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Thread: e-Newsletters and RSS

  1. #1
    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    e-Newsletters and RSS

    I came across an article predicting the doom of the e-Newsletter

    Reaching Small & Medium Businesses (SMB) through e-newsletters is becoming tougher. Spam-blockers are stopping a lot of them and new emerging mediums like blogs and discussion communities are distracting small business owners from the traditional e-newsletter.

    The drop-off in readership of e-newsletters is disappointing to many SMB marketers because the economics are so attractive; in theory you can regularly keep in touch with millions of customers and prospects for pennies per message. In fact, in a recent Warrillow study of small business owners with less fewer than 100 employees, one-third of those surveyed say they have read an e-newsletter in the last three 3 months.
    I think it will be a long time before we see the end of email newsletters and promotional activities, but there are some important things to think about. One of the big ones is SPAM, which newsletters are heavily subject to. There are plenty of legitimate business' who have struggled with this.

    RSS (Real Simple Syndication) by its nature is something which the end user specifically fetches (almost like downloading your mail, but you download the content of the RSS feed). There are also a number of things you can do with RSS like ad advertising, customise it to look the way you would like etc.

    What are you using to communicate with your clients? Are feeds too much of a leap for end-users? With people already suffering under SPAM problems, are feeds not a more effective way of getting info to a user?

    A feed is definitely the way that I'm going to go for communicating with clients/prospects/etc. in the future, I'm hoping the barrier to entry won't be an issue, but with IE7, Firefox and apparently Vista having built in support I think we are going to see an marked rise in this form of communication.
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I'd agree RSS uptake should improve, but there are a few challenges. Admittedly, my understanding of RSS technology is less than comprehensive, but I have fiddled with them a bit here and experimented with RSS feeds from some pretty tech savvy sites. A few observations:

    • RSS format does have limitations - graphics are out as far as I can tell. At least I haven't seen an RSS feed yet that is delivering picture content.
    • Updates are an issue. RSS sends the first copy of the message - additions are not included unless you load a "last addition" feed, essentially a second feed from the same site. This means new content must always be served up on a new page or you start facing some stiff technical competeence challenges.
    • Last, and for me the clincher, it is a "pull" technology. You rely on your prospective reader opening the feed to read the contents. There is no bell, "you have new mail", or other indicator that new material has arrived. You have to proactively look.


    I suspect RSS feeds' real place in the IT world right now is, as example, a means of generating dynamic current content on websites. An example of this is the News Headlines page on this site.

    Perhaps an improved feed reader delivery system that does signal new info will change all that.... but that would need serious uptake of a new reader which hasn't happened yet.

    Local RSS uptake still has a long way to go. For now I think we have to keep responsible emailing habits and navigate those SPAM filters as best we can
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say there is much difference between RSS and email in terms of "last content" if you are using it for similar purposes. There would be one post/email which would result in readers being notified.

    Wrt notifications that depends very much on your feed reader (I use my mail client to read feeds, but there are other feed readers available. I know that FeedReader has pop-up notifications).

    Graphics and layout I'm not too sure about...I've definitely seen feeds with full website content. Essentially the latest web page is server via the feed reader, have a look at http://feeds.feedburner.com/hubspot.

    There are a couple of formats, namely RSS and Atom. They are all just XML files (for those who don't know, XML is a generalised markup language, kinda like html, but you can tag it with just about anything). It is just a question of how the XML is interpreted by the feed reader. It seems most things are moving towards Atom as it is more extensible.
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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsd View Post
    Wrt notifications that depends very much on your feed reader (I use my mail client to read feeds, but there are other feed readers available. I know that FeedReader has pop-up notifications).
    Maybe I've got the wrong idea here but, with IE7 and Firefox making it so easy to identify and load RSS feeds and the most used web browsers to boot, I think they set the standard of interface to judge delivery to individuals for the moment.

    The only other "contribution" I can make for now is I recall a discussion somewhere that ROR files could also be read for RSS too. Not sure about that though.

    And I think that about covers the total extent of my understanding on RSS for now.

    ps. Good to have you back from holiday, Duncan I trust it was a great one?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

  5. #5
    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Let's have a look at reading feeds in IE7...

    If you go to my blog website, blog.engineersimplicity.com, in IE7 you'll notice that the feed icon lights up and will provide a list of feeds available on the site. This is possible as the site is setup to allow auto-discovery of the feed. I burn my feed through feedburner which allows me to get some stats on my readership, so I've set the auto-discovery to http://feeds.feedburner.com/EngineerSimplicity. I'm also using their SmartFeed function which formats the feed to be compatible with as many feed readers as possible.

    Clicking on the feed icon allows you to view the feed and subscribe to it. Unfortunately IE7 only allows you to subscribe via their engine when you click. Firefox gives you some options and you can set the default for subscriptions. If you subscribe in IE7 then it is added to your favourites centre and will be bolded when new posts are made, which you can then read via IE7's feed reader.

    Alternatively you can use your own feed reader of choice (such as Feed Reader) and just add the feed url. The feed reader works like a mail client for feeds and provides notifications etc.

    I've started using feeds more to read blogs and so forth. Obviously the other application is to provide a feed on a website like you've done with the news headlines (I want to add The Forum's feed to my blog, just need to figure out how).

    The one thing I think is the biggest disadvantage of feeds is that you don't know much about your readers. With email you know their email address and often name which allows for customisation of emails (which hopefully leads to more sales). Maybe there is a gap in the market? Figure out how to add customisable fields to feeds to allow them to say "Hello {username}".

    Another thing that you can do with your feed is allow email delivery of it via a service such as Feedblitz. This way you can deliver content to users and obtain email addresses of people subscribed to the feed.

    ps. wrt to the holiday it was good. With a shortish holiday it always feels like you are just getting into it when it ends, but seeing our families was great. Now I just need to get the engines going again....getting there.
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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Also just came across this, Understanding RSS: A Quick Guide For The Insanely Busy Executive, for some more info on feeds.
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