rss revisited

June 02, 2008

Every respectable blog needs an rss. Setting one isn't particularly hard (though I must admit, I didn't do it myself), choosing how to implement your rss feed is something else. There are two ways of going about it, and depending on where you look you'll find different preferences. So when I launched, I chose one way, today I'm switching sides.

building on top of the past

rss: tease or deliver

The prime question you should be asking yourself when setting up an rss feed is pretty simple. Do you want to include the full article so people can read it in their favored rss reader, or do you send the intro of your article so people are supposed to click through to your site. There is no straight answer to this question, much depends on the situation and the control you want as a site owner.

attempt 1 - rss with intro

Right before launch I was still considering the benefits of both methods. After thinking long and hard about it, I chose to only include the intro of the article into the feed. I had some very specific reasons for this.

First of all, when you design a website you're establishing your presence on the web. You try to stand out from other blogs and you spend time on typography so people will have a nicer time reading your stuff. All this time is wasted when the full article goes into your rss and people don't click through to your site.

To top that, a page on your site is probably more than an article. There are comments, internal related link, external related links, You can advertise new features and options in the sidebar, .... All these things are usually lost when you include the full article into a feed.

But what really got me convinced were user statistics. I was starting a blog and I needed to know whether people were interested enough in my articles. All those reading the rss feed would be lost from my statistics, which could make a serious dent in my motivation to keep on writing. So considering all the remarks above, I decided to go with the intro of the article.

attempt 2 - rss with full article

More than 6 months after launch, I've come to change my view on things.

Most importantly, I now know that there is a small but devoted group of people reading my articles. So the importance of user statistics isn't all that crucial anymore. And since my launch I now have a way to keep track of my rss stats, which is of course a big help in keeping track of my readers.

There's another thing that dawned on me. A portion of my readers is happy with the intro alone. Those people can still click through to read the full article on my blog, so I'm not really losing anyone there by switching. On the other hand, I'm gaining people who prefer to read the full article in their rss feed, so I'm actually expanding my reader base (which is of course my ultimate goal) by switching tactics.

rss - a new dawn

There are other variables to consider depending on the kind of site you own and depending on the kind of readers you're trying to reach. By sending the whole article you will generate extra traffic for people. Also, advertisements are a big issue when considering the type of rss you want to implement. Still, these issues are of little importance to my blog.

So from today on, along with a few other small changes, my rss will include the full article. Rejoice!