Volume 21

A Matter of Choice

By offering Personalised PDF and RSS as delivery options for your customers, you will increase your chances of your message reaching its intended recipients.

Until now your email newsletter has probably offered your subscribers a choice of two formats: HTML or Text.  Recent advances mean that you can now offer two additional formats: Personalised PDF and RSS.

Why introduce new formats?

If you have sent even one email campaign you have probably discovered that it is near impossible to ensure that your email arrives in its full glory for absolutely every recipient.  Spam filters, virus scanners, plain text email programs and overzealous corporate email servers have meant that many of your subscribers may receive your email without images, with unusual formatting, or not at all.

The worst case I have seen is a corporate email server that somehow transformed an incoming email into an extremely long illegible mess only two letters wide.

By offering more choice in delivery formats you ensure that each subscriber can receive your promotions in the format that best suits their preferences.

Why am I saying PDF is a new format?

At some point you have probably emailed a PDF document to a customer.  Experts would have discouraged you from sending your regular email newsletter as a PDF attachment for the following reasons:

  • A PDF cannot be personalised
  • A PDF cannot be tracked
  • The size of the email would be increased significantly
  • Attachments are not accepted by some email servers
  • To create a PDF you probably need to design your own promotion in a publishing program, then save it as a PDF using a separate PDF printing program like Adobe Professional

Times have changed.  It is now possible to allow selected subscribers to receive a personalised, trackable PDF that is automatically generated from your HTML email newsletter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that PDF is the perfect format for all of your subscribers.  However, if you have subscribers in government departments or large corporations that have trouble receiving HTML email, offering them the choice of Personalised PDF format could retain them as subscribers and prevent them from dropping off your list because they can’t seem to read your newsletter.

What is RSS?

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it is actually simple.  It is a method of publishing information.

Imagine receiving a magazine in your letterbox every day that is tailored specifically to you.  Each and every article in the magazine is selected based on preferences that you provide, with the effect that your magazine is completely unique and may contain articles from several different publishers.

RSS offers this possibility in an electronic setting.  In fact, you may even be using RSS without knowing it.  A recent study indicated that approximately 30% of internet users already use RSS.  If you use a personalised home page such as MyYahoo then you are an RSS user already.

How does RSS work?

Any publisher of information anywhere in the world can publish information in RSS format.  Each publisher lists a web address or URL where the information resides.  This address is also known as a Feed.  A publisher may have one feed or hundreds, where each feed could contain information or news about a different topic.

As a consumer, you then use a Feed Reading program to choose which feeds you would like to access.  This is called feed aggregation.

There are plenty of free Feed Reading programs including FeedReader.

What are the benefits of RSS?

One issue with email is that you have no control over the emails that you receive.   Anyone who has your address can send you information, whether you want it or not.  Feed Readers work on the opposite principle – that you specify the feeds or channels that you would like to receive.  This has many benefits over email, which is why it is becoming so popular.  Some of the benefits include:

  • No spam
  • Read content from many publishers in one place without needing to visit dozens of sites
  • Increased privacy – to stop receiving a feed a subscriber simply removes it from their Feed Reading program, with no need to contact the publisher
  • Deliverability – email and spam filters cannot prevent RSS content from arriving

How does RSS apply to email marketing?

Most RSS feeds that you will come across are topic based, and every person that accesses the feed will see the same information.

As an email marketer, you can now make your email promotions available via RSS and have each subscriber receive a personalised feed.  This revolutionary idea will allow you to deliver personalised content without fear of loss to spam filters or changing email addresses.  In another break from traditional RSS publishing, views of your personalised promotions through RSS readers can also be tracked as can clicks on links.

To see how it works, try this simple test:

  1. Download and install FeedReader
  2. Subscribe to my newsletter and choose RSS as your preferred delivery format
  3. Choose to add a feed (in the File Menu), and when it asks you for the location, enter your personal RSS Feed address that you are given when you subscribe


The benefits of email are being undermined today by those that spread spam and viruses with no thought of the consequences.  Filtering now happens on almost every email server in the world, with the end result being that your messages either may not arrive intact, or may not arrive at all.

By offering Personalised PDF and RSS as delivery options for your customers, you will increase your chances of your message reaching its intended recipients.

Note to our clients: If you are using MailManager or iRealty to manage your email marketing, then you have this capability already.  Just go to “Options” after logging in to enable these formats.