Technology Thoughts

Thoughts on RSS Feeds

RSS IconNeville Hobson hits the nail on the head with this post about RSS Feeds:

If you offer an RSS feed from your website or blog that isn’t the full content, here’s something for you to think about.

Like many people, I’m an RSS creative-consumer. That means I read almost everything of interest to me via RSS as well as publish content that you can get via RSS. I don’t visit many websites including blogs unless I’m googling in search mode or if I want to leave a comment.

I read my content of interest on different devices, from desktop PCs to laptops to mobile phones, whatever is to hand and wherever I happen to be.

If I find a site of interest, I’ll subscribe to its RSS feed. If it doesn’t offer a feed, I usually leave it there. And if it offers a feed that first leads you to a login firewall – bad mainstream media tactic – that usually gets deleted unless the content on offer is unmissably compelling (very few of those).

I no longer subscribe to any site that only offers subscriptions to RSS feeds that contain partial content, not the Full Monty.

It made me stop and think how I have actually read my daily diet of websites down the years.

I first started using the Internet regularly at college back in 1996 and I bookmarked sites of interest in Netscape Navigator or just browsed by keywords in different search engines.

Despite all the changes in the web over the years I still tended to use bookmarks (either on Netscape or Internet Explorer) when I surfed at home or at work. The advent of Google made searching a lot easier but it still surprises me that this basic method of web browsing lasted for so long until the advent of RSS feeds.

Over the last two years I’ve used Netvibes and Google Reader to subscribe to and read sites. I also check out BlogsNow and Popurls to get new stories from outside my regular haunts and have a link bar in Firefox of sites I regularly visit (Google, BBC News, Facebook, Amazon and – of course – the IMDb).

RSS feeds make reading sites a lot easier – I can access my bookmarks/subscriptions across multiple computers and devices now but I can also get through my digest of daily stories much more quickly.

But as Neville points out some media companies and organisations don’t seem to get this. In fact you could argue that some want to limit their readers ability to access their content. Why? Usually as a smart-but-actually-dumb way of making it seem exclusive and worth paying for.

But if sites gave up their obsession with making us click through to the actual page and just measured the subscribers to their feed, it would just make it easier for the reader. Plus, we might actually spend more time on their site.

I don’t mind ads in the feed (as long as they’re not annoying or intrusive) so it is not really a question of that. It is simply about making things easier for me, the reader – because if you don’t, then sooner or later I’ll be going elsewhere.

How do you read your websites? Post any thoughts below.

[Original link via James Cridland’s blog]

> History of RSS Feeds at Wikipedia
> Google Reader
> Netvibes