Sign up right now for email updates and get two free ebooks:

Why We Need a Next Generation RSS

When dealing with customers or subscribers to an email newsletter you know you are dealing with an individual. You can judge the depth of your relationship with this individual and look for signs of their level of satisfaction. RSS subscribers are anonymous.

Most emails are personalised somewhat, at the very least “Dear Sir/Madam” becomes “Hi Chris”. RSS is one-size-fits-all.

OK on many blogs you can subscribe to a category, comments or a particular thread. Many companies provide custom RSS based on selected topics or a routine search. What tends to be common is if you want to change your parameters you have to subscribe to a whole new feed. There is no concept of “you”, the subscriber, just feeds.

RSS can easily be personalised, it is after all usually just a database search result output in a certain way. Why have do we not have a richer RSS experience on blogs?

When my dentist hasn’t seen me for a while he sends me a postcard. I am not just “some guy who had root canal” I am “Mr Garrett” (actually, no, that’s my Dad, I am “Chris”). If my wifes favourite catalogue hasn’t seen any purchases from her for a while they send a money-off offer brochure to entice her back (and it works).

How do you know on your blog, especially if you publish full feeds, if your subscribers are readers? Are they getting more involved or are you leaving them cold?

Perhaps someone has already developed the feed of my dreams, I just don’t know about it yet.

Email newsletters might be old-school but there are ways RSS still needs to catch up. We need an “RSS+”, a true attention-permission tool.

Sign up right now for email updates and get these
two free ebooks

"Creating Killer
Flagship Content"

"Authority Alliances"

Just enter your primary email address in the form below and hit the button!

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!

Comments

  1. Chris,

    I am SO with you on this! I come from an email marketing background, and have been teaching clients how to use blog/RSS-powered marketing tools instead – for the incredible ease-of-use of the blogging interface compared to the old-school, HTML table-and-tag soup of newsletter and shopping cart systems.

    Web-based services like Feedburner and CampaignMonitor have made great strides in bridging the gap, but you’re right — the most basic of Email List Capture, and email newsletter management feature — the trusty [insert first name here] function is a critical level of sophistication missing from RSS.

    Is there any reason why this can’t be introduced to RSS?

    Opt-in permission-based marketing tools have saturated the Web for the last decade. I think as more people continue to cross over to RSS- CSS- Standards-based publishing tools, we’ll hopefully see the RSS+ you describe.

    I’ve got a wish list ready!

  2. Chris,

    I am SO with you on this! I come from an email marketing background, and have been teaching clients how to use blog/RSS-powered marketing tools instead – for the incredible ease-of-use of the blogging interface compared to the old-school, HTML table-and-tag soup of newsletter and shopping cart systems.

    Web-based services like Feedburner and CampaignMonitor have made great strides in bridging the gap, but you’re right — the most basic of Email List Capture, and email newsletter management feature — the trusty [insert first name here] function is a critical level of sophistication missing from RSS.

    Is there any reason why this can’t be introduced to RSS?

    Opt-in permission-based marketing tools have saturated the Web for the last decade. I think as more people continue to cross over to RSS- CSS- Standards-based publishing tools, we’ll hopefully see the RSS+ you describe.

    I’ve got a wish list ready!

  3. You raise an important point Chris. Personalization will probably be brought to RSS sometime, though right now RSS feeds are easy to use because of requiring no registration whatsoever. You find a feed, copy its url and paste it into your rss reader. That’s it. Maybe that is one of the reasons it is getting popular?

    I think many people are simply considering RSS to be a concept that should never be fancy. Ronald from http://www.ronalfy.com created a plugin that adds custom css styling to feeds, and some users did not like the idea. They said they love RSS feeds because of them being simple and the same like any other RSS feed, both visually and in actual implementation.

    I like your example of the dentist and the catalogue; I think adding a personal name really adds value to a message: “Wow, this message is intended solely for me. I am a human being in their view, and not just another business transaction.”

    Sorry, but I got a bit confused about something you wrote, maybe I need to reread it a few times. You said:

    “How do you know on your blog, especially if you publish full feeds, if your subscribers are readers? Are they getting more involved or are you leaving them cold?”

