An Apology To My RSS Readers – But I Had To Do It. (Updated)

Some random site running my last post without asking.

If you’re a fan of this site, you’re also probably a fan of RSS – a once-ascendant technology that has been on most everyone’s deathwatch for five or so years. According to Google’s (almost totally outdated) Feedburner service, nearly 450,000 people subscribe to this blog via RSS – although the number of you who actually read my posts is far smaller (according to Feedburner statistics, which I’ve never fully understood).

In any case, from time to time I’ve poked at you poor RSS readers, just to find out if you’re alive. Remember this piece – Is RSS Really Dead? Or this one – Once Again, RSS Is Dead. But ONLY YOU Can Save It!?

In those posts, I asked if my beloved RSS readers were really out there. Turns out, I got tons of comments back – a very high number given the work involved in declaring fealty to the creaky old standard. (It kind of felt like a reshoot of that wonderful final scene in Horton Hears a Who – “Everybody yell real loud, and maybe Google will hear, and not deprecate Feedburner…”  But I digress.)

I’ve always kept my RSS feed “full text” – which means the entire post, pictures, words and all, goes out over RSS, and can be picked up by any RSS reader anywhere on the planet. I always have held the belief that it’s more important that my work get distributed than monetized. But not everyone can afford such high minded principles. Many publishers cut their feed short, teasing folks with headlines and a snippet of the story in the hopes that people will click through to the site, where their visit can be properly “monetized” via advertising.

My new feed (sadface).

After much thought, I’m going to do the same. But not for the extra clicks and ads. It’s due to the fraud that’s taken over the content space in the Indpendent Web. Untold legions of bad actors use RSS to scrape “real” sites like this one, then wrap them with ads from exchanges to make a quick buck. The rise of programmatic fraud has made this even worse (see It’s Time To Call Out Fraud In The Adtech Ecosystem for more on this). And no, I’m not going to link to examples – but you can Google “Content Scraping” if you want to learn more.

So, consider this an apology. I am very sorry that you have to click a link to get to the content I make here every day. But also consider this a plea – as in, please do click that link at the top. I very much want you to be part of this conversation.

(And if enough of you complain, you know I’ll listen, and figure out some way around this).

 

UPDATE: I turned full feed back on. Thanks for all the input.

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

102 thoughts on “An Apology To My RSS Readers – But I Had To Do It. (Updated)”

  1. I can’t believe how petty (and pompous) the unsubscribers sound. I am not the most regular reader of your blog, but I know you put in a great deal of time to not only write, but to cultivate the kind of contacts required to write knowledgeably. They can’t be bothered with another click? Good Heavens..How precious their time must be.

    As far as the Open Web is concerned, I guess I’m for not truncating. Still, I get your posts on iGoogle (the sentenced-to-death iGoogle) and they’re just headlines to me until I click..And, when I read your posts, they have value far in excess of the click that I “pay” to read it.

  2. Please don’t make me click. I’m lazy and won’t. Especially when I’m on my phone, which is when I do a lot of my feed reading. I’ll probably wind up deleting and missing out on good content. Thank you!

  3. Here’s an idea: I know there are ways to do this, and maybe it’s not worth the effort (I’ll keep reading and clicking either way) but what if there was a way for the RSS subscriptions “relationship” to be more like Facebook and less like Twitter? What is the author had to approve someone to get the full feed? I know you can publish “private” full feeds, sites like NSFWCorp do this but it just seems like there’s a better way to give full access to people you trust vs those who don’t.

    Don’t know, just thinking out loud.

  4. I have to say that I’m an occasional reader. I usually skim the full text and decide if I want to commit to the full article. I greatly dislike clicking through because I only get one paragraph to decide whether or not an article is something I want to spend time reading. I have no problem clicking through for content I find interesting, but the decision process is severely limited for truncated posts.

    I think the knowledge that one must front-load one’s writing to attract readership also cheapens the writing. Also as other readers have noted, as an advocate of the open web, you have a duty to ‘live by your principles’ in my opinion. I therefore vote for full-text.

    Finally I would say that If you do return to full text I will likely click through more often anyway given the level of care I’ve seen you put forth to respond to your readers.
    Best wishes

  5. I’ll put in another vote for full feed – I mainly read through Google Reader, and over the years I’ve found the friction of clicking through for a full article is rather underestimated. It is almost always easier & more satisfying to just skip to another full post, since I have so many blogs to see, so my clickthroughs for abridged posts are in genera abysmally low. It’s far easier to skip to someone else’s full posts, sadly

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, before I started at Google, during my 6 years there, and still reading now after I left. Was one of the best sites I’ve come across when I was getting into the industry. Thanks for putting out such great content

  6. Simple. On your RSS button, have it redirect to a form. Once people put their email in, they get sent a new RSS feed link. Only people who take the effort to sign up can get the feed. It might help…

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