Microsoft's Kevin Briody is experimenting with various online media channels to target the acedemic developer audience. It is the kind of experiment every online marketer should be trying out, especially if their target market is technical in nature.
Although the Kevin's post is called 'Blog vs e-newsletter: a Microsoft test case', this experiment isn't a blogs v email v rss thing. It is about providing as many channels and choices as possible.
The team is experiencing the classic RSS metrics problem,
"Like any marketing organization, we are tasked with tracking impact metrics for our efforts. With a newsletter this is easy and very well developed - # of subscribers, % of click-throughs, most popular click-throughs, tracking a click-through on a given promotion to successful completion, etc. With a blog - not so easy. We can track # of RSS aggregator pulls - which are pretty heavy right now - but for all we know these are 5 aggregators set to pull the feed every 10 seconds, as we don't use something like Feedburner (we should - got to go lobby for that)."
Lobby hard Kevin, this accountability matters. The other trouble Kevin might come across is the issue of metrics definition (email and website metric standards are mature and well known quantaties, RSS metrics are not).
What matters is that the consumers get the content. With measurement tools in place to understand consumer behaviour and marketing effectiveness (e.g. views, clickthrus, interactions, transactions triggered by 'activity'), the data can guide the strategy.
Understandably, there is a general concern around the potential cannabalisation of email newsletter subscriptions. But does this matter? From a marketing effectiveness perspective, does it matter whether their audience 'receives' content by blog, RSS, post or pidgeon? (I grant, pidgeons are more expensive to maintain and have limited reach potential - my point is cost matters, but the media type should not).
Capturing email addresses are a means to an end, not the end itself. My view is all marketers, especially those with technically savvy audiences, should begin to review their email marketing goals and investments in light of RSS, particularly around email addresses acquisition and 'do not contact' rates (DNCs).