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Bill McCloskey, founder of the Internet One Hundred Club, seems to be taking a lot of heat for a few articles he wrote a while back about claims that folks have been making about the penetration of RSS feeds and the ability of RSS to replace email.

Bill was right when he talked about how people are reaching when they talk about the penetration of RSS. He was also right to remind people regarding PointCast ("RSS feeds are nothing more than the old PointCast model dressed up for the 21st Century. PointCast didn't work then. And I remain skeptical that for the foreseeable future, RSS will work now. ").

I don't believe RSS will replace email altogether, but I am working on a project to use secure RSS feeds as a replacement for email to circumvent phishing concerns for a client who is NOT sending out email. I do think RSS will move Web site traffic, because people can use RSS readers to receive content without having to visit a site. That's how I pound through my feeds.

OK, before I lose you, here's what RSS feeds are... and here's why you should care about RSS.

What Is RSS?

RSS stands for really simple syndication. It was invented sometime ago by Netscape. In its simplest form, it was a news-clipping service that provided a header and few lines of text. It has evolved, however, to look, resemble, and act like email. Most major news sites (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, YahooNews, etc.) allow you to tag a section and grab an RSS feed. That way, instead of having to go visit a Web page, you can receive a feed.

For example, the RSS feeds list on my Web site, the MarketingProfs Web site, or on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog, will allow you to get the RSS feeds of my recent articles or posts and access them through your favorite reader (Yahoo, Google, Bloglines, etc.).

To read a feed, you need a Web-based provider like MyYahoo or Bloglines, a desktop version that most likely adds on to Outlook, or a browser such as Firefox, IE 7.0 (which is in beta), or Safari for MAC. No busy executive should be without one.

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Eric Frenchman is an online marketing and advertising consultant in New Jersey and chief internet strategist for the online political agency Connell Donatelli (www.connelldonatelli.com). He is a frequent contributor to the daily MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix (blog.marketingprofs.com), and writes his own marketing blog (www.ericfrenchman.com).