Alternative Media: RSS Revolution

This new technology can help pharma reach and educate its target audiences.
Aug 01, 2005

Hensley Evans
RSS. if you've never heard of it, rest assured, you're not alone. It's likely that in 1995, you hadn't heard of e-mail either. Yet, try to imagine your life without it now. Ninety-one percent of Internet users now use e-mail on a regular basis. While Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is still in its infancy—it has an estimated six million users, according to the Pew & Internet Life Project—recent research indicates penetration rates are increasing rapidly. And, a recent study reveals that 73 percent of RSS users intend to increase their RSS consumption this year.

Pharma marketers are focusing increasingly on the Web to reach and educate their target audiences. RSS is a new technology that provides pharma marketers an opportunity to foster a relationship with consumers that leads to strong brand affinity and trust.

Marc Blumberg
RSS adoption is expanding beyond the tech-savvy population, and with Microsoft's plan to incorporate RSS into the Windows operating system in late 2006, RSS will have multiple industries using the technology, including pharma. Pharma marketers can greatly benefit from exploring this new technology, as RSS has the power to change how users consume Web-based content, giving them control of their information consumption and increased privacy.

RSS Defined

Although RSS has been around since the early 1990s, it has gained widespread attention only recently. The explosion of blogs and rapid adoption by news publishers has helped to feed the recent growth.

RSS is a technology that allows marketers to publish content feeds on their Web sites that users can subscribe to. Users then manage the feeds through a desktop application called a reader or aggregator (which is either free or available for a small fee) that automatically downloads new content and delivers it to the user. Readers then notify users through a pop up—similar to e-mail notifications—that new content is available. Users can then read the headlines and decide whether or not to follow the links to new information.

To obtain desktop RSS readers, users must go to a specific Web site and download the application. Although there are many readers available, there is no de facto standard (like Outlook); however, Microsoft's announcement that it will incorporate a reader into its operating system—a test version of the browser will be available later this summer—indicates that software developers are taking notice of the potential of RSS.

Web-based RSS applications also exist, allowing users to access RSS feeds through Web sites instead of a desktop application. This allows users to access their RSS feeds from anywhere they have an Internet connection.

Why RSS?

The Future of RSS
There are many ways pharma marketers might consider leveraging RSS-based marketing. Pharma marketers can use RSS to increase compliance by enhancing the frequency of communication with patients and caregivers. Regular RSS feeds can provide patients with timely reminders, disease management tips and news related to a specific product or disease. And, if a product treats a sensitive condition where patients are hesitant to provide personally identifiable information, such as HIV/AIDS, RSS can help them to obtain the information while remaining anonymous.

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