Monday, October 11, 2010

Blogging Advice: RSS Feeds

It’s not often that I give blogging advice – I’m not that sort of guy and this blog is not that sort of blog. But as a reader I am noticing something that really annoys me – more and more blogs are chopping off their RSS feeds. The blogs/websites give a teaser in the RSS feed and require you to click on the link to read the rest of the article. This is a bad idea that hurts those blogs/websites and is a disservice to the readers.

I assume that the reason blogs do this is to bring people directly to their site. Whether they just vainly want the stats or if there is an actual economic reason (like increasing hit counts to increase advertising rates), it is still a bad idea. In the SFF world, you want people to read articles. You aren’t looking for a profit (and if you are, look somewhere else). Publisher sites and blogs want to inform readers, bring more readers, etc – they want people to buy the books. So, you want people to read the content, not (necessarily) visit the website.

The extra step of clicking on a link really does keep people from reading the content – it certainly keeps me away. Very few teasers are enough for me to bother to read an article, but if I have the full article in front of me, I’m much more likely to at least skim it, if not read it in detail. Another key point is that many of us are reading our RSS feeds while working. And many readers work for large corporations or government entities that put up a lot of web filters. From experience, many SFF websites and blogs are blocked by these security filters. My understanding is that the Federal Government blocks pretty much all blogs. Some examples – Suvudu, SF Signal, YouTube, big name authors like Neil Gaiman – you guys are blocked by my corporation’s web security. But the content comes through RSS feed. If you want me to read, I need the full article (thank you Neil Gaiman and SF Signal for the full feed).

So, check your feed – is it a full feed? Tor, Suvudu, and many blogs – your feeds are not full feeds and I don’t read your articles as a result. I am not alone.

Also, don’t put ads in your RSS feeds. Flash is bad, ads are almost always Flash, it slows down the RSS feeds to a crawl and is extremely annoying. If you have ads in your RSS feed, you will almost certainly be dropped and I will no longer read your content.



King Rat said...

Hear hear!

Kendall said...

I, too, prefer full feeds...but understand the reasons why some don't do that. But most feeds I read seem to be full, I think.

One that ticked me off (not an SFF feed) used to be full and suddenly changed to partial. But it wasn't clear and wasn't announced--it wasn't like there was just a description or something, it was just part (half? 1/3?) of the article. So it just looked like the articles were shorter and not as in depth, sometimes. I clicked through and realized (yay, after only a few days) that the article was just randomly cut off after an arbitrary # of paragraphs.

Ads are the price of doing business in many places, so while I may dislike them, as long as they're simple text ones at the bottom the the feed article, I don't mind so much--I don't read them so it's not tough to skip, and they make a visual break between articles. ;-) I'm not sure I've ever seen a Flash ad in a feed.

Unlike you I wouldn't drop a feed I like, just because of one of these things. That'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face. But I can understand, for something marginal or that you're not getting a lot out of, dropping it if it's more annoying than useful.

Kendall said...

Oh another feed annoyance: Clicking through (whether from a full feed or not) and not getting the article page. Maroon 5's feed links go to...their main site page that has all (or all recent) posts. And while they have # hash anchor in the URL, they don't work--I guess they don't have corresponding anchors in the page!

So I click on a headline and get...what looks like the most recent post! I have to scroll down randomly, scanning for what I want (or remember the right key phrase to search for). Their feed annoys the heck outta me (but at least it's full-minus-the-multimedia).

Sarah said...

I am an absolute RSS noob in every way imaginable. I saw your rant on this on twitter and you have some great points, which I fully agree with. That being said, I have no idea if I qualify to be ranted at or not. Thus, I added feedburner to my blog. Also, I don't THINK I have adds and etc on my RSS feed but I'm not sure. If I do have any of these things that tick you off, please let me know so I can figure out how to fix it. I think you raise valid points and I'm ashamed to admit I'm not sure if I qualify for your rant or not. Anyway, thanks for raising awareness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I loathe partial RSS feeds and have actually stopped reading several blogs because of the partial feeds.

It's especially annoying to deal with partial feeds when traveling and reading on a hand held device. I will stop reading my favorite blogs a day or three before I fly so I have loads to read while in the air. Loading partial feeds just serves to frustrate me when I'm without internet and can't click through.

Brandon said...

Ads and page views are a big part of the decision to go to partial feeds, but another part of the discussion is bandwidth. For very busy sites, the less they send out, the better their overall bandwidth usage is.

That doesn't really apply to smaller (less viewed/subscribed) blogs since they don't have the volume to see a difference.

ChrisW said...

"You aren’t looking for a profit (and if you are, look somewhere else)"

So does that mean you are going to quit putting those annoying referal links after every book you mention?

