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Even after all that's been written and explained, even reputable online marketing publications such as ClickZ still don't get RSS metrics.
In an otherwise good RSS marketing article, Add RSS to Your Marketing Mix, Heidi Cohen has this to say about RSS metrics:
"From a marketing perspective, RSS's measurability is still evolving and therefore limited. You can't tell who has received your feeds as you can with e-mail."
Yes, RSS's measurability is still evolving and probably will evolve beyond e-mail metrics. In some ways it already has ...
And it's also true that you can't tell who has received your feeds ... if you're using the most established RSS approaches and just the basic technologies.
However, once you connect your feeds with your existing user databases, you can in fact go beyond what e-mail metrics offer.
Here are some possibilities ...
a] Use the "unique feed URL" approach, where each subscriber receives a feed with a unique identifier, based on which you can track precisely what feeds are being requested ... namely what annonymous user is requesting what feed.
b] If you'd like to integrate annonymous feed subscriber data with named (registered) user data, you can easily provide feeds only upon registration or only to logged-in users, and actually connect each unique feed URL with a named user. Especially if you provide feed customization this won't be a problem at all. Once you've integrated this data you can measure every and any iteraction your user has with your feed.
c] If you don't want to force your visitors to register in order to subscribe to your feed, you can still use the unique feed URL approach, which you connect with a user session, cookie or other identifiable information. Once your RSS feed subscriber registers you can integrate the data you already collected based on existing feed interaction and website interaction with his new user account.
d] The other approach you can use is user authentication, where you limit access to your feeds with a username/password combination. If each unique users receives a unique combination, you can track everything based on this information.
There are other possibilities as well, and the actual implementation of those above is somewhat more complicated than it seems at first sight. It does for example also require a more complex internet marketing strategy. It does require using more complex tools than the simplest RSS publishing solutions available on the market. It does require integration with your user database and internet platform.
But the point is that it's not only theoretically possible, but also in praxis. And in fact simple for companies with their own advanced internet platforms.
Just a quick disclaimer ...
a] If your feed gets widely syndicated you can in fact lose view of who's receiving your feed, even if you're using unique feed URLs (you can of course measure this as well, by analyzing user agent data). Using the user authentication model solves this problem as well.
b] Even if your feed does get widely syndicated, that's still comparable to your e-mail messages being passed around by users. And if we take in to account that measuring open-rates is getting increasingly difficult due to users blocking images, e-mail metrics don't look that shiny anymore.
If you'd like to find out more about RSS metrics, simply start by reading our collection of RSS metrics articles, reports, interviews and news at http://rssdiary.marketingstudies.net/content/cat_rss_metrics.php
I'm also hoping that there'll soon come a time when responses like this will no longer be needed, because marketers will finally understand the power of RSS metrics.
Copyright 2005 Rok Hrastnik
Rok Hrastnik is the author of »Unleash the Marketing & Publishing Power of RSS, acclaimed as the best and most comprehensive guide to RSS for marketers by leading RSS experts. The complete guide on RSS for marketers: http://rss.marketingstudies.net/index.html?src=sa16