Marketing by RSS

I love RSS as much as anyone else, but we don’t do anyone any favors when we refuse to take off the rose-colored sunglasses. Chris Pirillo throws some brickbats at an RSS doubter, but I happen to agree with the doubter on several points:

  • You can’t reliably measure exposure via RSS.
  • You can’t control how RSS is displayed.
  • RSS doesn’t build a user database.
  • RSS is difficult to customize - as a response driver - the way email is.

Tim Bray brought up the issue of RSS Subscriber Counting before, but the nay-sayers shut down the conversation before we had a good answer. The most valuable subscribers are the most likely to be sitting behind a proxy server and the most likely to be lost in the shuffle. Just how is RSS going to address that?

Maybe I’m dense. But I don’t see how anyone is going to build a RSS user database, segment the users and target the segments independently - remembering that a user may belong to multiple segments. I happen to believe in 1-to-1 marketing, how does RSS fit into that world?

And don’t expect to control presentation in my RSS aggregator. I don’t think one-page aggregators are going away and I don’t think anyone is up to the job of blending dozen’s of presentation formats on the same page.

Now, maybe spam spells the end of email marketing. But I think email is important enough that we’ll fix it before it dies. And that we’ll see RSS become one of the tools in marketing’s toolchest - supplementing email, not replacing it.