K.C. Shaw said...

I think Blogger defaults to full feeds unless you specify otherwise. Or at least that's what it was set at when I went in the other day and checked mine. (After you tweeted about this, I added an extra gadget to my review blog to make it extra easier for people to get my feed, and the next day noticed my feed count had decreased. Coincidence?)

Joe Sherry said...

Agreed. I have to *really* want to read the post to click through on a partial feed (or worse, two sentences...)

Plus, stuff like blogger and livejournal is otherwise blocked at work.

I get why professional sites don't have full feeds. But anything personal (like, if you're on blogger), I want a full feed.

Brenda said...

I hate those partial feeds, and I think I've clicked through to the article maybe once or twice total.

Neth said...

I see that there is quite a bit of agreement - I knew I wasn't alone.

@Kendall, it's not like I'll automatically drop everyone, but I have to really like a blog not to.

@Sarah, I'm pretty sure you have to specifically add ads to your feed, so you probably don't. Most sites default to a full feed, so you're probably OK there too.

@Brandon, for publisher websites and blogs (such as Suvudu and Tor) they want to sell books, not try and make a profit from ads. They have a better chance of selling those books and pleasing their customers if they take full advantage of their content. So, the content is what matters. A full RSS feed would get the content out to many more people, which more important.

@ChrisW, don't think that the little return I get on links to booksellers is anywhere near approaching profit. That money/gift certificates doesn't even return on the time it takes me to create those links. The main reason I do it is to make it easier for readers of the blog to get the books and find out more about them. It also helps to support authors and independent books sellers (rather than Amazon). And any money I do make from the site either goes towards buying books or supporting the SFF world elsewhere (such as website and organization donations).

@K.C. Shaw - coincidence. Feed counts vary daily for lots of different reasons (few of which I really understand).

The take-home to all is that if you want your content read, you need the full RSS feed.

John D. said...

The SF Signal feed *does* display the full article.

ChrisW said...

Neth, I didn't think you'd be making lots of money from them. Was just saying I find them annoying and that they are ads how ever ya want to dress it up;) your bugbear is partial feeds mine is over the top affiliate links:)

Fence said...

Another reason for partial feeds is to stop content theft. You know those spam blogs that are eerywhere, a lot of them steal RSS feeds and use that content interspersed with ads.

Others call themselves aggregator sites, but really just steal content, often without even saying where they stole it from.

But I prefer full RSS feeds too :)

Linda said...

Well, Ken, I am an RSS noobe and got reproached last week for unknowingly posting spoilers hidden under a jump break on a home page post on the Towers of Midnight prologue which went through into the RSS feeds. So for spoiler posts I write an intro post with a link to the discussion.

Otherwise as far as I know all my posts are full on the RSS feeds and that's the way I want it.

Joe Sherry said...

Just for a minor point of clarification: is NOT considered a publisher's blog. It doesn't have anything to do with Tor the publisher except that both Tor and are owned by the same parent company.

The editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden (who is also senior editor at Tor) has made a point to call out the separation.

I understand why this isn't obvious (and it isn't), but needs to pull a profit on its own and has a separate budget account that does not come from Tom Doherty at Tor, but rather from the parent company.

I can't speak intelligently about Suvudu, I don't really follow that one and know less about how it is set up.

Neth said...

@John, I clarified it in the original post. My point with SF Signal is that it is a popular SF blog that is blocked by many places of work, not that it doesn't have a full RSS feed (which I very much appreciate).

@ChrisW, do you feel my affiliate links are over the top? I try to keep them to a minumum while still clearly providing the links.

@Fence, good point about the aggregator sites.

@Linda, for something like a spoiler discussion I think partial feeds make good sense. But that is an exception.

@Joe, intersting point about I knew that it has something of an independent mission, but I didn't realize they consider it completely seperate. It certainly is not obvious or even sort of obvious. But the fact remains, if they want me to read their content, they need to go back to the full RSS feeds.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd noticed this recently and wondered what's up? No ads in my feed and the whole post is present.

S.M.D. said...

Pretty much everything you've said is right here. I'm not bothered by ads so much unless the feed is truncated, in which case it's just annoying. But I find truncated feeds pointless. I subscribed to your feed so I could get auto updates with your new content, not so I could be forced to click a bunch of stuff to get to the content. I only have two or three feeds in my RSS reader that have truncated posts. Most of the others I dropped because I never clicked through. These three are the exception.

So, yeah.

Kendall said...

I just realized I was on crack when I said most feeds I read were full. Most regular blogs, yeah; but most newspaper/magazine/music artist feeds I read have a short abstract. But I'm fine with that; for that type of content, I'm usually not interested in all posts anyway. (Actually there's one musician I wish would use abstracts....)


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