Delivering targeted advertising through news feeds is not a new concept. In December of 2003, Google filed a patent application for serving targeted ads in RSS, Atom and XML feeds and described in detail just how Google delivers targeted content to readers.
In May of 2004, Pheedo reported success with integrating online advertising into RSS feeds to IT professionals. Later that year, Jupiter Research noted less than 10 percent of RSS feeds had advertising in them, and no major advertisers were using feeds as part of their marketing strategies.
However, by May 2005, Feedburner was experimenting with RSS advertising and providing metrics on subscribers and their behavior to publishers. Amazon, Google and finally, Yahoo, have been working with FeedBurner to extend its advertising network to RSS feeds.
RSS is the new email, but better. RSS is opt-in and SPAM free. Many publishers are seeing 40 percent month-over-month growth rate in their RSS traffic. Many are seeing 50 percent of their traffic come from their RSS feed, with a corresponding decline in email subscriptions.
What is so attractive about RSS for subscribers? Unlike email, RSS allows subscribers to control their information streams. If they like a site, they subscribe. If they do not read the subscription, they can delete it. With RSS readers and browser-based aggregators, the subscriber may easily scan the list of headlines (which may be limited to those updated within the past day or hour), and either read or ignore them.
However, RSS is not perfect. Subscribing to a feed may be difficult for users who are not RSS savvy. Unless you know what the orange RSS button on a webpage means and how to use it as a subscription tool, the subscription process can be tedious. Without step by step directions on how to Add to My Yahoo, or how to use the plugin for your browser, a tool you already use, receiving feeds requires mastering another tool.
Marketers have watched RSS develop as an advertising tool over the past few years. As the technology for publishing feeds become more readily available and easier to use, more marketers are publishing feeds.
The appeal of RSS for advertisers is that members of specific target markets are readily reachable by feed. Blogs and websites that cater to specific interests like gadgets, exercise, diet, health, or politics, for example, attract like-minded subscribers. Now the problem has changed from finding members of the target market to how best to serve them advertising.