It was bound to happen. DMNews.com just released the news that a new report from JupiterResearch claims that "RSS will not have a significant effect as a supplemental alternative to e-mail marketing".
"Most marketers remain skeptical of using RSS as a mechanism to supplement their e-mail marketing newsletter content," states the report written by JupiterResearch's David Daniels, Zori Bayriamova and Eric T. Peterson.
According to the New York market researcher, 45 percent of marketers have no plans to deploy RSS to supplement e-mail, and only 5 percent currently do so. The findings were based on a recent executive survey."
While the report does serve some relevant obstacles to wide-spread marketing adoption of RSS, it mostly shows a poor understanding of RSS by marketers.
Before going through the various points made, the key missing factors that marketers seem not to understand or acknowledge yet, are:
a] RSS is not only about delivering content to end-users, but also about improving search engine rankings (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and driving new traffic through the use of various RSS specific search engines and directories.
Even if marketers are still doubtful about using RSS to communicate with end-users, the many examples available clearly prove that they should at least start implementing RSS as part of their online visibility strategy.
b] RSS is the basic NewsMastering ingredient, allowing companies to republish online content to provide their visitors with fresh content from multiple sources, even establishing themselves as key sources for highly targeted niche content.
c] Combined with branded RSS aggregators, the marketing advantages of RSS expand to "owning" part of the end-user's desktop venue; a direct link between the company and the end-user, allowing for complete brand interaction and experience on a daily level.
However, as we've shown many times, the key benefit of marketing RSS usage still remains content delivery to end-users.
But, as JupiterResearch correctly states, RSS is still heavily burdened with low end-user penetration.
"It is more consumer friendly and it won't become truly marketer friendly until more consumers realize the convenience of it and begin to use RSS," Daniels said.
But consumer adoption of RSS readers remains low. Only 6 percent of consumers have one deployed at home. The adoption rate will change little until the reader's functionality is embedded into browsers or e-mail clients.
While these statements make a valid point, we must not forget that it is rumored that RSS will be integrated within the next IE version, which is expected to hit the market in the second half of this year. Marketers should understand that this is not a disadvantage, but a clear advantage for companies looking to capture their share of the market early on, before everyone starts offering RSS feeds.
A less valid point is that RSS lacks targeting and personalization capabilities.
"RSS is not well suited to promotional-offer-oriented content because it does not offer the targeting and personalization capabilities of e-mail, the report said. However, even for use as a supplemental or alternative e-mail broadcast tool, the adoption of RSS for marketing purposes will remain low during the next 24 months."
As explained in "Unleash the Marketing & Publishing Power of RSS", RSS is only a delivery channel --> how and what you deliver using it depends only on your back-end technology and your database. Contrary to popular opinion, RSS is exactly like e-mail in this very important area.
Forward thinking companies can invest in developing their own in-house RSS publishing solutions, at a low cost, and achieve complete RSS personalization and targeting quite easily.
But even without that, there are already out-of-the-box solutions that provide at least part of that functionality:
b] Services such as SimpleFeed already allow for content targeting, based on end-user behaviour.
Another unvalid point is that RSS metrics are "nearly impossible":
"Although these solutions have yet to take hold with marketers, many RSS publishing tools and resources exist in the market today," the report said. "However, RSS publishing still faces many hurdles: measuring traffic at least on a subscriber level is nearly impossible to do, which will relegate RSS to a broadcast marketing tool in the near term."
Measuring traffic on a subscriber level is easy using unique feed URLs, such as what SyndicateIQ, RSS AutoPublisher, SimpleFeed and many others are doing, with companies like Nooked and Feedburner using yet other means for measuring RSS.
Some other report findings, such as the fact that spam may soon find its way in to RSS, because of its low barriers-to-entry, as well demonstrate a poor understanding of RSS.
While I understand reservations against RSS, I'm personally worried that such reports, clearly showing that RSS is missunderstood, might hurt marketers on the long-term, wrongly swaying them away from RSS.