Will RSS Ever Go Mainstream?

RSS Marketing

When I first started Copyblogger, I was a huge RSS evangelist. As a long-time email marketing guy, I was sick to death of overzealous filters, deliverability issues and the low-level of trust people had for online publishers thanks to the spammers.

Over two years later, email is still very much alive. That fact is most evident with my other projects, but even here at Copyblogger over 6,000 people subscribe by email and they tend to be the most responsive.

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The Real Secret to Getting Tons of
Blog Subscribers

RSS Buttons

It’s still the question I get asked the most.

Despite writing on this subject several times, and basically spilling the beans on every tip and tactic I know for converting site visitors into regular readers, people seem to think I’m holding out. Most every time I speak with a fellow blogger on the phone, or meet someone in person, inevitably some variation of the following question will arise:

OK, so level with me… how’s you get all those subscribers? What’s the real secret?

No one wants to believe that there’s no magical secret. They’d rather fantasize about some forbidden copywriting technique that drives subscriber attraction. If I’d just share the magical words that make the difference, they’d immediately put those words to use.

OK, I give up. I’ll tell you the real secret.

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Permission Marketing 2.0

Before I continue with the SEO Copywriting 2.0 series, I want to interject a bit of perspective. With all the talk about links, traffic, Digg, social media marketing and the pursuit of search engine rankings, it’s important to remember what matters most for business-oriented bloggers.

Subscribers.

The importance of subscriber acquisition is getting its fair share of attention within the social media space, which is good. Darren Rowse recently posted on the value of conduits like Digg and other social media traffic sources to build up your own subscriber-based community over time.

And in the SEO world, Andy Hagens and Michael Gray have touched on the topic as well. They call subscriber attraction and retention a key element in a “defensible traffic” strategy that frees you from the tyranny of search engine algorithm hiccups.

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How to Sell RSS (Or Where the Feed Fanboys Drop the Ball)

I see these lists all the time, and they never cease to amaze me.

Steve Rubel offers us a post entitled “35 Ways You Can Use RSS Today.”

Here’s a few samples:

Get hotel deals from Marriott
Learn a new word every day using RSS
Track the latest sales with Dealcatcher
Subscribe to the Target circular
Subscribe to movie reviews

Go ahead and check out all 35 if you’d like.

Now, tell me — couldn’t you rewrite that headline to read:

“35 Ways People Used Email in 1998 (And Still Do Today)”

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Is RSS Like CB Radio?

Imagine if ATT had decided to send all of its telephone subscribers a free CB radio back in the 1970s, just to make sure the company was at the forefront of an exciting new communications technology that was sweeping the nation. Mass adoption of trucker tech by the general population would have been a silly thing for a monopoly to gamble on, right?

Seth Godin today looks back at the CB radio craze of the 70s, and specifically how people at the time mistook a niche fascination for a larger trend. The post concludes with Seth asking whether RSS feeds are akin to a true killer-app like email, or destined to join GeoCities in the discarded technology dustbin.

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The Four Horsemen of the Internet Apocalypse

Just when you thought it was safe to get really excited about the fantastic possibilities of the Internet again, a dark cloud looms. The Internet as you have always known it is facing a serious threat that requires your attention.

The issue is Net Neutrality. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll try to succinctly sum up its importance to you.

All of your current Internet marketing plans depend on Net Neutrality. And likely, a lot of what you do online outside of the scope of business depends on it too. Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech.

So who are the Four Horsemen looking to destroy the Internet as we know it?

The reformed AT&T wants the power to allow big corporations that pay Internet providers for dominant placing on the Web to muscle out startups and entrepreneurs. The little guy will be left in the “slow lane” with inferior Internet service, unable to compete.

Comcast would just love it if they could favor their own services, so you won’t be able to choose more affordable providers for online video, teleconferencing, Internet phone calls, and software that connects your home computer to your office.

Could Big Media partner with companies like Verizon to put bloggers out of business and silence the threat to their content monopolies? It would be simple under such an arrangement to skyrocket the costs to post and share video and audio clips—silencing citizen journalists and putting more power in the hands of a few corporate-owned media outlets.

Likewise, when Time Warner Cable has the ability to steer the choices of your customers (and you) to their preferred services for online banking, health care information, sending photos, planning vacations, etc, your business and your freedom are history.

This is not a conspiracy theory.

The US Congress is pushing a law that would abandon Network Neutrality, the Internet’s First Amendment. Network neutrality currently prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner from deciding which Web sites work best for you — based on which site paid them the most. Without Network Neutrality, the scenarios outlined above are just the beginning. And it will affect people all over the world, not just in the States.

To learn more, and get involved, you can do several things:

  1. Educate yourself about the issues. Read Doc Searls article from last year on the topic (this is what first alerted me to the issue, and allowed me to spread the word a bit, most notably to Liz Strauss, who took the ball and ran with it).
  2. Visit the Save the Internet website and blog to learn more, and to send a quick and easy letter to Congress voicing your opposition.
  3. Spread the word. There’s a huge viral marketing campaign going on right now to spread awareness and galvanize support. Help spread the word with your blog, by email, or come up with a viral video concept. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that if the big telcos and cable companies get their way, grass roots viral marketing will be a thing of the past.

They WILL win if we are apathetic. Do something, or find a way to earn a living that doesn’t involve the Internet.

UPDATE: In a surprise victory, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would require broadband providers to abide by strict Net neutrality principles, meaning that their networks must be operated in a “nondiscriminatory” manner.

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