MarketingSherpa Gets RSS All Wrong

MarketingSherpa, in a report about RSS, concludes "It chills our blood when we hear email marketers and publishers blithely state, 'I'm thinking about switching over to RSS entirely!' Oh no. Please don't. RSS is worthy of testing, but it's not an email replacement and it never will be." We'd agree. It's not a replacement but simply another communication channel.

Comparing RSS to email, MarketingSherpa offers three drawbacks to RSS and gets all three wrong leading us to believe if the writer has ever used RSS. First, MarketingSherpa claims HTML graphics can't be served through RSS. Wrong. While it does depend on the RSS reader used, any graphic can be served. Any publisher that sets their feed up to serve the full contents (and perhaps even just excepts - check with RSS gurus on this) of the article rather than an excerpt will serve exactly that including any image that is contained within the article. This includes graphic ad banners as well. See Gothamist's feed (

Second, claiming RSS feeds send one item at a time rather than many items at once as in an email, MarketingSherpa claims RSS feeds have no table of contents. Setting aside the debate as to whether a table of contents is needed at all in a world where new content arrives every millisecond, RSS feed headlines serve as the table of contents. The headline appears in an RSS reader, the person sees it, they read it if they choose. It's the same process as served by a table of contents. In fact it's better. Content arrives as it's published in near real time rather than once a day as in most email newsletter.

Third, MarketingSherpa claims there's little space to work with in RSS newsreaders stating it's preferable to view content "on a big, dedicated window as there is in email." Apparently, MarketingSherpa has never heard of Bloglines, the most highly used RSS reader that contains headlines "on a big, dedicated window as there is in email."

As expected, all the other RSS-related facts and figures MarketingSherpa puts forth in their article are complete and first rate. It's very upsetting, though, to see MarketingSherpa get the concept, functionality and purpose of RSS all wrong. Read their report. It's available for free until May 23.

UPDATE: Apparently MarketingSherpa read our article. They've removed all reference to the original three (incorrect) points they made regarding RSS.

by Steve Hall    May-13-05   Click to Comment   
Topic: RSS   

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You're right of course Steve. They missed the boat on those few points, but in general, the tone of the message was right.

I don't think they got the point of RSS wrong. I think they just sat on the hype a bit by comparing it to email and its usage. I wrote about it at Revenews today.

Posted by: Jim Kukral on May 13, 2005 2:35 PM

Am I crazy? I read Sherpa's article and didn't see any mention of the conclusions you critize, i.e. lack of graphics, table of contents, size of screen. Did they revise the article after you wrote your criticism?

Posted by: Kim on May 18, 2005 5:10 PM