12 Jul No RSS feed? You're fired!
Last year, prominent blogger Robert Scoble (formerly with Microsoft, now with Podtech.Net) stated, “You should be fired if you do a marketing site without an RSS feed.” http://scoble.weblogs.com/2005/02/19.html
A year later, there are many marketers who should be out on the street given the state of RSS syndication. In a recent study, Jupiter Research found that only 29 percent of companies with more than $50 million in sales were currently publishing content using RSS syndication. The marketers might merit re-hiring by the end of the year, given Jupiter’s finding that 63% plan to implement RSS syndication in 2006.
Marketers and consumers are finally starting to latch on to RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) for the delivery and receipt of updated content. To access content, you sign up for an RSS feed that pushes new content to a web-based or desktop reader or news aggregator for your review as the content is updated. This process also is referred to as syndication. You’ll find RSS feeds promoted on a web site by an orange button that says XML, RSS, or has a symbol with a dot and two waves.
If you haven’t heard of RSS, you aren’t alone. Harris Interactive recently completed a survey for Microsoft Windows Live that showed 71 percent of respondents have never heard of RSS. This is starting to change, as evidenced by the recent Google Trends data reported by Dave Winer of Scripting News, which showed that RSS search patterns far exceeded those for podcasts and blogs, two other “hot” Web 2.0 delivery channels.
There are two primary ways to subscribe to RSS feeds – through either a desktop or web-based newsreader/aggregator. My preference is to use a web-based newsreader that allows me to access my feeds from any computer with Internet access. Some of the available newsreaders include:
Techcrunch, a Web 2.0 blog, recently evaluated online newsreaders and rated them as being less powerful then the desktop readers.
Why use RSS feeds?
Astute marketers are combining their e-mail messaging strategies with the use of RSS feeds for updates to content, for promotional offers, and for the dissemination of other information to their key stakeholders. There are several key advantages driving the adoption of RSS feeds, including:
• Easy to start and stop subscriptions.
• Consumer controls their e-mail address and personal information.
• Content across feeds is more easily scanned.
• Cross-referrals to related content are more readily shared.
• Every message is delivered to recipients (not caught up by spam filters or other network problems).
• Allows the delivery of any content segmented into a discreet group.
Specific applications for RSS feeds
RSS feeds are being used for a wide range of syndicated content updates, including auction tracking, job tracking, photo streams, website updates, blog updates, podcasts, video blogs (vlogs), weather forecasts, promotions, public relations, and investor relations, to name a few.
Some examples of applications for business feeds include the following:
• FreeBidding Tools – Tracks eBay auctions by search term, buy-it-now items, or by seller.
• Amazon – Sign up for specific feeds of topic interest (toys, history, politics, etc.) These Individualized RSS (IRSS) feeds are based on specific user interests.
• Northwest Airlines – Four feeds with offers of interest to their frequent flyers.
• Target – Offers a feed previewing the Sunday news circular for your particular market area.
• Career Magazine – Allows you to track job listings by location or by career type.
Local and Global Content Feeds
• Eating in Madison A to Z – A blog dedicated to reporting on meals at all of Madison’s restaurants.
• Hewlett Packard – Offers nine executive blogs and 10 other public blogs.
• PPT – Powerful Presentation Techniques – My own blog educating readers on effective presentation skills and how to use PowerPoint.
• Stone Creek Coffee – It has a blog talking about their coffee and retail shops.
Public Relations Feed
• Intel Press Room and Microsoft Press Pass – Keeps the media abreast of press releases and news stories from these two technology leaders.
• The Weather Channel – Offers three feeds, including local and national weather and a news content feed.
So what do I do next?
The first steps to becoming familiar with RSS and what it can do for your business are to select an RSS newsreader and to begin subscribing to RSS feeds on topics of interest. If your competitors are providing feeds, subscribe to these so that you can see how they are using RSS in their promotional mix. Once you’ve grasped the underlying concept, you’ll begin to see how RSS content syndication can be a winning proposition for your business.