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RSS: 它是否會成為下一波網路行銷的利器?     By Trevor Marshall


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  • Remember when the fax machine was an indispensable business tool? Now fax just a box that spits out unsolicited offers for last minute airfares and cheap wireless phones, if fax not already unplugged and collecting dust in a closet. Most business communications once delivered by fax are now accomplished using e-mail.

    However, e-mail also has its problems.

    Virus attacks have been getting worse in recent months and Spam volumes are rising, which means e-mail marketing — the legitimate kind — is getting harder to do. An emerging request-based communication medium called RSS may sidestep these issues and put companies back in touch with potential customers. It’s an important issue, as Spam is increasingly turning people off e-marketing. In its April 2003 report Anti-Spam for Businesses and ISPs, San Francisco-based Ferris Research predicts that by 2008 business e-mail users will receive 40 Spam messages per day, up from 10 per day last year. This will result in a corresponding rise in the deployment of Spam-blocking applications by businesses. Ferris expects businesses to spend more than US$850 million fighting Spam in 2008, up from about US$55 million in 2003.

    While that’s good for anti-Spam solutions providers, it’s bad for businesses that use e-mail to deliver legitimate communications to their customers. Personal messages may get through the filters, but Spam cops are likely to block newsletters, Web site update notices, alerts and other messages sent to large distribution lists, even when recipients have specifically subscribed to these.

    THE RSS ANSWER
    To address this problem, some companies are turning to RSS, or Rich Site Summary. RSS is a way for businesses to distribute summaries of what’s new on their Web sites in order to direct customers to their sites for more information.

    Here’s how it works: a company’s Web manager uses a standard programming language and a specific set of commands to create an RSS data file, and then adds it to the site. The amount of coding involved is minimal. Those who want to receive the update information can link to it using an RSS application called a Reader, available for free at places such as http://www.newswatcher.com and http://www.pluck.com. Users bookmark Web sites in their Reader and the software makes scheduled checks for updated RSS files at these selected sites.

    If it finds an updated file, the Reader displays the information, which includes summaries of each updated item, and links to the full item on the Web site.

    AUTOMATIC AND ANONYMOUS
    From the customer’s perspective, it’s an easy way to monitor Web sites for updates without constantly visiting a company’s site. “Say you’re a vendor and (Web) visitors are your customers. If you haven’t changed anything in six months, they might get tired (of visiting) and stop checking,” said David Carter, vice-president of strategy at iUpload, a Burlington, Ont.-based online content management company. RSS files [let you] communicate with people who might not visit your site (regularly).”

    Customers need not release any personal information to use RSS, not even an e-mail address. The customer tells the Reader which Web sites to scan, and can deactivate this communication at any time. “The vendors never receive your information, and are never given permission to broadcast information at you,” Carter said. And that’s the difference between RSS and the traditional e-mail newsletter; with the latter, “there’s no way to get your information back — they’re always going to have your e-mail address.”

    “That’s a cool thing, because you’re really not giving anyone any tagged info,” said David Berkowitz, director of media relations at eMarketer, a New York-based research and analysis firm that focuses on Internet and online business issues. “(Web sites) might encourage you at some point, but it’s a very anonymous process.”

    EARLY ADOPTERS
    News and information sites have been early adopters of RSS feeds: a quick tour of the Web will find feeds from the BBC, Yahoo! News, the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone and ESPN, to name a few.

    “It’s definitely grown in use,” said Berkowitz, who notes RSS has moved beyond the fringe, but is still at the early end of the curve.

    In addition to news sites, companies in the computer and communications industries are offering Web visitors the RSS option. “If my audience is heavy Internet users and online researchers, or if I’m supposed to be perceived as cutting edge, then I have to ask myself ‘Am I really behind the curve if I’m not doing this?’”

    Berkowitz said. “I think for certain companies it definitely does pay to be considered a leader in this area, instead of a follower.”

    But RSS is expected to grow through a number of developments that will raise its profile. First, Berkowitz said Yahoo! has added RSS to its My Yahoo! personalized portal.

    “This is definitely something with major exposure from one of the perennial top-three Web destinations.”

    Carter added that Microsoft has indicated the next version of its operating system will be shipped with an RSS Reader.

    While there’s no guarantee that RSS will become a mainstream channel, Berkowitz said it confers several advantages to online marketers. “If and when it takes off — and I think it still can be counted as an ‘if’ at this point — then it is a surefire way to get what you’re sending in front of your customers,” he said. “It’s getting a lot of respect from some of the online elite and it’s definitely putting them a step ahead.”

    Web RSS
    eMarketer http://www.emarketer.com
    Ferris Research http://www.ferris.com
    iUpload http://www.iupload.com

    Related link: http://www.emarketer.com
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