RSS vs. Email Delivery: Is Email Dead?

By Debbie Weil
Publisher, WordBiz Report

RSS (which stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) is the new hot topic. In simplest terms, it's a way to publish or receive news and content electronically - without using email.

Tech guru and publisher Chris Pirillo explains it this way:

"It enables headlines to be distributed online instantly... Instead of giving people a newsletter formatted to our tastes and delivered on our time schedule, we can provide them with a means to get the same content in text or HTML whenever they want it."

The connection with email and e-newsletters is...

Some folks (including Pirillo) are saying that spam filters and flooded inboxes mean the death of email as an effective marketing and publishing channel. And that RSS is the new alternative.

That's one side of the argument. The other is that email marketing is doing just fine, thank you.

Scroll down for a roundup of recent articles that explain the pros and cons of RSS vs. email.

Remind me again, what is RSS... ?

Here's my quickie explanation: You don't receive an RSS feed through email or your Web browser. Instead you use a news reader or a news aggregator, a simple piece of software that you download and install on your computer.

Your news reader scrapes (yes, that's the "in" word) newly-posted headlines and summaries of RSS content you've subscribed to. It delivers those headlines instantly to your computer.

Newsgator is one example of a popular news reader because it works seamlessly with Outlook. See Barbara Feldman's message to her subscribers below for a list of other news readers.

And the connection with blogs is?

Blogs are coded in RSS (as opposed to HTML). This makes it easy to distribute your blog content to anyone with a news reader like NewsGator.

Most Weblogs are available as RSS feeds by clicking on an orange XML button, like the one above. But so are an increasing number of e-newsletters, as well as new product announcements, eBay listings, etc.

I may produce WordBiz Report as an RSS feed.

In the meantime, here is what my blog looks like in RSS: (It's a way of coding or formatting a document, just as HTML is a code.)

If you have a news reader installed, you can "subscribe" to my blog by going to Scroll down and right click on the XML button.

Remind me what a blog is...

A Weblog or blog is a self-publishing tool that enables you to post new content to your site (specifically, your blog page) daily, hourly or as often as you wish. A number of companies and organizations are beginning to incorporate blogs into their sites in order to keep the content fresh and authentic.

In simplest terms, a blog is a content management tool that anyone can use to update a site (no technical expertise required).

Good, clear explanations of RSS

Informative letter to her subscribers by SurfNetKids publisher Barbara Feldman

Barbara explains three different ways to subscribe to SurfNetKids: as HTML email, as text email or as an RSS feed. (And she offers both "headlines-only" and full articles in RSS format.) I highly recommend her clearly-written article.

Ralph Wilson's Web Marketing Today (Oct. 1, 2003 issue): Using RSS Feeds to Promote Your Website

Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome RSS 3-Step Quickstart Guide

The Jennings Report: Special Issue on RSS by Jeanne S. Jennings

My earlier quick explanation of RSS (from my article "5 key questions about business blogs")

RSS described as a "Web standard" that makes it easy to get news and other content (from

EEVL's RSS Primer (a little techie but very complete)

RSS Tutorial for Content Publishers by Mark Nottingham
Thanks to Mark Brownlow for a pointer to this resource.

Yahoo explains its RSS feeds

Cons: email is doing just fine

A really simple content solution by Rebecca Lieb in ClickZ.
Rebecca makes the point that RSS is still a little-known technology and that publishers can't track readers' response the way they can with an HTML newsletter, for example.

DoubleClick's 2003 2nd quarter Email Trend Report

Most notable stat: click-through, open and delivery rates have increased since Q2 2002 (as much as 10.7%).
Download this three-page PDF (free)

MarketingSherpa's revised Email Marketing Metrics Guide (all-new 2nd edition)
Download this meaty guide
for the latest stats on email marketing and e-newsletters. From the introduction: "According to the dozens of research sources cited in this Guide, the rumors of email marketing's 'death' are completely inaccurate."

Email marketing still works (MediaPost)

[From Sept. 17, 2003 issue of WordBiz Report]

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