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Marketing : RSS


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Understanding RSS: For E-mail Marketers

By Rok Hrastnik
Aug 2, 2006

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Regardless of how long "we've" known RSS as marketers, most marketers out there don't really understand how RSS works as a marketing channel. Today we'll take a look at the e-mail perspective of RSS.

The RSS Content Delivery Model




1. The publisher creates his RSS feed (file) and places it on his web server.

a. To make the RSS feed available to internet end-users the publisher places the link to his RSS feed on his website, where internet end-users can see it and proactively subscribe to it. Other websites can use this same RSS feed to display the publisher's content themselves.

b. To make the RSS feed available to the search engines, directories and websites that aggregate content from multiple source, the publisher usually just submits the link to his RSS feed to their database using their interface or RSS feed submission software. Some search engines will actually find the feed on the publishers website automatically.

2. To actually publish new content in the RSS feed, the publisher needs to add a new content item to the RSS file.

a. Usually the publisher will first create and publish his content on his website, and then add a summary (or full-text content) of that content into the RSS feed to let his subscribers know that new content is available on the website. Each new content item published in the RSS feed will point to the full-text version of that same content on his website.

b. The publisher could also first publish new content in his RSS feed and then use special software to also display that content on his website. His subscribers would still get the content update in their RSS Readers and then clickthrough to read the full-text content on the publisher's website.

c. The publisher could also only add the full-text content of a story to his RSS feed, without even publishing the full story on his website. This would usually be done if the feed is meant for more personal communications.

3. Content consumers (internet end-users, search engines ) that are subscribed to the publisher's feed will periodically download (retrieve) and check the RSS feed (file) to see if any new content items have been added to it. If new content has indeed been added it will be displayed to the content consumers via their RSS Reader.

Or if you want to remember this in even simpler terms

1. Publisher: Creates RSS feed and starts adding content to the feed

2. Content consumer: Subscribes to the RSS feed by including the link to the feed in his RSS Reader

3. Publisher --> content consumer: The publisher updates the feed with new content and the content consumer is notified of the new content available via his RSS Reader

The Important Points to Understand About The RSS Model

* No one that subscribes to an RSS feed gives the publisher anything, such as their e-mail addresses.

* An RSS subscription basically only means that the content consumer has added the RSS feed to his RSS feed list. To receive new content from the publisher he needs to retrieve the content from that feed, which is done automatically.

* The publisher cannot send any information via RSS to anyone that isn't subscribed to his RSS feed.



Screenshot: Demonstrates how an end-user clicks on an RSS content item link/headline in the RSS feed and is then taken to the publisher's website to read the full-text content of that content item in his browser or in the integrated web browser in his RSS Reader.


The E-mail Model Turned Upside Down

To better understand how RSS content delivery works try thinking about it in e-mail terms.

RSS
The publisher gives the content consumer the link to the RSS feed

E-mail
The consumer gives the publisher his e-mail address

RSS
The publisher updates the RSS feed and the content consumers retrieve new content from the RSS feed when they want to

E-mail
The publisher sends an e-mail message to the consumer whenever he wants to

The difference between RSS and e-mail is essentially in:

* Who gives his contact details.

E-mail --> the content consumer gives his e-mail address (contact details) to the publisher
RSS --> the publisher gives his RSS feed (contact details) to the content consumer

* Who is in control.

E-mail --> the publisher sends out the content whenever he wants to (the publisher is in control)
RSS --> the content consumer retrieves the content whenever he wants to (the content consumer is in control)



As you can see RSS is quite similar to e-mail, only that it's e-mail turned upside down.

In push & pull terms, with e-mail the publisher pushes the content to the content consumer and with RSS the content consumer pulls the content from the publisher.

The List

With RSS delivery the RSS feed takes on the role of the "list" we know from e-mail marketing.

In theory, the e-mail publisher could only send out his e-mail content to the subscribers on his e-mail list. With RSS, the publisher can only send out his RSS content to those that are subscribed to his RSS feed. In this case his pool of RSS subscriptions becomes some sort of "list".

When the subscriber opts-out from his RSS feed subscription he can no longer receive content from the RSS publisher and is so conversely removed from the list (from the publisher's pool of RSS subscriptions).

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