RSS and the Death of Email Newsletters

Why do some companies continue to hold on to email newsletters? Yes, I'm sure there will always be a large portion of the people out there that will never, ever use an aggregator so email newsletters will continue to have their place, but why not augment that with RSS?

I'm talking specifically about a variety of publications that are in my "mobile favorites" folder. This is the folder that contains interesting mobile news sites that for whatever insane reason, have yet to add an RSS feed to their sites. Almost all of them have email newsletters though. "SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWSLETTER HERE!" Ugh.

I don't know about you, but I'm done with email newsletters. I've unsubscribed to all of them. My email is now used for... email. The few lists that are important like Atom Syntax (why, oh, why doesn't that list have a daily summary?) I've added to Bloglines, but in general I don't like the formatting of email news any more. I want news feeds instead. I mean, in general emails newsletters are crap. First, they go out to gazillions of people, half of which probably aren't even seen anymore. My spam assassin grabs them half the time so I don't even see them (this depends which buzzwords they use to put it over the max spam points). And then I have to manage the newsletters by creating and maintaining filters and even then they clutter my mail client and make accessing my email from my mobile phone a nightmare.

Yeah, so I'm done with email lists, but it'd be nice to keep up to date with these sites:

All those news sites - many of them with original content - and not one with a RSS news feed. Why? It doesn't make sense. I've emailed all of them at one time or another over the past year or so begging for a feed, but they just don't get it. Here's an example, the response from Stephen at Fierce Wireless:

Thanks for the feedback. As for RSS, well, there is no advertising supported model for publishing via RSS. We have to pay the bills.

That's just dumb. Has anyone seen the Fierce Wireless newsletter? It's basically an RSS feed in an email. Links at the top point to summaries below, which link to longer articles on their website. Their URLs are completely link-unfriendly and it makes it pretty much impossible for me to link to their site or quote their stories. No possibility of a network effect. What in the WORLD is different from taking that same exact newsletter and popping it into an RSS feed so I can get it in a convenient manner? Same ads, same links, etc., but instead of sending it via email, you publish it via RSS instead. There is no difference. I'm not asking for something for free or without ads. I don't need the entire content or even a summary - if the news item is unique, I'll click through. Done. A lot of people hate link-only feeds but I think they serve a valid purpose, and this is a perfect example.

I guess there could be some argument for bandwidth costs of RSS (and/or Atom). And emails are less anonymous than RSS feeds as well. Here's a solution to both problems: required log ins for content. Right now you can just add a feed to an aggregator and every time the aggregator requests gets a new copy (if it's stupid, otherwise it'll pay attention to 304's, etc.). You don't know who requested the feed and bandwidth adds up. Maybe the right way is to have a sign up page, which asks for a username/password just like for an email newsletter, but then what's returned is a feed URL with a unique hashed key meant only for that user. It's only valid for a few requests a day (because the newsletter doesn't change more than once a day) and then it returns an error or 304, regardless of the client.

Poof. Suddenly Fierce Wireless has another outlet for their news and ads, it's not anoymous, it probably uses less bandwidth than some unintelligent spam, errr, I mean email bot and it'll generate even more revenues because people like me will link to stories which will generate more buzz about the site and more ad revenues.

The alternative is me bitching about these sites here, generating negative buzz and having me and others unsubscribe all together. Seems like an obvious route to me.


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