I just finished participating in a panel discussion with Marty Donner (GM at ReturnPath) and Neil Rosen (CEO at eWayDirect) at the DirectMedia client co-op. We had a pretty full room — and not a single person there subscribed to a podcast. Only a half dozen knew what feeds were.
It was obvious there was a lot of interest in feeds, however… lots of questions after the panel about how they could leverage feeds as either publishers or advertisers (or both). Some take-aways: direct marketers are increasingly trying to figure out how to blend channels (web, email, offline, now feeds) to most effectively reach consumers. eWay has an interesting desktop alert system that’s getting far higher response rates than email; Neil cited a similar approach being used by Southwest, Ding!, which has more than 1.5m downloads in a little over a year, and is expected to drive incremental revenues of $60m per year. Now, Southwest isn’t using RSS (that I know of), but it’s the same idea. And I think more marketers will start to embrace this idea, turning some feeds into a more transactional medium. (I think FeedFlare has some possibilities here, too… more on that later.
As more companies embrace feeds as a logical extension of their overall marketing effort (whether it’s Target delivering the Sunday circular as a feed, or a financial service company delivering card holder offers each week, or ticketing companies delivering ticket offers to subscribers), the world of feeds as actionable information is getting bigger. A few years ago feeds were just for blogs, now they’re for anyone producing “content” — and what we group under the “content” umbrella is just getting broader.