-One Marketing” discussed the use of “RSS feeds”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_%28file_format%29 as a marketing channel, particularly how they fit into the mix vis-a-vis e-mail marketing. Led by “Scott Rafer”:http://rafer.wirelessink.com/, former CEO of “Feedster”:http://www.feedster.com/, it included panelists from Yahoo!, Sun and ESPN.
Scott Gatz, Senior Director of My Yahoo! (*very* cool job) shared the results (Oct 2005) of a recent study conducted by Yahoo! and Ipsos Reid. 4% of Internet users *say* they are using RSS, but in reality 31% *are* actually using RSS for content syndication. And it’s not just for geeks – the profile of RSS users mirrors the profiles of Internet users at large (though it tends to skew a little younger, a little more educated and a little more male). They subscribe to an average of six feeds and use My Yahoo! or Firefox (livebookmarks) as their primary method for reading RSS.
Following on this information, Rafer tossed out the question, “How can feeds work as a marketing channel?”


David Johnson, Blog Architect from Sun discussed the use of aggregated feeds from the Sun developer community. These feeds are not just from one author, but rather, aggregated feeds focused around a single product.
John Kosner, SVP & GM, New Media at ESPN indicated that feeds are not used as a “separate” marketing channel for ESPN. They are a delivery mechanism, and a good one for “on demand” content, delivered when and where the customer wants it. Gatz added “it is the perfect opportunity to build a *daily* relationship with your customer.” He went on to describe a project My Yahoo! created with “Purina using RSS feeds”:http://www.purina.com/rss/index.aspx?.
[Aside: This sounds like an amazing program; I wish he had provided more details! They have all the right marketing elements: 1) Great content created by experts, not fluffy marketing-speak; 2) They used a great advertising channel to promote it – commercials during dog shows; and 3) They are using a solid technology platform (My Yahoo! Feeds) to deliver it. Metrics were not available either. Also, “Purina is doing podcasting”:http://www.purina.com/downloads/Podcast.aspx?DCMP=RAC-PUR-Podcasts&HQS=Home
Bonus link – if you want to get started using My Yahoo! for your feeds, “they have published an RSS Guide”:http://publisher.yahoo.com/rssguide.
When Rafer asked all panelists about the measurability of RSS feeds, all members responded in a similar fashion. Too early to measure or monetize. Most important thing right now is building brand favourability.
In restrospect, this panel could have been a little more content-rich. The audience got caught up in this very technical debate about whether or not feed subscriptions could be matched to a browser’s cookies and would big aggregators like My Yahoo become the only option. As a marketer, I was more interested in the *type* of content people wanted to receive in feeds. ESPN has great content for feeds – sports scores and results from your fantasy football league. An audience member shared that they had good results with a small wine distributor in California setting up feeds based on particular wine vintages.
Essentially, you can subscribe to a particular vintage and get notifications once the product was in stock. Similar to “Amazon’s Bestseller RSS feeds”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/xs/syndicate.html/.
Has anyone out there had success with using RSS feeds in Canada? I’d love a case study, even if there aren’t well characterized metrics.
_Kate Trgovac is currently Manager, Web Evolution for Petro-Canada. Prior to joining Petro-Canada, Kate spent eight years developing user experience strategies for clients at several interactive agencies in Toronto. She writes about technology, branding, user-experience and other topics of note on her blog “mynameiskate.ca”:http://www.mynameiskate.ca/ ._

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