Imagine a world where you no longer had to battle the problems created by spam a world without delivery issues, whitelists, blacklists, bulk mailboxes, graphic blocking, shrinking open rates, and e-mail verification messages. Ah...sounds like heaven, doesn't it?

It's not heaven it's the world of Really Simple Syndication (RSS). Some marketers are finding that RSS is all that e-mail isn't. But what does that say about e-mail marketing? Is it headed for extinction destined for the dustbin along with dot-com flameouts?

The short answer is no, but RSS definitely has benefits that e-mail doesn't. The biggest benefit of RSS? "No worries about delivery and being considered spam," says Anna Papadopoulos, interactive media director at Euro RSCG. "It's opt-in. There are no security concerns. There's no graphic blocking, and typically [security issues] tend to be in areas that are considered the [digital] home base and that people are going to visit frequently, like MyYahoo." In addition, Papadopoulos says, open rates are higher than for e-mail newsletters and promotional e-mails, but that's mainly because there's less clutter in the RSS space at least for now.

RSS is a great way to "engage a potential prospect at the early stages of interest without making them feel that you're invading their privacy," says Jeanniey Mullen, senior director and partner of e-mail marketing, OgilvyOne Worldwide, who uses RSS for both consumer and b2b clients. "It allows them to take more time to get to know the company and go at their own pace." Mullen also notes that companies are doing a better job of creating a centralized brand image in RSS, while e-mail messages from multiple divisions of a single company remain heavily siloed. In fact, she says, engagement is a key measurement tactic.

Cost is another benefit. RSS is much less expensive than e-mail on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis, Papadopoulos says, because it's generally part of a bigger campaign package. And while the gap will shrink over time, she feels it will never fully go away.

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