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Site RSS Feeds: Not a Substitute for Newsletters

I worked for a large online organization who naively believed that RSS feeds were a substitute for email newsletters. I’ve since come across several other webmasters who believe the same thing. It’s become quite the pet peeve.

Frankly, you couldn’t make one good argument to support the claim that RSS feeds are a substitute for email newsletters. Are they a useful tool? Sure they are. But they’re not a substitute for newsletters. Is that sinking in yet?

By getting rid of email newsletters in favor of exclusively using RSS feeds, all you’re really doing is being lazy, shortsighted, and irresponsible in your marketing. People have gotten so caught up in “Web 2.0” that they tend to forget about the real people (readers, customers, or just visitors) and their needs.

If you’re one of the sorry few who really believes that one is a substitute for another, here’s a really quick primer on why you’re dead wrong:

  1. RSS feeds by their very nature show the most recent content on a site.
  2. Newsletters involve manually highlighting material (meaning if you have an article on Thanksgiving recipes from two years ago, you can highlight it again this Thanksgiving without screwing around with the dates (and possibly URL structures) on your site.
  3. RSS feeds are just that: feeds. There’s no real personalization.
  4. Newsletters are reader-targeted, meaning you can include a welcome message or other more personal elements that can’t be added to an RSS feed.
  5. RSS feeds are simply a collection of what already exists on your site for the most part.
  6. Newsletters can include completely unique content, guest content from others in the niche, etc. It’s not just a rehashed version of your site if you write effective newsletters.
  7. Newsletters don’t rely on someone remembering to check their RSS reader, depending on how they have things set up. Your information goes right to their inbox.

There’s no need to choose one tool or the other; they’re both effective in their own ways. Just don’t make the mistake of being yet another lazy marketer who forgets about their readers’ needs.


  1. Jennifer Mattern

    Agreed completely. You lose that entire aspect with RSS feeds, and it’s the primary reason they’ll never replace newsletters; at least not with anyone knowing enough about marketing to know better.

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