Feeds Are About Privacy, Not Just Technology

Today I just found out (via The Green Skeptic) that The Nature Conservancy is now offering a podcast: Nature Stories Podcast. I’m quite interested in the environment, so I clicked right over to add that show’s feed to my feed reader. (What’s a feed? And a podcast?)

I looked for a feed link on that page, but found none. However, there is a link that says “Subscribe to podcast.” I clicked on that and got taken to a form where they expected me to provide my name, e-mail, street address, etc. just to sign up for their podcast!

It seems to me that whoever put this site together doesn’t understand that feeds ARE a type of permission contact. But it’s a type of contact that offers the subscriber maximum control and privacy.

If you want to build a relationship with people, it’s important to respect their communication and contact preferences…

Someone who wants to subscribe to your feed doesn’t want to give you their e-mail address. Therefore, it’s counterproductive to require identifying or contact information before granting access to the feed URL.

Here’s the message that strategy sends: “I know you want my feed, so you want information from me. But I don’t respect your privacy, so I’m going to force you to give me your e-mail and street addresses too, whether or not you want me to contact you through those channels.”

Not exactly a great start to a new relationship.

I provided dummy contact information, and then got taken to a page that gave the feed URL – which is, by the way: http://podcast.prx.org/nature/rss.xml.

So now if you wish to subscribe to that podcast, you can do so on your own terms.

If you want permission marketing or advocacy to work, it’s important to respect the audience’s preferences. A preference for a feed is about more than technology – it’s about privacy, too.

3 thoughts on Feeds Are About Privacy, Not Just Technology

  1. Amy, you say, “Someone who wants to subscribe to your feed doesn�t want to give you their e-mail address. Therefore, it�s counterproductive to require identifying or contact information before granting access to the feed URL.”

    To which I wonder — how do you know? Why should that be a rule of this new arena? Maybe the Nature Conservancy has determined that maximum listenership is not its goal. Maybe, instead, it has determined that gathering registration information is its most important goal, and the podcast will help it do that.

    A podcast isn’t *necessarily* about relationship marketing. (Even if it is, I don’t see how the registration requirement necessarily harms the relationship beyond repair at its beginning.)

  2. I like what you had to say about privacy. I also
    think of it in terms of customization. For example,
    people are using all sorts of devices for their
    various needs. They expect companies they deal
    with to offer them a variety of ways that they
    can receive the message they have to give; not
    make them go through one medium.

    To me they should have given you an option. Then if
    you wanted to be on their list you had the choice:
    not them dictating to you.

  3. David wrote: “A podcast isn�t *necessarily* about relationship marketing. (Even if it is, I don�t see how the registration requirement necessarily harms the relationship beyond repair at its beginning.)”

    Well, personally, I view a podcast as always being about a relationship, since listeners must subscribe to get it. That subscription connotes a direct, voluntary connection — which is a kind of relationship in itself, and which can mark the starting point of a more active relationship if both sides choose to develop it.

    The registration requirement is a problem because it creates an obstacle to subscribing — even worse, before any value has been offered to the would-be podcast listener. And worst of all, this is an invasive obstacle that requires disclosure of information many of us would not reveal at the beginning of a relationship.

    In short, it’s a pushy, greedy, ham-handed approach — one that ignores the social dynamics inherent in feed-based media. At the very least it will hurt feed subscribership.

    I’d hope the Nature Conservancy checks out its site stats for the percentage of people who exit after hitting that subscriber page, without providing their contact info. I’ll bet it would be at least 50%. Beyond that (but harder to calculate) is the % of visitors who subscribe using fake information — a total waste to the Nature Conservancy.

    IMHO, of course.

    – Amy Gahran

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