The recent Forrester Research study, which claims that only 2% of online households in North America use RSS, took the internet marketing world by storm. Does this data really mean that marketers can still afford to ignore this channel?
Should marketers be interested in RSS now that so few online adults use it?
Is this the correct question to ask? Let’s take a look at the bigger picture …
1. The Forrester study validity
The Forrester study is just one of those available and cannot be considered as the only relevant study, although it was conducted on a sample of 68,000 households.
Jupiter Research estimates RSS penetration at 12% of the American online population, while the latest report from PEW shows that 9% of the American online population has a good idea of what RSS is. An October 2004 PEW study actually estimated RSS penetration at 5%.
It is also important to understand that Forrester data does not include those that might not even be aware they are using RSS, especially through services such as My.Yahoo, which is actually the most popular RSS reader.
Also, at the same time, Forrester Vice President Henry Harteveldt says that RSS is critical for any organization that wants to reach out to people under the age of 30.
2. The future growth of RSS
Regardless of the numbers we put our faith in, the future growth of RSS is without question. Microsoft just recently announced full RSS support in the next edition of their Internet Explorer browser and full RSS integration in the next edition of their operating system, the Windows Vista.
Once RSS becomes easily available to most internet users out-of-the-box and becomes as widely spread as bookmarks, its adoption will grow at an incredible rate. Microsoft has now made sure this in fact will happen.
Consequently, the time for marketers to not only become interested in RSS but also master it is now. Those that test and discover the best possible ways of using RSS for marketing will be ahead of their competition once everyone starts using RSS.
Furthermore, since RSS implementation can actually be free of any charge, there’s no reason not to start providing your content in RSS feeds now.
3. Google shows the way
Microsoft and Yahoo! aren’t the only big players to show support for RSS. Google recently launched RSS advertising as part of their Google AdSense program, giving publishers reason to start their own RSS feeds to generate direct revenues.
Those that depend on Google AdSense for part or all of their online revenues actually need to provide RSS feeds, or stand to lose some of those revenues due to their visitors switching to sites and feeds from their competitors.
Face it, today many users are already starting to request publishers provide them with RSS to subscribe to their content. This trend will only continue, with many users selecting RSS as their primary channel of receiving and reading online content.
4. The questionable reliability of e-mail
All marketers today are experiencing e-mail delivery problems, constantly wondering whether their messages are getting through or not. Simply put, e-mail can no longer be relied on.
For one, offering your content via RSS as a supplement to e-mail will help you make certain that at least a portion of your visitors, those that decide for the RSS option, will be receiving all of your content without any doubt.
Lockergnome.com decided to start pushing RSS instead of e-mail some time ago, and as a result saw that their RSS feeds are outperforming e-mail when it comes to clickthrough rates for about 500%. Also an interesting fact, they today have 5 times more RSS subscribers than e-mail subscribers.
And two, for your most important content updates, RSS really is becoming a must, especially if you need to be in contact with your existing customers, partners and other key audiences. If you want to be 100% certain that your messages reach your audience, RSS is the way to go.
5. Other benefits of RSS
But all of the above don’t even touch all the reasons why marketers should start using RSS today …
a) RSS will help you generate additional traffic and reach new audiences. Considering the low cost of RSS implementation, this is reason enough to get started with RSS today.
b) RSS helps you to easily get your content published on other sites, thus generating you more credibility and visitors.
c) As a publisher you can use RSS to display content from other sources, thus making your site more relevant and interesting to your existing visitors.
And the list goes on and on.
RSS may not be mainstream yet, but it provides enough advantages even today to make it a must-choice for marketers.