Thursday, October 5, 2006

Gripe Time: The Shame of Partial RSS Feeds

Author: Nick
Category: Money

full feeds now full feeds now full feeds [...] visit the website to continue reading this alt text hahahahaha

Do you use an RSS feed reader to keep up with your favorite websites? If so, then you’ve probably encountered a few different feeds in your days.

Some will allow you to read the entire text of new articles right from your reader, while others will only syndicate a few sentences and ask you to visit the website for the full text. Writers who only offer partial feeds likely do so because they believe full feeds would lower their advertising revenue.

There is a sort of petition making the rounds on the internet aimed at convincing providers of web content to syndicate their updates using full feeds only. I quickly added myself to the list of supporters, though I feel I should explain why I did so considering I am one of those providers of web content who should be worrying about lost advertising income.

Why I Like Reading Full Feeds Better

The reason I prefer reading full feeds over partial feeds is simple: it’s probably the only thing that’s going to get me to read the full article. I’ve been tracking my own feed reading habits in recent weeks, and I estimate that I’ve only clicked through partial feeds to read the full article about 1% of the time. As for writers who syndicate using full feeds, I read their entire articles from my reader roughly 20-30% of the time. On top of that, I clicked through full feeds to the site about 5% of the time in order to leave a comment on the full article I just read.

Why Web Content Providers Should Provide Full Feeds

The idea that advertising revenue will be lost by providing full RSS feeds is a myth. Here’s why:

  • Reader clickthroughs actually higher with full feeds. In reality, you will probably see more clickthroughs to your site via full feeds that encourage your readers to read your entire article and visit your site in order to leave comments or ask questions.
  • No pictures. I also noticed I’m about five times more likely to click through an article that has a picture in it compared to one that does not. Partial feeds generally mean you don’t syndicate pictures in your posts.
  • A few sentences just aren’t enough. How do you expect three lines of text to catch my eye when I have full-text posts complete with pictures on either side of your article in my reader? It’s like trying to find a dwarf in a room full of sumo wrestlers; I’d rather give up the search and have fun with the wrestlers instead!
  • Most writers open weakly. If you syndicate partial feeds, the only things you have to hook me into reading the rest of your article are a title and a few sentences. Unfortunately most web content providers don’t write sensational titles or opening lines that really draw in their readers. (No offense, writers; I’m probably in that boat, too.)
  • Partial feeds don’t prevent content theft. I know a few writers who switched to partial feeds because they had their content stolen by other websites who simply republished their full feeds. This is not an effective way to deal with content theft. Instead, you should report the content thief to their advertising partners (likely Google AdSense) who will cancel their account and eliminate the reason for them to republish your feed in the first place.
  • You can now advertise within full RSS feeds. There are several programs in place offering web content providers the ability to monetize (that is, make money from) their RSS feeds. My favorite are the non-obtrusive Feedvertising links provided by Text Link Ads.

My Challenge to Readers and Writers

Writers who syndicate partial feeds, here’s my challenge to you. Try turning on full feeds for a month and see what effect it has on your clickthrough rate. Be sure to take note of your comment frequency and your RSS subscriber count before and after you begin your trial run with full feeds. If you see a positive change, I hope you’ll stick with full feeds so that your readers may benefit from their convenience and you may benefit from having more of your content read.

Readers who don’t like partial feeds, contact web content providers who only syndicate using partial feeds and point them to this article. Ask them to consider a trial run with full feeds. And add your name to the petition at to help encourage other web content providers to go full feed.

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe directly to Punny Money’s full RSS feed. It’s the only way through which you can view the full content (pictures and all!) of Punny Money’s articles directly from your favorite RSS reader.

(Thanks to Freshblog for inspiring this article.)

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