RSS delivery of e-newsletters

E-mail newsletters are getting lost in the flood of spam. But there’s a school of thought that our possible savior from spam is RSS – Really Simple Syndication – first developed by Netscape in the 90s. The technology is used by most bloggers to syndicate news content (Weblogs), but many companies are slowly turning to RSS to update events listings, corporate announcements and newsletters. I’m even going down the path of implementing RSS for these weekly tech columns and audio links to my weekly radio show so that anyone can subscribe and have it delivered right to their desktop.

Content management solution provider recently debuted MailbyRSS (, a free hosted service for authoring RSS feeds by e-mail.’s CEO Robin Hopper talked to me about RSS from their headquarters in Ontario, Canada.

Q: Can you explain what RSS is and why are you using it with your application?

Hopper: RSS has been around for quite awhile and lived in anonymity in the background. It stands for Really Simple Syndication and, from a subscriber point of view, it’s really just a way to teach your computer to surf for you. You can pick and choose using simple client software that looks like e-mail, pick the Websites you’re interested in hearing about and, rather than having to go visit them every day or sift through e-mails to hear about news they’re sending you by e-mail, you can just get alerts on your desktop as they happen.

Q: These alerts are “opt in” and it’s not something that just pops up and interrupts your work, right?

Hopper: Exactly. They’re content that is syndicated by the Website owner that contain as much information that you want and gives you the ability to choose what you want to drill down and learn more about.

Q: Why should you offer RSS Channels?

Hopper: First, RSS is an easy way to extend the reach of your message by syndicating to subscribers and other Websites. Second, in this anti-spam era where the credibility of e-mail as a communication channel is threatened, good corporate citizens are using RSS to augment (or even replace) their e-mail campaigns because it doesn’t clutter people’s in-boxes, it’s easier to manage for recipients who get a lot of news online, it’s easier to manage than an e-mail and suppression list, and it’s spam-proof – only the feed publisher can designate what information gets into the feed, and the only information the subscriber pulls down is what the publisher put there. When you subscribe to an RSS feed, you’re not giving your e-mail address to anyone and they can’t send you stuff you don’t want.

The implications are significant, especially for people who currently publish or subscribe to e-mail announcement services. Spam has become so pervasive that almost 20 percent of all opt-in e-mail messages (stuff that people have specifically asked to receive) get blocked by spam filters.

Q: How would I subscribe to an RSS Channel that a Website offers?

Hopper: First they need to have a newsreader of some type (desktop software that looks much like their e-mail client). Popular readers include: Feed Demon (free, still in beta, Windows only), Awasu; Amphetadesk; and Newsgator (which actually integrates into MS Outlook). A content provider would provide a them a link to their RSS Feed and they subscribe simply by adding that link to their newsreader.

Q: What is your application called MailbyRSS?

Hopper: MailbyRSS is a free service for authoring RSS channels by e-mail. It is ideal for organizations that wish to augment their opt-in e-mail campaigns with RSS channels, providing them a way to ensure that the information they publish reaches subscribers without being filtered out by spam lists or filters. MailbyRSS accepts both text and rich content e-mail, requires no new computer hardware or software, and is invoked by simply e-mailing content to a secure MailbyRSS account.

Q: I’m already thinking of using this for my articles and radio show. How are others using RSS?

Hopper: It’s easy to start creating RSS Channels from anywhere you have e-mail access. Some example include:

1. E-mail Campaigns & Newsletters. Customers are including MailbyRSS account information in their recipient lists to automatically keep subscribers who prefer to subscribe via RSS informed.

2. E-mail Subscriber Retention. Several customers have provided the RSS option as part of the opt-out process of their e-mail campaigns to retain those who are tired of sifting through e-mails for content.

3. Syndicate Company News. E-mailing a copy of press releases to their MailbyRSS account has allowed customers to easily generate their own news feeds.

4. Quick Tips. One customer e-mails a Tip of the Day to their MailbyRSS account to push the information to their users’ desktops as an RSS Feed.

The full audio interview with Robin is available at

Dana Greenlee is co-host/producer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based nationally syndicated radio and Webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.