RSS vs Email: Its Not An Either-Or Question!

by Priya Shah


If you’ve been getting caught up in all this talk of RSS versus email, its time to stop wondering.

Marketing Sherpa just posted a new report that stirred up the old RSS vs Email debate again. http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2988 

The report starts out by stating, “It chills our blood when we hear email marketers and publishers blithely state, “I’m thinking about switching over to RSS entirely!” Oh no. Please don’t. RSS is worthy of testing, but it’s not an email replacement and it never will be.”

A report in Jupitermedia titled “E-Mail Marketing: Alive and Well” notes, “RSS won't be immediately effective as an alternative to e-mail marketing. (But) for some companies (primarily publishers who cater to a technical audience), it's sensible to press forward with RSS now as a supplement to e-mail marketing.” http://www.jupiterresearch.com/bin/item.pl/research:concept/1103/id=96103/ 

A lot of people think this debate has been going on for long enough. RSS is NOT a replacement for email. It does not (and may never) rival the marketing reach and immediacy of an email message.

Those who’ve been mourning the death of email marketing don’t seem to “get” the fact that RSS hasn't reached the tipping point yet. More people read email than RSS feeds – many more.

I believe that a smart publisher or marketer must use both - Email and RSS. Its not an either/or question. 

I know for a fact that my blogs get read more when I send out an email with a “blog post roundup.” I personally prefer email and tend to read those blogs more frequently that use email notification. 

But the news is not all good for email marketing. According to DoubleClick, 64.7% of all legitimate email being sent (based on their own customers' stats) is never opened. Email delivery is cited as the #1 email marketing headache.

The good news is that email marketing has a terrific Return on Investment (ROI) bringing in $15.50 per dollar spent on a campaign according a report in Email Sherpa. http://www.emailsherpa.com/emailblog.cfm?ID=360 

That $15.50 per email-marketing dollar spent is roughly 17% more than in direct-mail campaigns and 73% more than telemarketing campaigns.

eMarketer reports that email is still a powerful marketing tool if used well in a new report, "Email Marketing: How to Improve ROI." http://www.emarketer.com/article.aspx?1003369 

Some points it notes: 
  • 71 percent of US online advertisers used email marketing in 2004, while 77 percent using paid search. 

  • Despite spam and email overload 45 percent see email as a good way for companies to stay in touch with customers.

  • Customer retention and increased loyalty is the main objective for email marketing among 63 percent of surveyed marketers 

  • 62 percent also see email as a way to acquire new customers. 

  • Email volume in the US is expected to rise from over 2 trillion message this year to nearly 2.7 trillion by 2007. 

Even though both email spam and email delivery are on the rise, end-users are getting used to spam and it's bothering them less than it used to.

The Marketing Sherpa report also notes that 91% of US Internet users use email on a regular basis, while roughly 4% use RSS feeds on any sort of basis at all. 

It suggests that publishers do test RSS, but recommends that they not treat RSS as “shovelware for email content” because it is a new medium. 

Other disadvantages it notes for RSS publishers is the challenge of metrics. 

“No deliverability, open rates, hard vs soft bounces. No a/b tests, no usability tests, no offer tests, no recency/frequency tests, and multivariable testing…"

"The kind of data that marketers and publishers rely on to make business, content, and marketing decisions for email campaigns is almost entirely lacking for RSS at this time,” says the report.

So if you’re wondering what you should publish - a blog or an email newsletter - I suggest you do both. 

Or at least publish a blog with email notification built in. Remember, your list is still your most valuable asset online.

Keep either Email or RSS out of your marketing toolbox and you’re losing out on a significant portion of your audience. 

RSS has other advantages that email does not have - like being able to syndicate your content across the web. It can be a very useful tool for building link popularity - if you do it right.

As a marketer you do need to start brushing up on your knowledge of RSS and a good place to start is here. http://ebizwhiz-publishing.com/rss-blogging.htm 


About the Author: Priya Shah is the CEO of eBrand360. She writes the Marketing Slave blog and publishes an internet marketing newsletter.

This article may be reprinted as long as the resource box is left intact and all links are hyperlinked.

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