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How to display your RSS subscriber count

You've all seen the little FeedBurner subscriber counters on sites that display a site or more often a blogs number of RSS subscribers. Whilst this is a nice widget to display on your site there isn't much in the way of customizing to display something different.

Plaint text subscriber count

There is a way to display the number of readers you have for your feed by using FeedBurners API. This means you can display your subscriber count within some text, for example as part of a blog post. You could also have a separate message somewhere on you site saying X number of readers subscribe to this site.

You can use the PHP code below. You need to have PHP5 otherwise the SimpleXMLElement command will not work.

<?php
//get cool feedburner count
$whaturl="http://api.feedburner.com/awareness/1.0/GetFeedData?uri=YourFeedburnerFeedLinkHere";

//Initialize the Curl session
$ch = curl_init();

//Set curl to return the data instead of printing it to the browser.
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
//Set the URL
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $whaturl);
//Execute the fetch
$data = curl_exec($ch);
//Close the connection
curl_close($ch);

$xml = new SimpleXMLElement($data);
$fb = $xml->feed->entry['circulation'];

//end get cool feedburner count
?>

The next line of PHP needs to be located where you want the subscriber count number to appear. This code needs to occur after the code above for it to work.

<?php echo $fb;?>

I borrowed this code from Mark over at 45n5 so thanks Mark.

How to transfer an RSS feed in FeedBurner

I recently acquired a blog which had an RSS feed powered by FeedBurner. The problem is that as the subscribers are subscribed to the FeedBurner URL which is usually in the form of feeds.feedburner.com/yourfeedname. This means that it cannot be transfer as if it was a feed being subscribed to directly from the URL or your blog.

This means that the feed needs to be transferred from the sellers account to the buyers account. Fortunately this is relatively straight forward as there is a form you can fill in to initiate the process.

All you need to do is fill in the name of the feed, the account you are transferring the account from and the account the feed needs to be transferred to. The user of the account the feed is being transferred will eventually get an email which needs to be replied to, to accept the transfer.

Protecting your RSS feeds image replacement

If you publish an RSS feed then it will eventually be republished (stolen) on a website somewhere else on the web. The plain and simple fact is that it is really easy to republish an RSS feed.

Having previously covered protecting your RSS feed using a copyright notice we are now going to look at protecting your feed using image replacement. This is a technique where a request to your server for an image is met with a replacement warning image if the request is not internal to your site.

Should you protect your feed

It is unlikely that someone else republishing your feed will rank higher than you in he search engines for the republished content. This means that they will unlikely be stealing traffic from you or competing with you in the search engines.

You may find that you are getting traffic from sites that are using your RSS feed. If this is the case you may want to consider maximising this traffic by adding a footer message at the end of each RSS post to get readers to subscribe to your feed or visit your site. You can also reference more content from your site by linking back to older content on your site within new posts. This will help you generate more traffic.

Image replacement technique

Now if you are sure you want to go ahead with this technique because you are fed up with people stealing your content then you can use this .htaccess technique. This is called hotlink protection and allows you to stop images from your site being displayed on other sites.

The following code needs to be added to your .htaccess file on your server. I would advise you to not do this if you have no idea what I am talking about. If you do know about .htaccess then make sure you test the code on your server rather than just copy and pasting the following code. By the way if you copy and paste this directly to your .htaccess file it won't work properly anyway.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(.+\.)?yoursitename\.com/ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(.+\.)?feedburner\.com/ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteRule .*\.(jpg|jpeg|gif|bmp|png|swf)$ /img/errorimg.jpe [L]

Thanks to Michael Bloch from Taming the Beast for the code.

You need to change the word yoursitename with the name of your own site. If you use Feedburner to serve your RSS feed then you need to leave the line that mentions feedburner in. If not you can remove it.

River of news is now a flood and how not to drown in it

It seems like only yesterday that I started to blog about RSS. In the early days RSS was a geeky protocol and most people did not understand what it was or what it did. Also at the time it seemed very difficult for people to explain what a news feed was without making it sound even more confusing.

River of news

A good analogy is a river of news, it's classed as news because you get the information as it happens. The river analogy works because a feed is being updated regularly with new information. It may even be better to think of fish in a river as the feed items as you can pick out the fish that you want to read. Not to confuse fish with news items as you couldn't read a fish, maybe the fish is carrying a small pouch with the news in it.

Flood of news

Over time more and more web publishers have created feeds for their site which means that there are now more feeds to subscribe to. I now subscribe to 77 feeds (I had to unsubscribe from some) which publish at least 1 post a day so that's a lot of items to read. This has now become a flood of information and now rather than saving time I find I spend way too long with my head in a feed reader.

How to prevent being drowned in news

To stop your feed reader making you less productive you can do a few things to make you feed reading sessions more productive.

  • Unsubscribe from feeds you no longer enjoy reading or are not helping you, not this feed of course.
  • Rather than read every post skim the titles for items you may be interested in.
  • Organise your feeds into groups or folders so that different subjects are together.
  • Use a service like RSS brief that summarises posts.

Following these tips will help to tame the deluge. What would be great is a service that reviews several feeds on a similar topic and then chooses the best items that are then aggregated into a single feed. Something like an human editor for RSS feeds.

How to protect your RSS feed

You have spent valuable hours writing a post that you publish to your blog and RSS feed. You later discover your post has been republished on another site via your RSS feed. To make matters worse the site that stole your article is ranking higher than you. What do you do? Protect your RSS feed.

Why protect your feed

One of the biggest fears for RSS publishers is that their content will be stolen and republished on another site. This can mean in extreme case that the offending site is profiting financially and in terms of SERP's of the back of your post.

How protect your feed

You can add a copyright notice to the end of each post in your feed. To do this you will need to be able to edit your RSS feed. If you are using WordPress then you can use this plugin from Smackfoo. It easily allows you to edit your own copyright notice that will automatically be added to the end of every feed. This notice will only apper in your RSS feed and not on your site.

Another option if you don not use a common blogging platform that offers plugins is to use FeedBurners feed flare. You can find the feed flare option under the optimize tab in your Feedburner control panel. You can add a line of code into the add new flare box which is can be found in this post on the forums about generic feed flare.

How to find out who is stealing your feed

Now that you have added a unique copyright notice that will appear at the end of each post you can find out who is republishing your feed. You will need to wait a week or so until your feed has had time to be aggregated by other sites. Now all you need to do is search for the copyright text you used on search engines to find out where your feed has been indexed.

Make your feed work for you

In addition to adding a copyright notice you can also adding link backs to your site within each post. Referencing old content is useful for both you and the reader. Once you have written a post look back at some old content to see if there is any relevant content you can link back to. Now if someone republishes your feed at least you may get some visitors back to your site.

PS. Don't forget the FeedGhost contest is still open.

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