Nielsen Norman Group : RSS No Match For Email Newsletters

According to new research from the Nielsen Norman Group, RSS isfar less effective at keeping people’s attention (and thus garnering business) from users than email newsletters.

This isn’t very surprising. It’s pretty widely known that RSS adoption by the masses has been slow going, but this study adds a new wrinkle: even those that use RSS spend very little time on those headlines. The study goes on to note that people have become very proficient in handling/sifting through email. Some observations:

  • I’m not sure it’s fair to compare RSS to email just yet. I can’t imagine very many people are subscribing to ecommerce newsletters via RSS these days. The work habits around RSS as business marketing aren’t fully baked…yet.
  • A critical shortcoming of just about every RSS reader or aggregator is that all content looks the same. Why do I still visit CNN and techmeme on the web? Because the visual layout of the sites provide me with some context and cognitive guidance. Feed readers don’t. After all, all feeds are not created equal.
  • RSS is supposed to be a great push technology. But let’s be realistic. Nothing gets in our faces better than email. We will iinevitably go to our Inboxes. It will take much broader and deeper adoption before RSS comes near the attention level of email.
  • Related to the last point, we are so committed to email that we’re rewiring ourselves to handle and manage SPAM better. So while RSS comes to us free of noise and junk, we’re sticking by email…for now.

RSS is and continues to be the darling of technophiles who enjoy digesting large amounts of content. But we shouldn’t delude ourselves. Email is at a whole other level of the Technology Collective Consciousness. It will take a lot more before RSS gets there. It’s an incredibly promising technology but some tweaks are needed both in terms of how the technology is implemented and how we educate people about it.

3 Comments Nielsen Norman Group : RSS No Match For Email Newsletters

  1. Josh

    It’s an interesting conclusion. I wonder if it’s merely because feeds are still mostly new. Will IE7’s feed support change this? We’ll see I guess.
    I’m subscribed to one or two newsletters. They tend to have very few updates, and that’s the way I like them. On the other hand, I’m subscribed to over a dozen feeds, and I enjoy reading them daily.
    Sure, I’m a technophile, but until recently, I had never found any reason to use feeds. I liked visiting websites to get the full experience, and I had a select few that I visited. However, over time, as I’ve focused more and more on my field, I’ve found more resources that I want to track. Feeds have become my update service so that I don’t have to go to every site every day.


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