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RSS Killed The Email Star

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-12-15

The RSS & Brand session at the Syndicate Conference discussed the potential for RSS feeds displacing email as the preferred way to get the message from businesses to consumers; now the technology just needs more users to begin using it.

Has email value as a marketing tool come to an end, or does it still work well for your site. Send us some comments at WebProWorld.

What was the first video MTV played when the channel launched?
Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles.
-- from an old Trivial Pursuit card

QuickBooks Division group manager Scott Wilder assessed the online community during the session, with regards to how Intuit's QuickBooks customers use the Internet. "Our visitors prefer boards to blogs. They are a year away from tags. They don't know what XML or RSS even is. Don't get discouraged; this is the other America."

Wilder's division caters to those users with forums at QuickBooks' online community site, which launched in September. The approach is working. "It is helping us take a leadership position in financial management. It helps us change our paradigm from shrink wrap to online," he said.

So where does RSS fit in to Intuit's plans? Right now it's a traffic driver, according to Wilder. "One fifth of our traffic is users bypassing the front page and getting there directly via RSS feeds. What we are building out now is a way for the users of the site to create the content. We also partner with SimpleFeed to help our users subscribe to our RSS feeds."

Most of Intuit's users are not that sophisticated about the Internet. (Think old-school accountants. - Rich Ord) Wilder noted the approach Intuit has taken to build their brand online and bring those users along has been a simple, block-and-tackle approach that makes it easy for users to connect to the company.

Google Reader product manager Jason Shellen sees RSS differently. The focus on RSS feeds by the New York Times, which touted the technology as the wave of the future, "makes you think, 'I want to be part of the future'," Shellen said.

"If you have email newsletters you should consider porting over to RSS...possibly not to replace it though, because some people still seem to like email."

Shellen, who came to Google via their acquisition of Pyra's Blogger, said that "RSS speaks to blogging, weather updates and other types of content. Feeds as a platform are really a delivery mechanism. Providing engaging content works over time."

Now that Shellen is on the Google Reader team, he and his group use the feed search to track what others say about the product. That helps them add features, like the ability to expand a photo in a photo feed; Shellen said Google just launched that feature for Reader the day of the session.

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