Why Marketing People Don’t Like RSS Feeds

When Google Reader announced it was shutting down I noticed a specific trend in the commentary that followed. It was a particular portion of the “RSS is dead” crowd. But it wasn’t just that they were predicting the death of RSS because of Reader shutting down, they were promoting the idea of actively killing it by removing support for RSS feeds from their sites.

I couldn’t figure out the motivation behind this. Their various CMSs already took care of generating feeds for these authors, meaning they had to go through more work to disable feeds than to continue to support them.

The alternative they proposed was to subscribe via email. I was lost on why they wanted to pick one over the other, when doing both was perfectly reasonable. There was a common thread that I saw in this particular group, they tended to be marketing people.

Then I came across a post by Andrew Chen,
RSS, I quit you. Please subscribe to email updates for this blog instead
:

I have 10,000s of subscribers on my RSS feed right now, and I wish I had gotten them all on email instead.

Then it became clear. They were disappointed that they didn’t own their subscribers. Services like Feedburner and Google Reader had lulled them into the idea that they had a hold on their subscribers, when they really didn’t. At least not in the same way that having their email address does.

Demanding email addresses in order to get updates from your site is a loosing position. Give people the option to use which ever method works best for them and they will be much happier.

7 Comments

  1. Julien Genestoux

    Tue 18 Jun 2013 at 4:40 pm

    This is exactly the reasoning behind subtome (http://subtome.com) : let the subscriber pick their tool and they’ll be more faithful to your content!

    I know I asked you before, but maybe in regards of this post your opinion changed?

  2. Does subtome.com support subscribing via email as well? For folks who are actively trying to kill off feeds, not having email subscription support would be a non-starter.

  3. So, we chose explictly to focus on services (apps) rather than channels (email, IM, web… etc), but yes, SubToMe is perfectly compatible with apps like http://blogtrottr.com/ for example which do send RSS via email.
    I wish I could integrate with the WP reader too, because I know you can pick Email notifications (and even IM iirc!), but there is no way to currently redirect the user to a ‘subscribe page’ directly. The user has to manually enter the url in http://wordpress.com/#!/read/edit/ which is sad. I wish there was something like http://wordpress.com/#!/read/edit/?url=https://josephscott.org/feed/ which would just prefill the url field. Let me know if you can help 🙂

    Julien

  4. Ick, not being able to pre-fill the URL field is lame. I’ll see what can be done to improve that.

  5. Thanks Joseph 🙂 Also, if you dive in the reader’s code, please, think about adding PubSubHubbub support on the subscriber side! I’m more than happy to help…

  6. I think the attitude of the “RSS Is Dead” people that bothers me the most is trying to “own” your subscribers. If you write good content, they will come, but you have to make it easy for them. I wouldn’t say RSS is easy. It seems to be a power user type of thing, but making it difficult for any of your readers is counterproductive.

    Hello, marketing people…

    You don’t own your subscribers. They are PEOPLE. Stop trying to own them and make them feel like they own YOU. If you aren’t writing something that gets them to come back, then you lost them with or without an email address.

  7. Stop trying to own them and make them feel like they own YOU

    That should have been the TL;DR version of this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2019 Joseph Scott

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