RSS Future – Distributed marketing and the solution to spam?

A perfect storm has emerged for marketers using email and dm vehicles in particular.  The 2 main factors are:

  • unsubscribe numbers are on the increase due to spam and poor targeting

  • the new EU directive moving to an opt-in contact basis (the rest of the world will surely follow)

By definition, RSS is an opt-in form of news/content 'delivery'.  A growing number of news & content providers and most bloggers offer (and consume) RSS feeds.  The provider has the potential to make content as customisable as they want, and the consumer can decide 'what',  'who' and 'how' they consume.   Pull rather than Push, defined by the consumer.

So is RSS the future opt-in-friendly solution to spam?  Could be.  I'm seeing more and more developers (the early adopters) reporting that they have unsubscribed to newsletters, and instead consume RSS feeds.  This trend could become widespread depending on how easy it becomes to do (already there are add-ons for extending email clients to consume RSS, Newsgator as an example).

Related links:

RSS: A Medium for Marketers (

Interesting discussion regarding RSS' marketing potential:  The original Adverblog 'Rss and marketing... a new perspective' article is here , with a response at Dana's Weblog here.

Will RSS kill the e-newsletter? (

Look Out, Outlook: RSS Ahead in 2004 (Zdnet)

Comments (19)
  1. Darrell says:

    The problem with that is most professional content producers, such as magazines, do not make money off of subscription charges. Their profit is a function of any subscription charges plus advertising, with advertising being the majority.

    RSS feeds currently cut out any advertising, which is why people enjoy them so much. For the content to remain, advertising will work its way into RSS feeds. Otherwise, content production will no longer be profitable, and we will all lose the benefits of the publication.

  2. alexbarn says:

    Thanks for the feedback Darren.

    There are 3 perspectives here – the publishers, the consumers and the marketers

    – The publishers:

    Of course you are correct about the publishing biz model regarding subs & advertsing, so the publishers will need to hit the right balance of content vs. advertising for RSS in the same way they do/don’t on email. If they don’t, the email and RSS unsubscribes continue and biz goes down tube. So they HAVE to get it right.

    – The consumers

    ‘Value’ needs to be exchanged in the deal – I’m happy to get some ad messaging if the free content is worthwhile. If I don’t think it is worthwhile, I switch off and/or get another feed that either a) gets the balance right, b) is totally free without advertising (as you point out this is not sustainable for the the publishers), c) paid-for-sub without advertising (ouch, I want free stuff!!).

    – The marketers

    The opt-in laws moves the onus from the customer to the marketer in terms of responsibility. Marketers (those in companies trying to increase sales through marketing) need to now consider providing feeds for customers as an alt. way of communicating. Let customers choose how they are communicated to, how often and what abouyt. Keep email going by all means, but give the customers the choice.

  3. SBC says:

    Good post. At least for the moment, one can be selective about RSS feeds (via an aggregator like FeedDemon, etc). The email newsletters have fattened up with a lot of ads & other fluff, so to see it go will not hurt. RSS has not yet been commercially exploited so it remains to be seen…

  4. alexbarn says:

    SBC, Thanks for the pointer to FeedDemon….it was v.easy to set up, and I like the interface…

  5. Jason Salas says:

    Hi Alex,

    Great topic. Perish the thought, but I’d say it’s inevitable that the blog will be free from the death-touch of crass capitalism, and be subject to spam derivatives. Let’s all enjoy the freedom while we can. And damn the popup. 🙂

  6. From Alex Barnett blog: "A perfect storm has emerged for marketers using email and dm vehicles in particular. The two main factors are: (1) unsubscribe numbers are on the increase due to spam and poor targeting, and (2) the new EU directive moving to an opt-in contact basis (the rest of the world will surely follow)."…

  7. Bill Flitter says:

    Great discussion. One very important point that needs to be stressed in the ad feed model is that consumer is in control. If the noise to value ratio is too high, the consumer can opt-out.

    For the ad feed model to work, publishers need to work closely with Advertisers to test consumer response and measure the noise to value ratio.

  8. I’m turning into a linkbot at the moment…

  9. Seblogging says:

    Since my earlier post on RSS in relation to email marketing, I’ve come across many related articles…I thought I’d point to some of these…bottom line is that Email as a sales driver has had dramatic success over the years…the debate should move away

  10. Nooked Blog says:

    Alex Barnett at Microsoft, has another great post on RSS and Marketing A perfect storm has emerged for marketers using email and dm vehicles in particular. The 2 main factors are: * unsubscribe numbers are on the increase due to…

  11. RSS eMail Autoresponder and RSS eMail is here!

    RSS Newsletters and RSS Publishing is quickly taking over the net.

    Right now 8% of internet users are using RSS feeds. When it hits 10% (critical growth) it will become THE Publishing tool.

    Find our more about RSS eMail and RSS Marketing @


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