I”m a blogger. I blog. That means I read blogs. Hundreds of them. It’s impossible for me to keep up every day, but when I find a few spare minutes, I can be found on Google Reader or on my smartphone, iPad or other device that lets me read RSS feeds catching up on the news of the day.
What’s the problem with this? RSS feeds. I used to think that feeds were awesome, and made my life streamlined and cozy. However, as I gather more and more blogs to read, and information that I find useful, I am beginning to hate feeds, and more so – blogs in general. Why? Because of the partial post feed. A partial post feed is essential a teaser; a blip from the full article on the blog that catches you attention, and hopefully forces you to click through to the actually blog page – thereby forcing you to be counted amongst the “readers” on the blog. THe problem I have with this is that I, like many felling media junkies, are not going click through to 500 individual blogs – let alone blog posts – on any sort of regular basis.
With the advent of smart devices to aggregate reads, and thee fastest selling download apps being RSS readers and magazine syndication posts for these feeds, the snipped post is obsolete. What is a girl to do if she wants to maintain a somewhat accurate count of the number of “readers” she has? A combination of feed subscribers and unique visitors will give you a fairly decent high level view of this. As someone put in a response to my Facebook post about this though – subscribers do not equal readers. That might be true, but what defines a “READER”? If you incorporate page views vs unique visitors, add in returning visitors, and divide by the sum total length of each page view, yo might if you are lucky get a number something like pi. NOT particularly useful in the real world.
Since numbers are primarily a game, and the BEST (well ok most popular really because who defines “best”) blogs have guesstamates of accurate readership, why all the fuss and scardy cat behavior in using partial posts? I’m not convinced there is a logical reason for it unless you are really trying to hide (a valid reason), track someone down (another valid reason), or stick it to the man.
Fortunately there ARE tools out there that give you a well rounded picture. Most blog feeds are on Feedburner, a google underling. Currently, you can use Google Analytics to track most blog traffic, and also log in to Feedburner to view RSS traffic. After doing some digging, since it’s a pain for me, I found a few possible solutions. On possible solution includes hiding some code in your RSS feed so you can track it separate in Analytics. I’m still working on that one. There are some additional ways to get the results, but i’m still trying to decypher them since it appears they were written by Russian hackers.
The debate over full versus partial feeds rages on in the geek community – I’ve uncovered some pretty interesting conversations on the subject; for the most part, blogs with a large subscription base and a lot of content have made the switch to full feeds. IN many cases, subscribers have gone up significantly after that jump. Personally, I subscribe to a lot of blogs via the Google Chrome RSS doohicky, a one click plug in. That aid, when I go comb through my reader, I subsequently ditch a lot of feeds that are header only (instead delete) and partial feeds (read first, then ditch). While there are a small number of readers who do prefer partial feeds – I find that the majority of readers prefer a full feed and that as a result most who provide them notice an upswing in subscriber numbers. Of course there are downsides in full feeds (for one they become more attractive to scraper sites) so make your decision carefully – but if it’s subscriber numbers that you’re after full feeds will be something to consider.
I did however, recently discover a tool for google reader (on Chrome only) that allows you to turn a partial feed in to a full feed. But what if I am reading on my iPad? Bloggers need to understand that readers are expanding from the web interface to other forms of reading. Yes, I realize that footprints on your blog are important – as is foot traffic in a retail store environment; however, if you take the analogy of retail stores email me specials, deals, info and turn that in to bloggers making content available to me – is that not the same? Why or why not? In a business environment, we are moving to a mobile tablet environment. Our sales reps will soon be equipped with iPads and not issued laptops for business purposes. Yes, we are a google apps shop – but that really doesn’t matter since you can get enterprise apps for iPads and other tablets that allow you to function effectively with mobile devices. If Salesforce and Microsoft, and Google can create apps that are business friendly for mobile devices, why can’t bloggers create an environment that is to reading RSS feeds?
Given that foot traffic is so critical, there are a number of ways to track this. My little friend Google informs me that there are ways to integrate Google Analytics with RSS feeds. you don’t HAVE to use Feedburner. A little bit of know how will allow you to actually track the clicks and therefore the subscribers. I’m going to work on this for myself, since I’m interested to see the outcome; I struggle with the Feedreader / Analytics stats because I wonder how accurate they are; what other tools have better stat tracking? I’m a bit stuck on that so if you have a great tracking tool please share.
And people, please make it easier on me! Put your subscribe link on the top of the page, above the fold. For those less technically inclined, offer a subscribe by email option.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my tech lesson of today.
What do YOU think? Why do you have clipped feeds? Why do you care? Speaking more to the citizen blogger out there, and even industry folks, how do you encourage readership? Discuss!