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RSS “not a replacement for email”

The debate about RSS(really simple syndication) and how it stacks up against email was covered in a recent article from MarketingSherpa. In “RSS in Reality: Not a Replacement for Email – Metrics & Best Practices” (free access until May 23, 2005) the MarketingSherpa gang summarized their thoughts like this:

It chills our blood when we hear email marketers and publishers blithely state, “I’m thinking about switching over to RSS entirely!” Oh no. Please don’t. RSS is worthy of testing, but it’s not an email replacement and it never will be.

I tend to agree with MarketingSherpa that RSS will not replace email just like email has not replaced direct mail in the marketing world. Each is its own channel, sub-channel or medium. The savvy marketer will know if, and how, they can leverage each to achieve their business and marketing objectives.
Just what did MarketingSherpa use to support their ideas?

One strong fact in support of RSS is that this channel is not yet affected by spam and spam filters. However, there are lots of holes and unknowns with RSS.
For instance, very few people use RSS. MarketingSherpa refers to research that about 91% of Internet users use email on a regular basis while only about 4% use RSS feeds. A survey said 73% of readers will increase their use of RSS feeds in the next year but we know their demographic is likely to include more early adopters.
In addition, because there are not enough detailed metrics available there are so many questions about the effect of RSS on branding and buying behaviour.
The MarketingSherpa article contains a short case study with a series of steps used in an RSS test.
My feelings about RSS versus email are similar to what the MarketingSherpa article suggests.
RSS is another channel, not a replacement for email.
* Do not add another “channel” to communicate with your prospects and customers if you can’t measure it properly.
* If you decide RSS is for you, test it first and understand what you need to do to optimize your messages and calls to action with this channel.
* Just as with email, RSS is a rapidly changing marketing tool so test, test, test.
Let us know what you think. Post a comment or email me at

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