Many businesses periodically send newsletters by postal mail to keep subscribers current on their affairs or industry-related news, for the purpose of maintaining a loyal customer base to whom they can market additional products or services. With pervasive use of the internet for information dissemination, and with RSS News Feeds gaining momentum as a powerful online communication tool, one needs to ask whether businesses are now better served by publishing news feeds in lieu of newsletters.
There are obvious convenience factors that favor publishing news feeds over newsletters: No newsletter design delays or expenses, no printing delays, no printing costs, no postage costs, no mailing lists. But are news feeds more effective than newsletters in delivering the message? And if so, can anyone with essentially no knowledge of news feeds and with computer skills limited to sending email and browsing the internet actually publish a news feed on their own?
Putting aside the obvious advantages of news feeds listed above, an important question to ask when evaluating effectiveness of the newsletter versus the news feed is whether the information is time-sensitive. If the business is publishing information pertaining to such topics as the stock market, real estate, investments, weather, new products or services, competitive analyses, product catalogs and prices (and you can probably add more to this list), the effectiveness of the newsletter dramatically diminishes as the delay between the “event” and the delivery of the information about the event increases. If a newsletter is published every three months, on average the information is six weeks old! And it’s not just that the information arrives too late to be important to the recipient, but also because recipients will come to know the newsletter is irrelevant to their affairs and tune out. Unfortunately, that means it will be seen as junk mail and tossed into the trash without opening. Why would I care about an investment opportunity if, by the time I receive that advice, it’s too late to act on it? (At my post office, a recycle bin is provided in the lobby so that you can conveniently toss away your junk mail without even taking it home.)
Recognizing this time-sensitivity problem, businesses have been depending more and more on email broadcasting to a subscription list. You’ve seen the come-on — “Sign up for our email list”. To many, this is viewed as volunteering to receive spam. Even when one does reluctantly submit their email address to those hopefully-private lists, spam filters will often trash that email, and for the email that does get through (and we all know how effective spammers have become), the email from the legitimate businesses usually gets lost amidst all that spam. So what does it matter if the business has avoided the development, distribution, and delay problems associated with newsletters by using email, if in the end the message never gets to welcoming ears.
News feeds effectively overcome the shortfalls of newsletters and email broadcasts. With news feeds, nothing is ever printed or emailed, and the news feed is instantly available online. Recipients can volunteer to receive the information without having it “pushed” at them, so there is no sense of spamming associated with news feeds. The audience for the information can receive that information at their convenience and can receive alerts or “signals” whenever new information is published. For example, if you were interested in listening in on investment advice from an advisor who publishes a news feed, you could subscribe to that news feed – without giving your email address away – and whenever new information is published, you could receive a signal and operate on that information in real time. Imagine … literally within seconds after the advice is published, you could read and act upon that new information.
If your intention is to spam – in other words, to send unsolicited information to others with the intent of gaining some advantage – than news feeds are not for you. Your targets will simply not tune in to news feeds that don’t interest them! Spammers are stuck with email and mass mailings with the hope that recipients will accidentally open the spam and get teased into the proposition by the seduction of the message.
But what about the question of publishing news feeds? Is it easy, or does it require some special computer skills? Do you need to hire or pay someone to do your news feed for you?
The good news is that RSS News Feeds can be incredibly simple to publish if you select the right publishing tool. Numerous tools are “out there” (some much simpler than others!) for publishing news feeds; some are online services such as Enfeedia, some are programs you download. Some are free, some are not. For maximum ease, choose a news feed publishing tool you use by filling in a simple form so that you need not learn any technical skills to take advantage of the power of news feeds; it can be as simple as writing email.
How do you tell others about your news feed? In any communication you do (your business cards, your website, articles you write, etc.), include your news feed address. It’s the equivalent to a website address except it presents the news feed using contemporary browsers. (Older version browsers don’t support news feeds.) It is common practice to install an industry-standard RSS “button” on your website that, when clicked, displays your news feed and provides the news feed address for subscription purposes (see more about subscribing to news feeds below).
For powerful promotion of your news feed, select a feed publishing service that offers the ability to actually display your news items directly on your website, blending in with the design of your site, and including the means to subscribe to that news feed. On-site display of new items coupled with frequent posting of news is an extremely easy way to add fresh content to your website that can actually improve the position of your site in search engine results placement (SERP).
If you choose Enfeedia to host your news feed, you can simply tell others your “account name”, and they will be able to access and read all your news feeds there. So it can be as simple as saying, “See my news feeds at Enfeedia, my account name is _____”.
What does it mean to subscribe to a news feed? It depends on the service you use for subscribing, but typically it means that you specify the address for news feeds of interest to you, and the service keeps a list for you so that you can easily read your feeds whenever you want … with all the current news shown. With a MyYahoo personal page, you can sign up for alerts when items are posted onto news feeds to which you subscribe, even by mobile phone if you wish.
With contemporary browsers, you can bookmark news feeds – just like you can bookmark a website – and get signals when new items being available in news feeds that you bookmark. And in its “Leopard” operating system, Apple integrates news feeds with its Mail program, bringing news feeds to mainstream online communication. Such moves by Apple, and by others which are sure to come, will popularize news feeds akin to the growth in pervasiveness of websites during the 1990s.