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6 Jun

As communicators, we should reach people where they are, not where we want them to be. You may want them to visit your website, for example, but if your audience is learning the latest via text message, MyYahoo, Twitter, or the local paper, you’re missing an opportunity.

Which is why I’m surprised at how few corporate websites take advantage of tools like RSS feeds — letting people subscribe to news and updates via easy readers and news aggregators.  Which leads to the question, for the trained skeptic anyway:  how many people really use RSS? The answers are promising and tell me — and to marketers, I hope — “ignore this at your peril.”

Rather than offer exhaustive research (or stats that I have to pay for), here are a couple items for discussion.
First, RSS Diary offers a reference from August 2006:

RSS is currently used or is planned to be used within the next 12 months by 63% of consumer product marketers, 65% media and communications marketers, 37% retail marketers, 37% financial services marketers and 38% equipment and tech marketers.

A good start. I’d suggest that, given the prevalence of encouragements to subscribe, they have.  This survey covers an audience of folks that are serving customers and influencers who want to track news and keep up to date on their industry and market changes.

Next, and more to the point, Robert Scoble addressed this question last fall on the Scobelizer blog. He did some back-of-the-napkin analysis and came up with10 million people using feedreaders; prompting one of his readers to report that FeedBurner says it has more than 65 million subscribers to RSS feeds. But it’s not the numbers that are important, he says, it’s who they are:

…what’s the real power of RSS? The news influencers use it. So, if you want to reach the Paris Hilton crowd you’ve probably gotta go through someone who uses an RSS aggregator. Most of the journalists and almost all of the bloggers I know use RSS.

And that’s what matters to us. RSS is an incredibly simple and useful way to let media, bloggers and customers keep track of your news. RSS makes it easy for others to find and share your news with their networks, via websites, news portals and blogs.

The point here is not that RSS is the end all and be all of communications. The point is that as communicators, we should recognize that our communications should reach people where they are. That’s why websites should make it easy for readers to share content on social bookmarking sites like Digg, Del.icio.us, and others (and for a cool intro to social bookmarking, check out this video). It’s why corporate news rooms should offer RSS feeds, email alerts and mobile alerts as well as prompts for social bookmarking. And it’s why it’s worth trying out social sites like Twitter, which many influencers are using to share and scan for interesting news.

So…how do you want my updates?

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