Enterprise RSS Feeds: A Viable Messaging Medium

    July 17, 2006

The rapid growth of content syndication and social media requires a new marketing and PR approach.

The days when a static business website or a mass media press release could attract visitors and customers are long gone. The use of RSS and social bookmarking sites to manage and organize news and information is on the rise and marketers need to create RSS feeds offering content that attracts visitors and subscribers..

MyYahoo, MyMSN and MyAOL have been in place for some time and sites like Furl and del.icio.us – once the domain of the very tech savvy – are gaining in popularity. Earthlink, one of the largest ISPs in the US, recently unveiled their RSS reader and social bookmarking site, making it possible for another 5 million people to start using RSS feeds and sharing content.

A year or so ago Robert Scoble, then the tech evangelist at Microsoft, wrote that any marketing person who did not add RSS Feeds and to their website ought to be fired. Harsh words indeed, and perhaps a little premature. But as the number of people using RSS Feeds and social media continues to climb, marketing and PR folk should be looking at feeds as a viable alternate messaging medium.

One of the most basic tenets of marketing and PR is that you use the medium most likely to reach an audience. In 2005 many may have dismissed RSS as unimportant based on statistics from Pew Internet.:

  • Only 9% of Americans are relatively aware of what RSS Feed means.
  • 26% never even heard of an RSS Feed
  • 12% of Men knew what RSS meant compared to 6% of Women
  • 12% of People ages 18-29 knew what an RSS Feed is compared to 5% age 65 and over

In 2006, the RSS Feed playing field looks very different. A study by Yahoo late last year revealed that 27% of Internet users consume RSS syndicated content on personalized start pages (e.g., My Yahoo!, My MSN) without knowing that RSS is the enabling technology.

According to JupiterResearch consumers are adopting Really Simple Syndication (RSS) at an astounding rate. Their recent report states that some 30 percent of businesses surveyed added content syndication in feeds due to customer demand. 25 percent publish feedst to increase their subscriber base and 10 percent cited “competitive pressure.”

Savvy e-tailers are taking this synndication trend to heart and adding RSS capability for shoppers to keep track of pending product introductions of interest. The alerts typically send a product description and photo directly to RSS enabled portal pages like MyYahoo, said eStategyOne, blogging about an article in the New York Times.

Yet when visiting sites reported to have feeds, they could only find the feed on the Burpee Seeds site. And marketing studies.net reports that Burpee’s sales stats soared as a result of this feed. It seems that even in this new world of content syndication and RSS Feeds you still need a strategy.

Understanding RSS, content syndication and social media, planning and implementing a sound RSS strategy and creating RSS feeds that meet the needs of your customer base is becoming an essential skill in marketing and PR today.

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Sally is the author of Website Content Strategy blog: Information about the shifts in media consumption and the use of
technology in marketing and PR so business can stay in touch with
their rapidly moving audiences.