Beyond Email: RSS and Subscription Site Success

Subscription site success is heavily dependent on email. Subscription publishers use email to keep members informed about timely information, new site content, and upcoming events.

There’s only one problem: the email must go through—but often doesn’t!

Why email goes unread

There are several reasons for the decline in the effectiveness of email as a primary contact media for subscription websites, but one of the major causes are the Spammers who send unsolicited email offers for sexual aids, low-interest loans, foreign brides and a growing number of financial scams.

Customization and advanced features can always be added, but it is nice to know that communicating with subscribers via blogs does not have to be associated with increased complexity, up-front investment, or additional overhead.

—Roger C. Parker

Spam filters—created to “cure” the Spam problem—have become a major problem. Spam filters operate at both the Internet Service Provider level and the recipient level. Spam filters often behave capriciously. There are few standards from provider to provider, or software to software.

Worse, a single innocent mistake in an email headline or content might be enough to forever blacklist your email—without you being aware of it. The only partial salvation is to ask your subscribers to “white list” email from your address; but even that might not be enough to keep your email from getting waylaid enroute. (And, how many recipients will actually take the time to white list you?)

Filled in-boxes. The sheer volume of email also works against your message getting through. Email in-boxes routinely contain dozens—if not hundreds, hundreds?—of unread messages.

It has become too easy to subscribe to email newsletters! In the resulting clutter, it becomes difficult for recipients to separate the wheat from the chaff depending on a subject line and, if available, a few lines of text. It’s too easy to simply put off reading your e-mail until “later.”

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Wearing out your welcome. Another danger is annoying subscribers with frequent emails. Email updates sent between newsletter issues are necessary whenever site content is updated with urgent information. If you don’t notify subscribers about new content, the only visitors likely to know about it before the next issue of your newsletter would be a first-time visitor attracted by search engine advertising or optimization. But, subscribers might be annoyed by frequent mailings.

In any case, the result is the same: important emails are blocked or over-looked, and subscribers—not seeing any tangible benefits from their subscription membership—are tempted to unsubscribe.

Blogs and RSS to the rescue

Blogs are specialized types of websites assembled from numerous short posts (or “nuggets of information”) presented in reverse chronological order, i.e. latest appear at the top. Each post consists of a headline, short message—often just a few paragraphs, sometimes only a few sentences—plus links to more information.

RSS—an acronym standing for Real Simple Syndication—is an easy, hands-off, e-mail free way to automatically inform subscribers and prospects when your blog has been updated. Once clients or prospects indicate an interest in being informed whenever you add a new post, by subscribing, they can easily monitor your blog without needing to visit it over and over again (unless desired). When a subscriber encounters a headline of interest in an RSS feed, they can go directly to the post, bypassing other postings.

Subscribers use free software called News Readers to review the headlines and—usually—the first few lines of the latest posts. News Aggregators permit subscribers to be kept informed of new posts added to your blog, as well as other blogs, forms, or news feeds they may be interested in monitoring.

In addition, Windows users can also use the new, free, Mozilla Firebox browser to access blog feeds.

At a glance, your subscriber can review the topics of your latest website updates, far faster than they can open and read an email newsletter.

It is important to separate blog from RSS. Blog is the message: the term refers to a website containing short, frequently-updated posts. RSS refers to a way of letting interested readers know when your blog has been updated.

—Roger C. Parker

Benefits

Blogs and RSS put your subscribers in charge! Subscribers can visit your RSS feed as often as they like. Even if you add content to your site throughout the day, you’ll be able to keep subscribers informed—without filling their email in-box.

Your RSS feed can also appear on your website homepage, where it will always be up to date, promoting your most recently added content.

Setting up an RSS feed is easy, usually requiring only a single click. Once set up, your RSS feed will be automatically updated each time you add a new post to your blog.

More good news

Blogs and RSS will be a pleasant surprise to subscription publishers tired of the high costs associated with website design, production, and maintenance. For the first time, technology is offering a genuine bargain in terms of low prices and ease of use.

Low cost hosting. Although blogs can be hosted from your web ite, you can also create one at numerous free sites, such as Blogger.com. Other sites, like TypePad.com, cost just $15 a month, but permit users to create several, specialized blogs for just one monthly fee.

Easy, “design-free,” set-up. Because blog sites like the above offer templates and forms-based publishing, there is no need to have previous design or HTML experience. Newcomers to blogging often report they were able to set up their blog and publish their first posts within a half hour!

“Do-it-yourself” maintenance. Because posts are entered into onscreen forms, even the most technophobic publisher can easily post new content. If you are comfortable with a word processing program like Microsoft Word, you can maintain your own blog.

Customization and advanced features can always be added, but it’s nice to know that communicating with subscribers via blogs does not have to be associated with increased complexity, up-front investment, or additional overhead.

Putting blogs and RSS to work

All that’s needed is to integrate blogs and RSS feeds with existing password-protected technology, or publish the blogs from a website located on a low-profile URL.

Blog security, of course, is really not the issue, since only subscribers will be able to access the website pages containing the desired content. Thus, the blog itself becomes, as such, a promotional vehicle as well as a subscriber benefit (compared to email)—a benefit that reinforces the value of subscribing to the website.

Conclusion

Successful publishers must always look to the future. Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the future involves more Spam, more Spam filters, stuffed in-boxes, and more unopened and unread email. Estimates are that over 20 per cent of emails go unread—a number that will only increase in the future.

By offering an alternative communications path for subscriber updates, blogs and RSS can do what email often can’t do: get the news out and read!

Blogs and RSS offer enterprising information publishers an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an exciting, new, affordable technology. At present, fewer than five percent of households receive information via RSS feeds. But this number is certain to grow as Spam and clutter take its toll on email.

Find out the CMS features that publishers require to manage an online publishing business. Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways Haven Wordpress Goes Beyond Wordpress, and discover the features all publishers should have access to for a bigger audience, greater revenue, and higher profits.

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