At 12:11 PM -0800 11/30/03, Bill Pease wrote:
>Email is being abused as a broadcast medium. By deprecating all mass
mailings, and going RSS (i.e. pull feeds), we will cut the rug out from
under the feet of so-called "legitimate bulk e-mailers". Such a thing
will no longer exist by definition. They will stick out like sore
thumbs. Legitimate communities of interest can use RSS or internal
usenet feeds or web-bords or whatever.
To recommend that "legitimate communities of interest" abandon their
current communication practices and switch to a distribution
mechanism that has virtually no market penetration seems as extreme
to me as attempting to redesign SMTP from the ground up to cure the
RSS feeds have a long way to go before legitimate email publishers
(such as all of my company's clients - member-based organizations
like AFL-CIO, Public Broadcasting System, American Red Cross -
would be willing to abandon push email for pull news aggregators.
I guess we each see things from our own perspectives. I see the BBC,
the Guardian, most tech news operations, and nearly ever 'blogger' on
the planet using RSS and marketers moving to it as a means of
escaping the problems of email.
It should be noted for readers that you are coming at this from the
perspective of a company which sends unsolicited bulk email for
profit and goes so far as to maintain a fraudulent .org domain
registration in support of that endeavor.
Audience Reach Limits:
*RSS readers have very limited market penetration (<5%), requiring
installation of additional software into email client, browser or
That is remarkably like the 1993 argument for remaining with Gopher.
HTTP/HTML client penetration was lousy.
*Limited to no support for graphically-enhanced content
*Limited support for variety of content types typical in newsletter publishing
These apply to email far more, and for both media are client-bound.
One way in which RSS is an improvement in this area is that an
increasing number of organizations are starting to treat email with
'rich' content as spam, and simply dropping it at the mail server.
RSS clients are just specialized HTTP clients, so that sort of risk
is essentially zero. The issue of aggregators not directly supporting
rich content is more complex -- see below.
*No support for content customization or personalization based on
False. It has to be worked a different way than with email but
customized RSS is no harder than customized HTML. You have to think
of it as a web application, not a mail-merge project.
*Limited support for tracking subscriber interaction with content
That is more limited with email than most people in your business
care to admit. Tracking anything other than whether a user
intentionally follows an URL in email was never very reliable and is
persistently becoming less so, to the point where the claims of some
people in the email marketing business regarding things like 'web
bugs' is now bordering on fraudulent.
*No support for various transactions that can be enabled within
email (e.g., donation, viral marketing).
It seems that you have missed out on how RSS clients get used and on
what an RSS feed actually is. They are typically not total
replacements for web clients and the full web-based versions of
content, but rather a way for users to see an overview of a
publisher's current content with every item having a link to the full
content. Anything that you can do on a website can be syndicated
(i.e. *ADVERTISED* to people who have affirmatively chosen to see
your ads) with RSS.
It is true that today there is not enough market penetration of
decent clients to flip a switch and move every mailing list of every
flavor to RSS, and that the way clients currently exist for the most
part is a hindrance, but it is pretty clear that this is a short-term
issue. There are already developers hooking in aggregators to Outlook
and combining them with web browsers. RSS is an easy addition to
modern browsers because it is an XML application, and it takes very
little in the way of extra smarts to make a web browser parse RSS and
present it in a useful way.
for some balanced discussions within the email publishers world
about the potential advantages/disadvantages of RSS as a
I find it interesting that aside from the issue of whether people
have clients now, which is a real but very likely quite short-term
issue, nearly all of the cited disadvantages are concerns exclusively
for marketers. This points at a significant problem for email
marketers because as varieties of bulk mail which are not so
marketing-oriented join the bloggers in using RSS and abandon any
need to think about the entire issue of spam, bulk email will become
increasing only a medium for marketing of various sorts (including
that done by entities like PBS and the American Red Cross) and simply
whacking all bulk email at the server level will become increasingly
attractive to most mail server operators. Right now, that's a hard
decision to take on a policy level but an increasingly easy decision
to implement technically. As the balance of benefits to recipients
versus benefits to sender shifts increasingly away from recipients,
people who serve recipients will find it easier to make that policy
decision to the detriment of senders.
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