    If you have time please, could you explain this a bit more if possible? Do you mean personalization allows us to know if we have real humans reading feeds or if it’s only bots accessing our feeds? Or do you mean a way to track their personal usage of our feeds since we would know who they are if your ideas were implemented?

    Thanks again for such a nice concept. RSS is wonderful, but it still isn’t something that has changed everything [I mentioned this latter part a while back on my site]. I myself still prefer e-mail newsletters, as they are easier to manage on some levels, and I can see updates on sites like yours while reading other important emails also.

  4. You raise an important point Chris. Personalization will probably be brought to RSS sometime, though right now RSS feeds are easy to use because of requiring no registration whatsoever. You find a feed, copy its url and paste it into your rss reader. That’s it. Maybe that is one of the reasons it is getting popular?

    I think many people are simply considering RSS to be a concept that should never be fancy. Ronald from http://www.ronalfy.com created a plugin that adds custom css styling to feeds, and some users did not like the idea. They said they love RSS feeds because of them being simple and the same like any other RSS feed, both visually and in actual implementation.

    I like your example of the dentist and the catalogue; I think adding a personal name really adds value to a message: “Wow, this message is intended solely for me. I am a human being in their view, and not just another business transaction.”

    Sorry, but I got a bit confused about something you wrote, maybe I need to reread it a few times. You said:

    “How do you know on your blog, especially if you publish full feeds, if your subscribers are readers? Are they getting more involved or are you leaving them cold?”

    If you have time please, could you explain this a bit more if possible? Do you mean personalization allows us to know if we have real humans reading feeds or if it’s only bots accessing our feeds? Or do you mean a way to track their personal usage of our feeds since we would know who they are if your ideas were implemented?

    Thanks again for such a nice concept. RSS is wonderful, but it still isn’t something that has changed everything [I mentioned this latter part a while back on my site]. I myself still prefer e-mail newsletters, as they are easier to manage on some levels, and I can see updates on sites like yours while reading other important emails also.

  5. Thats really a great idea.May be it can have the email id of the user which can be sent if the user has missed the feed or havent read it for long.That might work

  6. Thats really a great idea.May be it can have the email id of the user which can be sent if the user has missed the feed or havent read it for long.That might work

  7. Thanks for the mention Bes. Chris, if you’re curious, the plugin’s location is at Devlounge. I noticed several searches on my personal site.

  8. Thanks for the mention Bes. Chris, if you’re curious, the plugin’s location is at Devlounge. I noticed several searches on my personal site.

  9. @Bes, It was tracking usage I had in mind but if you think about it a bot would probably have an abnormal pattern of behaviour that could be spotted. A human being would probably not read everything you write, and would maybe revisit posts they found interesting. Bots more than likely would read every post just once?

  10. @Bes, It was tracking usage I had in mind but if you think about it a bot would probably have an abnormal pattern of behaviour that could be spotted. A human being would probably not read everything you write, and would maybe revisit posts they found interesting. Bots more than likely would read every post just once?

  11. Yes Chris (or, if you wish, Mr. Garrett 🙂 ), I think that is a good idea, and it would work, but more in theory than in practice.

    I do agree with the other commentators, that RSS works quite well because it is fairly easy to use. Time has become such a precious denominator that people cut corners whenever they can. And when you make up your list of priorities, filling out an RSS-Customization form is probably not on the top of the list.

    Could you develop a little more in what way you would personalize something like that if you had a chance to do it?

    Thanks for the good thoughts.

  12. Yes Chris (or, if you wish, Mr. Garrett 🙂 ), I think that is a good idea, and it would work, but more in theory than in practice.

    I do agree with the other commentators, that RSS works quite well because it is fairly easy to use. Time has become such a precious denominator that people cut corners whenever they can. And when you make up your list of priorities, filling out an RSS-Customization form is probably not on the top of the list.

    Could you develop a little more in what way you would personalize something like that if you had a chance to do it?

    Thanks for the good thoughts.

