RSS Newsfeeds: The Boon or Bane of Blogs?
“Do you think RSS Feeds help or hurt bloggers and their sites or do they help spread the word about your site?”
Back in the good old days when I subscribed to email subscriptions I have to admit that I rarely visited the website. But I probably wouldn’t have even visited at all had it not been for the teaser summaries that made me want to click. Most email subscriptions still employ this successful method today.
When I first started adding RSS newsfeeds (before Feedburner) into the mix my main concern was how I could maintain subscriber stats. I recall having a discussion with Chris Pirillo about this who was adamantly pushing RSS at the time. I wasn’t convinced and I was perplexed as to why someone who purportedly had one of the largest email subscriber lists on the net would be willing to undermine that achievement. Nevertheless, along came Feedburner and that little dilemma was soon resolved.
My first foray into RSS only offered teaser summaries until I read that certain a-listers like Scoble et al were whining about how they wouldn’t subscribe to anything but a full feed. Of course that is easy to say if you are already getting huge traffic to your site.
And so I offered three versions - headlines, summary and a full feed. I notice that most subscribers still lean towards the full feed which seems to lend credence to the argument that they are just reading my feed and not visiting my blog site.
But in the alternative, the question that begs asking is would those same readers have also subscribed to the partial feeds if the full feed was not available?
I did notice a dramatic increase in my subscribers after offering the three feed versions, but at the same time I had also made changes to my site that could have also explained the increase. So unfortunately there is no definitive answer to that.
We all know that some of the more important reasons (amongst others) for offering a newsfeed is to make it:
a) Convenient for your subscribers to keep in touch;
b) A non-intrusive reminder to your readers that you are still alive;
c) But perhaps more importantly, hopefully our readers will see something that will make them want to click and visit our site.
I think most of us would agree to that.
RSS newsfeeds are definitely a boon, even to business blogs from a public relations/customer service perspective. Some businesses don’t necessarily care about making revenue from advertising because that is not their primary focus for having a corporate blog. They may just want to use their blog for staying in touch with their customers, getting client feedback or introducing new products.
But if it is our intention to encourage readers to our site and sell advertising there, it isn’t rocket science (at least on the face of it) to figure out that we are probably losing revenue by offering the full feed. It would seem the only plausible answer to that conundrum would be to offer advertising within the RSS feed itself.
Then again, by doing that we might also turn off some purists who do not want to see blogging turned into a business venture. But given the success of blogs such as Engadget, that would seem to be a risk that is worth taking for the entrepreneurial at heart.
I think the bottom line like anything else is we have to ask why we are blogging in the first place. I believe that most of us blog for the sheer love of it, and then there are those of us who want to earn something for our efforts as well. Neither reason is more right than the other.
But if we want to make money blogging we have to put our advertising within the medium where our readers reside the most. (Of course advertising is not the only way to make money blogging but that is another post).
Nobody in their right mind would advertise on a billboard in the middle of a forest instead of on the main highway that leads us to where comfortable lodging, fuel and delicious meals are waiting.
So if our readers are viewing our work mostly within the confines of a newsreader then we will have to put our advertising there. I can’t see any other way of getting around that.
But it seems reasonable that the same reasons for not offering a full feed would also apply to bloggers who are not interested in generating income. For if we provide a full newsfeed what incentive would there be for our readers to visit our site?
Unless of course if they wanted to leave a comment. Then again, perhaps some of us might not even care if they visit because we are not selling advertising, just so long as they are reading our work.
After thinking about it I may have just talked myself into being against full RSS newsfeeds. But I still believe the best policy is to try and please everyone, so I will continue to support a full feed… I just won’t make it the default option.
There is no question that RSS is a wonderful technology but we need to decide how best to use that technology, and as we can see there is no simple answer. It ultimately depends on the purpose of our blog, its intended audience and what benefit we are looking for from our work.
You can read more about this over at David’s blog.
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