Copyright 2005 Rok Hrastnik
To better understand how RSS is changing way companies and individuals deliver and consume content on macro scale, let us first remember how content is traditionally delivered and consumed.
People subscribe to e-mail newsletters or e-mail update services to get content delivered directly to their inboxes. It's (or better yet, was) convenient, easy and simple.
But, in order to get content delivered to their inboxes, they must first reveal their e-mail addresses, which are basically ID numbers that allow anyone who knows them to send whatever they like to these ID numbers.
In a perfect world people would only receive content that they requested and only from people that they wanted to hear from --> people that can provide them with relevant information, specific to their interests and current situation.
But this is not a perfect world.
Since “ID number” allows anyone to contact anyone, people have very little control over who actually does contact them and what information they send them.
In a way, it's a “perfect democracy” that just doesn't work. Because, in reality, we don't want to hear from everyone that thinks they have something to say to us. In reality, we only want to hear from a very limited circle of people and receive very limited types of content categories.
But, for sake of argument, let's presume that we are actually getting information only from people that we want to hear from. Unfortunately these people still have power to send us whatever information they like, not just information we want to receive from them. Basically, they have power to push any kind of content to our e-mail inboxes.
We can either unsubscribe, if they give us this opportunity, from their e-mail service or continue to receive their content as it is. One of problems with this is that unsubscribing can be a rather tedious process, definitely not a two-click affair, and some people even doubt that unsubscribe feature will actually work.
This is our reality.
We are, more or less, forced to receive content we mostly don't want to receive, and for content that we do want to receive, we also have to put up with much information we don't want to get.
This is “democratic” nature of e-mail and many marketers and publishers have been abusing it for a long time. It's not medium's fault of course; it's just that people are who we are.
And now enter RSS in to picture, a “new” channel that users need to proactively add to their content consumption mix, including proactively adding content publishers they want to hear from, thus eliminating “democracy” of e-mail, conversely, limiting our “content diet” only to publishers we actually want to hear from.
But there's more.
One of this channel's characteristics is that it's extremely easy to remove content publishers you don't want to hear from.
Now, all of us have very limited time for online content consumption. It's always been this way, but with e-mail content consumption we usually don't even bother ourselves with unsubscribing from content we don't want to receive, since we already receive hundreds of SPAM e-mails per day anyway, so why bother with unsubscribing from a few e-mail lists and few additional e-mails we receive per week. Most people don't even know anymore what they subscribe to since they have no unified view of all of their e-mail subscriptions.