Recently I spoke with Dave Lewis, vice president of deliverability management and ISP relations at Digital Impact. His company's motto: "Making e-mail marketing more effective is our single-minded passion." In one of his online essays, entitled "How to Keep B-to-B E-mail From Getting Caught in Filters," his first rule is "Get permission."

I argued that RSS does away with the need for marketers to ask our permission, for us to grant it, for marketers to play by the rules when we revoke it, and for us to trust that marketers will play by the rules. With e-mail marketing, control resides with the sender and permission is a "best practice." With RSS, control resides with the recipient and permission is an inherent property of the medium.

I feel Dave's pain. E-mail direct marketers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They believe e-mail is necessary because it's an "intrusive" medium, yet they are forced to neuter e-mail's intrusiveness by complying with the opt-in gold standard. Unfortunately, there's no middle ground. With RSS recipients can have, and increasingly will demand, control of the channel.

Dave and I agreed on one point. "You'd be crazy not to communicate with your customers in their medium of choice," he said. My preference is RSS. Trust me with control of the channel, and I'll be more likely to trust you with my business. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]
In this column I deconstruct "push" and "pull" and determine that, when it comes to modes of electronic communication, these terms mean basically nothing. What matters is who controls the channel of communication, not how we construe the direction of flow.

I think the rhetoric of email direct marketing -- that it's an opt-in, customer-controlled medium -- should correspond to the reality. It makes email direct marketers understandably nervous when I point out that RSS has all the right characteristics -- including, nowadays, lower cost, given the expense incurred on both ends of the email pipe in order to keep the channel clear.

Obviously direct marketers will be among the last to relinquish channel control to the customer. Meanwhile, there's another species of email that's ripe for migration to RSS: institutional alerts. My bank, for example, sends me email alerts when my checking balance falls below $500. To separate those alerts from my spam filters on the one hand, and from my interpersonal email on the other hand, I had to write a filter to catch them and route them to a folder. Many (probably most) people won't go that extra mile. They'll have to pluck the bank's messages from a chaotic email stream, and will wind up missing some alerts.

The obvious alternative is a personalized RSS feed. Does anyone have this already? I'm hoping that, before the end of this year, at least one of the institutions that currently sends me email alerts will offer an RSS option.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/05/18.html#a1002