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You are here: Home » iNet Marketing Article Database » The Death of e-Mail Marketing » Response by Tom Hespos, Underscore Marketing

October 15, 2003

Response by Tom Hespos, Underscore Marketing

We received a response to the e-mail debate from Tom Hespos today. Tom gives some additional insight on RSS replacing e-mail as a content delivery vehicle. I must say I agree with him on the issue about integrating RSS in to popular e-mail clients ...

"I see the popularity of RSS as an opportunity for interactive marketing to clean up its act. Truth be told, we've needed an interactive vehicle that operates on RSS's permission model for quite some time now.

I've been saying it for years in my columns on Mediapost and ClickZ: The e-mail marketing business has a sketchy underbelly that prioritizes profits over permission. This has led to a situation in which the average consumer has little control over the deluge of content pushed at him once he gives out his e-mail address. Even so-called "legitimate" e-mail marketing companies have polluted databases in which names that were scraped from the web or acquired through other non-permission-based means are represented as "opt-in" or "double opt-in" to online advertisers. Statistics quoted by DoubleClick and other marketing intelligence companies regarding stable response rates notwithstanding, the spammers have thoroughly wrecked outbound e-mail marketing for any legitimate marketer that might want to use it. (I'll suspend judgment on things like newsletter sponsorships and managed house lists, but e-mail list rental is already dead, dead, dead.)

Why? It's the permission model. Consumers lose control over the permission process once they give out their e-mail address. Sure, we have tools like spam filters to help us manage unwanted e-mail, but we know that even the best of these tools is not 100 percent accurate.

RSS is different. The consumer has irrevocable control over the permission process. Consumers select their own feeds. If something about a particular feed rubs them the wrong way, they unsubscribe and they get nothing more from the feed's content provider. The content provider has no e-mail address to sell, rent, barter or give away to third parties. The information simply stops flowing.

What this gives marketers is a new channel, but one that simply won't tolerate the mistakes online marketers have made in the past. To succeed with RSS, a publisher will be forced to disseminate content that doesn't suck with advertising that doesn't suck. This is a formidable challenge today - much less when RSS takes leave of the early tech adopters and goes mainstream.

RSS will live or die depending on two things:

1) The publishers' ability to monetize the channel
2) The popularity of RSS clients

Both of these things are tough to predict. If publishers look to popular convention in online advertising to give them guidance, they're in trouble. RSS subscribers are not going to stand for overly excessive and irrelevant advertising, like we currently have in the web advertising channel. RSS subscribers will vote with their "delete feed" buttons. If they set the bar too high, subscribers bail. If they set it too low, they can't monetize the channel. The winners will find the happy medium.

As for the popularity of RSS clients, I'm adding a wish to my nightly prayers that RSS functionality will soon be added to major e-mail clients like Outlook. That would catapult RSS to a new pinnacle of popularity and would be a whole lot better for this medium than waiting for organic uptake of the freeware and shareware RSS clients that are already out there. (No offense to those talented programmers that have made the effort. I'm just being realistic, is all...)

To wrap up, I'm really happy that RSS is starting to go mainstream. If the online marketing community wants to support RSS with ad dollars, marketers will be forced to produce both content that doesn't suck and advertising that doesn't suck. It will make better marketers out of all of us.

Tom Hespos
Underscore Marketing
(212) 647-1787 (Office)
(917) 566-8435 (Mobile)"

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