Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, isn’t so simple—which explains why it has been slow to catch on for the average marketer, despite being used heavily in the technology sector for a couple of years now. As the technology has improved, though, marketers have begun to embrace RSS as a viable means of content distribution and advertising. If you’re in the camp that is ready to try it, there are several steps you should take to ensure a successful experience.
First and foremost, you need to select a technology provider that understands your goals and can help you maximize your RSS experience. There are three things that you need to look for first:
1. Strategic guidance: You need to identify your immediate and long-term content strategy goals, and partner with a company that understands how to get you there.
2. Technology depth: Find a service provider with an understanding of technology beyond just the RSS format. There are 2,000+ feed readers/aggregators on the market and many different formats for reading them. It’s critical that your partner can demonstrate an understanding of the changing dynamics and how to best help you navigate these changes.
3. Metrics and analytics: Look for a feed management provider that has mastered the challenging metrics that face content in syndication. You cannot build a monetization strategy on flimsy subscriber data.
If you looking to syndicate content via RSS, having good infrastructure and metrics in place is critical to the long-term success of your project. There are a number of companies that offer services for feeds, some of which are focused on very specific aspects of feed management, while others are full service. Make sure you understand the level of experience and focus of the company you choose. If you’re looking for someone to help you create, optimize and monetize RSS feeds, a company like FeedBurner would be a good option.
If you are just looking to explore RSS as an additional advertising tool, there are several ways to approach it. You can work with a full service company that runs its own RSS network, go to a straight-ad format company like Google or Yahoo!, or outsource feed placement to your ad agency or email partners. RSS advertising is gaining credibility as the metrics for RSS are improved and tracking has gotten better. For certain kinds of companies, it can be a great addition to your overall advertising planning.
Because RSS is, well, complicated, you need to do your homework before jumping in bed with a provider. Talk to other companies for their experiences and monitor online chatter about various providers through blog postings (use a blog search tool like Technorati to make it easy). Learn from the mistakes and successes of others whenever possible! If you can, run a trial with your top two choices so that you can see which works best for you in real time. Doing a little prep work before committing to a long-term partner can save you dollars and aggravation as you integrate RSS into your business planning.
Matt Blumberg is CEO of Return Path.