Last Night’s RSS Marketing Industry “Roundtable”

Last night I was invited to attend a dinner to discuss issues that marketers and aggregators are facing as people are beginning to use RSS as a marketing channel. People in traditional email marketing businesses are asking how they can deliver “One-to-one marketing” via RSS – that is, how can they track and target individuals through RSS. I wasn’t there at the beginning, but CDF and Netscape’s RSS were thought of as more of a broadcast medium and not designed like email where every message is unique.

The conversation got lively when someone stated “well, maybe we shouldn’t try to market via RSS, leave it alone” (I’m badly paraphrasing). Marketers and tool manufacturers defended their take and in the process I learned a lot about where this industry may go as marketers come on board.

I think I picked up a few key things:

  1. No index flag. We need a way to mark an RSS feed as “OK to aggregate, but don’t show in search results”. For publishers who output a different feed per user, you don’t want to see 100 different feeds that are basically the same thing.
  2. Truly Personalized Feeds could be cool – if you could get your own updates from your bank (lets ignore security for just a sec) via RSS that would be compelling. I think the whole industry wants that, but he who executes for real will be a leader here.
  3. Tracking A lot of the tool companies say that they want personalized feeds, but really want tracking. The ability to get granular stats on who is reading their content, so they want to tie a user on their site to the RSS. I think sites can get there using tried and true methods (cookies/beacons, etc) so I hope the industry can work to realize that they don’t need to do #2 to accomplish their goals.

Overall, I always like events where I can see things from a different perspective than my own and I’m glad people are talking about all of this early. I look forward to the next steps: actually getting to work to look more critically at this and at least do #1 to start. And for those looking for #3 above, I encourage you all to come together to think through this creatively and at the same time recognize when you are & when you are not doing #2.

UPDATE: Rok (the host of the event) has a much better writeup on his blog.

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