Thoughts on technology, investing, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Start to publish RSS feeds smarter

Publishers of RSS feeds: please, please, please let me read your content. Stop creating hurdles for your readers. One of the biggest mistakes I’m seeing today is the amount of content provided (or the lack thereof) in RSS feeds. I understand the argument against putting full content into feeds. I understand publishers want to drive readers to their website as that’s where the money is made. But if a publisher is going to provide just the summary content, at least give me enough to know what the post is about. It’s incredibly annoying to have to click on every single feed item just to get an idea of what the post’s subject. One of the biggest benefits for a subscriber of RSS feeds is how much time they can save. Time savings with RSS is gained by allowing the subscriber to only read what they want when they want. If I have to to skim every single webpage this defeats this purpose of feeds. Titles almost never tell enough, so I need a summary. I’m sure I’m not alone in this complaint. If you only subscribe to a few feeds, this may not seem like an issue but when you have hundreds of feeds this becomes a big nuisance.

Here’s a example of a feed I unsubscribed this morning due to this issue. The site, Business Blog Consulting, has great content contributed by a group of bloggers. Some of the item titles look interesting when I skim the feed in my reader, but are usually a bit vague (unfortunately, most feeds have this problem). When I view the feed, they provide summary content (a.k.a excerpts). Not my preference, but we’re still ok here. The deal breaker is that their summary content is only a sentence or two. This is not nearly enough for me to decide whether I want to read the whole post. If the posts were usually short, this probably wouldn’t be that big of an issue. The fact that most posts are relatively long (5 or 6 paragraphs), really dumbfounds me. How about a bit more of a teaser to get me to bite?

The latest post, entitled “Blogger and Podcaster” magazine? Huh?” displayed the following in my feed reader (and yes, I have my reader set to display full content if available):

Okay, so I’m more than a bit puzzled to learn about a new print magazine being launched in January, Blogger and Podcaster. But not because of the fact that it’s a magazine because I get a number of magazines about Internet-related topics, including webmaster publications and, heck, I’m a contributor …

Please give me some more context. I’ll take ads in my feeds for full content or just give me some more stuff in the summary. Just make it easier for me to read your content.

There are a variety of options to make this work better for both publishers and readers. The two at the top of my list are 1) creating an actually summary of the content in the article or post (this requires the most work) and 2) increase the number of characters where your excerpt is cutoff.

Here is the Business Blog Consulting feed. Judge for yourself and let me know. Am I crazy? Am I asking too much? What do you think?

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  1. Thanks Stephan for posting this as it’s great news. I’ll definitely be back.

    I’m assuming you were planning this in advance, but I’d like to think that I wield so much power that this post caused the change 😉

    Another aspect to this debate I didn’t mention in my original post is ad-supported full text feeds. What does everyone think? Personally, if one of the concerns of the publisher is the revenue generation from the web site, I’m more than happy with the insertion of ads every couple of posts if it keeps the feed content as full text.