  13. Personalization from publisher to subscriber is one thing, but is that really what you are looking for? I mean, even if I’d address you as Dear {Whatever Your Name}, or would be able to splice in items that are of particular interest to you as my fan, it’s still a one-way street. The most value in my opinion would come from obtaining feedback, comments, ratings, votes from people who are actually consuming the stuff you push out to them and who care to show their involvement with it. Then you’d effectively know the difference between subscribers and readers.

  14. Personalization from publisher to subscriber is one thing, but is that really what you are looking for? I mean, even if I’d address you as Dear {Whatever Your Name}, or would be able to splice in items that are of particular interest to you as my fan, it’s still a one-way street. The most value in my opinion would come from obtaining feedback, comments, ratings, votes from people who are actually consuming the stuff you push out to them and who care to show their involvement with it. Then you’d effectively know the difference between subscribers and readers.

  15. Imagine if publishers could know what an individual is reading or ignoring. Then picture on the bottom of posts small links so readers would be able to say “more like this please” “no more of this”.

    Not terribly hard to do, but it would take RSS feed reader developers to get on board.

    Anyone worried about privacy could still subscribe to vanilla RSS.

  16. Imagine if publishers could know what an individual is reading or ignoring. Then picture on the bottom of posts small links so readers would be able to say “more like this please” “no more of this”.

    Not terribly hard to do, but it would take RSS feed reader developers to get on board.

    Anyone worried about privacy could still subscribe to vanilla RSS.

  17. Thats a good suggestion.We can talk more to our readers and get some info.Wish i can add comment box in my feed.They can send comment from the feed itself

  18. Thats a good suggestion.We can talk more to our readers and get some info.Wish i can add comment box in my feed.They can send comment from the feed itself

  19. Thanks Chris.

    I’m not a programmer, but have to work with several programmers – and so have caught on some of the logic.

    How RSS+ would work is simple:

    Create unique RSS links.

    For example:

    http://www.site.com/rss-00012.rss

    If some one places that RSS feed in their reader, the database automatically creates a new RSS link:

    http://www.site.com/rss-00013.rss

    If some one places that RSS feed in their reader, the database creates another new RSS link – and so on.

    But here is the personalization problem – to personalize, you have to get the name and other values. Your dentist can’t send you a personalized postcard without knowing your name. Most people use RSS because they can be anonymous. They won’t fill forms and give you their names just to access the RSS feed. Because that would then be just like email.

    Even though RSS+ idea may not be the best for personalization, its a good idea for tracking. You could keep a track as to which “number” clicks on the links from which post…

  20. Thanks Chris.

    I’m not a programmer, but have to work with several programmers – and so have caught on some of the logic.

    How RSS+ would work is simple:

    Create unique RSS links.

    For example:

    http://www.site.com/rss-00012.rss

    If some one places that RSS feed in their reader, the database automatically creates a new RSS link:

    http://www.site.com/rss-00013.rss

    If some one places that RSS feed in their reader, the database creates another new RSS link – and so on.

    But here is the personalization problem – to personalize, you have to get the name and other values. Your dentist can’t send you a personalized postcard without knowing your name. Most people use RSS because they can be anonymous. They won’t fill forms and give you their names just to access the RSS feed. Because that would then be just like email.

    Even though RSS+ idea may not be the best for personalization, its a good idea for tracking. You could keep a track as to which “number” clicks on the links from which post…

  21. There are a few ways to skin this cat. My preferred solution would be “vanilla feed / personalised feed” with the latter taking you to a form where you can add your name, perhaps email address, then some checkboxes for what you want to see. The feed would then look like /feed/ or /feed/?user=5678ghjdsa6y23 (for e.g.)

    Main challenge is getting the platform vendors (drupal, wordpress, MT, …) and feed/reader developers (google, blogbridge, feedburner) to agree on a decent standard that will enable additional features consistently

  22. There are a few ways to skin this cat. My preferred solution would be “vanilla feed / personalised feed” with the latter taking you to a form where you can add your name, perhaps email address, then some checkboxes for what you want to see. The feed would then look like /feed/ or /feed/?user=5678ghjdsa6y23 (for e.g.)

    Main challenge is getting the platform vendors (drupal, wordpress, MT, …) and feed/reader developers (google, blogbridge, feedburner) to agree on a decent standard that will enable additional features consistently