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SXSW: Using RSS for Marketing

Sean Ammirati of mSpoke is at
SXSW in Austin, TX (USA). He is reporting for Read/WriteWeb throughout the event.

This morning, I attended a panel titled
RSS for Marketing
“. The panel had a great set of participants including: Tom
CEO, EvolvePoint (moderator);
Emily Chang Co-founder, Ideacodes; Bill
Chief Mktg Officer, Pheedo Inc; John
Owner, Duct Tape Marketing;
Greg Reinacker CTO/Founder, NewsGator
Technologies Inc

Tom’s style of facilitation (at least for this panel) guided the conversation to cover
a broad range of topics extremely quickly. However, at a high level, the panel

  • Where are we in terms of user adoption / understanding of RSS
  • Reasons marketers should syndicate content
  • What are marketers and publishers doing wrong?

User adoption / understanding of RSS

The panel all agreed that user adoption of RSS is continuing to grow. They also all
agreed that inclusion of an RSS reader in Internet
Explorer 7
has helped increase adoption. Bill pointed to some research showing a 500% growth in
the automotive vertical in 2006, as one example of this growth spreading outside of the
technology and early-adopter crowd.

However, they also agreed that most people don’t actually know they are consuming RSS
content. Greg Reinacker did an excellent job summarizing the consensus of the group when
he stated: “It is not about RSS at all, it is about subscribing to content”. Yahoo and
Ipsos did some interesting research (pdf) in Oct
2005 that showed there are a large percentage of unaware RSS users. Apparently, this
group is continuing to grow in size.

Interestingly, Bill commented that even in pitches to advertisers, Pheedo has stopped
talking about RSS and now just talks about ‘content distribution’ or ‘syndication’.

Reasons Marketers Should Syndicate Content

The panel went through a number of reasons why marketers would consider syndicating
their content via RSS. The reasons tended to fall into the following ‘meta reasons’:

  • It’s an easy and faster way to deliver information to their customers and other
    audience members;
  • Marketers are becoming more like publishers (here’s a good description of
    – nb: free acct required); the panel said RSS is a great way for
    marketers to participate;
  • It is a very easy way to optimize your content for search results, because if your
    feed is optimized then the content is crawled and archived efficiently for search

What are marketers and publishers doing wrong?

Bill talked about publishers “being too stingy with their content”. He indicated that
most want to restrict the feed to partial text, even though in the research
they have done the difference in response rate (clicking back to the website) is not
statistically significant between full and partial text. In addition, he talked about the
importance of adding your company’s name to posts and potentially even as part of the
title (like the AP

John talked about making sure your content is easy to subscribe to. Going back to the
state of adoption, he encouraged all bloggers, publishers and marketers to make it very
easy to subscribe. He even encouraged marketers targeting lower-tech audiences to include
a video or page description, explaining exactly how to subscribe to your content.

The panel also touched on the limited amount of tracking that publishers and marketers
do on their feeds and the importance of including basic analytics. Note: I discovered
very similar things in a yet to be published second phase report that I prepared for the
Newspaper Association of America, on ‘RSS Next and Best Practices’. Here is a link to a
brief description of the full
, on my personal blog. The second phase involved surveying 70+ newspapers
about their use of RSS.

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