RSS as a Change Agent
RSS as a Change Agent
Copyright 2005 Rok Hrastnik
To better understand how RSS is changing the way companies
and individuals deliver and consume content on the macro scale,
let us first remember how content is traditionally delivered and
People subscribe to e-mail newsletters or e-mail update
services to get content delivered directly to their inboxes. It's
(or better yet, was) convenient, easy and simple.
But, in order to get content delivered to their inboxes,
they must first reveal their e-mail addresses, which are basically
ID numbers that allow anyone who knows them to send whatever they
like to these ID numbers.
In a perfect world people would only receive the content
that they requested and only from the people that they wanted to
hear from --> the people that can provide them with relevant information,
specific to their interests and current situation.
But this is not a perfect world.
Since the “ID number” allows anyone to contact anyone,
people have very little control over who actually does contact them
and what information they send them.
In a way, it's a “perfect democracy” that just doesn't
work. Because, in reality, we don't want to hear from everyone that
thinks they have something to say to us. In reality, we only want
to hear from a very limited circle of people and receive very limited
types of content categories.
But, for the sake of the argument, let's presume that
we are actually getting information only from the people that we
want to hear from. Unfortunately these people still have the power
to send us whatever information they like, not just the information
we want to receive from them. Basically, they have the power to
push any kind of content to our e-mail inboxes.
We can either unsubscribe, if they give us this opportunity,
from their e-mail service or continue to receive their content as
it is. One of the problems with this is that unsubscribing can be
a rather tedious process, definitely not a two-click affair, and
some people even doubt that the unsubscribe feature will actually
This is our reality.
We are, more or less, forced to receive content we
mostly don't want to receive, and for the content that we do want
to receive, we also have to put up with much information we don't
want to get.
This is the “democratic” nature of e-mail and many
marketers and publishers have been abusing it for a long time. It's
not the medium's fault of course; it's just that people are who
And now enter RSS in to the picture, a “new” channel
that users need to proactively add to their content consumption
mix, including proactively adding content publishers they want to
hear from, thus eliminating the “democracy” of e-mail, conversely,
limiting our “content diet” only to the publishers we actually want
to hear from.
But there's more.
One of this channel's characteristics is that it's
extremely easy to remove content publishers you don't want to hear
Now, all of us have very limited time for online content
consumption. It's always been this way, but with e-mail content
consumption we usually don't even bother ourselves with unsubscribing
from the content we don't want to receive, since we already receive
hundreds of SPAM e-mails per day anyway, so why bother with unsubscribing
from a few e-mail lists and the few additional e-mails we receive
per week. Most people don't even know anymore what they subscribe
to since they have no unified view of all of their e-mail subscriptions.
However, this new channel, RSS, is quite different.
Here you have an exact view of what you subscribe to. You see exactly
which content publishers are on your list and you can remove any
of them immediately, without even a second thought. It's quick,
easy and comfortable.
Compare this with the relative difficulty of unsubscribing
from e-mail lists, and even with the e-mail mindset where you just
don't care to be bothered anymore with unsubscribing, since you
don't have a view of what you subscribe to anyway.
This new channel takes the democracy right out of
content delivery for publishers and brings it back for end-users.
If RSS content publishers want to keep and grow their
readership, they cannot afford to do the things they could have
easily been doing with e-mail. Instantly, all the content needs
to be highly relevant. You can no longer afford to send out blatant
advertising messages or too much content that is of little interest
to your target audience. If you want to survive you need to tailor
all of your content specifically to the needs of your target audience.
RSS content delivery must in nature be more relevant than content
delivered by e-mail. RSS content publishers know this and most are
providing exactly this, very relevant content, usually more relevant
than what most e-mail publishers are doing, since they are taking
in to consideration the specific characteristics of the channel.
And there are more publishers like this every day. And eventually,
even those that use both e-mail and RSS to deliver content, change
the way they are delivering content using e-mail.
Their entire content production becomes more relevant
to the user's needs. It's quite easy to imagine the larger-scale
implications of this. Since more and more publishers are starting
to offer more relevant content, that also raises the bar for other
content publishers, even those not using RSS. Our expectations are
increasing every day.
We are no longer content with mediocre content, we
actually expect and even demand more relevancy. And so the circle
is completed. Early RSS publishers have started raising our expectations
of what to expect from internet content and have thus affected our
internet content consumption habits.
Users, in affect, are starting to demand more, which
in turn forces other publishers to comply with the increased demands.
This process has just begun and still has a long way to go, but
it has begun and will not stop.
About the Author:
Rok Hrastnik is the author of »Unleash the Marketing & Publishing
Power of RSS«, acclaimed as the best and most comprehensive guide
on marketing with RSS by top RSS industry leaders, experts, developers
and top marketers. Find out all you need to know about RSS and how
to use it to get your content delivered, win back your customers,
make more sales and increase search engine rankings http://rss.marketingstudies.net/index.html