A few years ago, the big debate in online marketing was "push vs. pull." Email was the new push medium. We would push information out to our customers instead of making them pull it from us (by visiting our websites, tracking down directories and listings, etc).
Well, as always, change is in the air. The customer now is king (no really!). The customer is in charge. There is just too much information out there and the customer is being forced to monitor and filter and only let in to his world what he wants. The customer now decides what information to receive from the advertiser, and the rest is tuned out or turned off. So the challenge is to get the customer to let you in...by his choice.
How many emails do you get in a day? Back when email was still a novelty, a few emails a week about shows were welcomed, maybe even looked forward to. Now it is not impossible to receive as many as TEN discount show offers per day if you're a regular theatergoer. Multiply that by 30 days in a month and that's a lot of shows to see. How many of these emails do you delete without opening? Or do you file them away and search them when you're ready to see a particular show?
Back to the customer, who is now in charge. The customer is now setting the terms of the relationship, not the advertiser. Which brings us to RSS Feeds. First read this pretty comprehensive explanation of RSS feeds and how they work (and make sure to watch the 3-minute video tutorial...it explains everything in really simple terms), then come back here and continue. Go ahead, click the link. CLICK IT!
The implications for marketing and advertising are enormous. Imagine a world of no more spam. Imagine being able to filter all your incoming messages so that only the ones you really care about will reach you. RSS is still really in its infancy, but its potential is huge. Even this site can be read through your newsreader so that you'll get updates delivered right to you and never have to come back to this site again. Just copy the URL into your feed reader, or use the XML feature in the right-hand column on this page. RSS truly does bring the world to you.
So back to "push vs. pull." Advertising has almost always been about pushing your message to the customer, usually through interruption. You interrupt the customer while watching she's watching her favorite television show. You interrupt his walk across town with numerous billboards, phone kiosks, bus signs and even signs on trash cans. But little by little, the customer is tuning us out. I walked 15 blocks last week and counted 31 iPods. People are taking back control of what messages they are willing to receive. They're turning a blind eye and a deaf ear. So the real challenge is to make your message relevant, useful, timely--something the customer will willingly seek out and pull from us...and not to just contribute to more of the deafening noise. RSS is going to help with that.