I have been doing some digging into the statistics for Newsniche to try and discover what you are really interested in when it comes to RSS. So I have come up with the imaginatively titled 3 things you really want to know about RSS. So here are the most wanted to know things about RSS in reverse order.
RSS publishing tools
The third most popular topic is on RSS publishing tools. Rather than an article this is a section of the site dedicated to letting you know how you can publish RSS on your site. Being able to publish RSS on your site means that you have a constant stream of updating content for your readers.
Which is the best RSS feed reader
The second most popular item on the site is an article on Which is the best RSS feed reader. You certainly want to know which is the best way to read your feeds. This is not surprising as RSS is all about being able to have information from your favourite sites available to you without having to visit every you like frequently. Why not subscribe to their feed and have the content come to you.
There is a new site that is selling RSS subscribers. The idea behind this is that the more subscribers you have the more valuable your site will be. This is based on RSS being the new metric for measuring a site based on Mark's theory that an RSS subscriber is worth 30 dollars.
RSS for sale
I think this is boarding on criminal, it basically promotes the faking of RSS subscribers to fool readers into thinking a blog is popular. It is lying to advertisers by artificially inflating the RSS subscriber count but worst of all the site seems to be selling RSS subscribers so the site or blog owner can sell their site at a premium. This is fraud.
Remember these are fake RSS readers they are selling. All that happens is that your FeedBurner counter reports more subscribers. As FeedBurner is owned by Google I am sure RSSxplosion will not last long.
When we talk about RSS spam it is not the same sort of spam you would get in your inbox. With email spam you are getting unwanted messages. RSS spam targets directories and search engines rather than the end user.
RSS index spamming
RSS feeds are indexed by search engines and directories and can be considered as news by some of the major search engines. This has not gone unnoticed by the spammers that are now using RSS to spam the search engines.
RSS spam consists of RSS feeds filled with scraped content, stuffed full of keywords and sometimes just plain nonsense. The idea is that the spammer create thousands of these spam feeds which are then indexed, albeit for a short period as the search engines spot the spam and remove it. In the meantime the spammers feed generates traffic to their ad laden sites.
The smaller RSS directories are also targeted. I have spoken to an RSS directory owner recently who regularly has to reject RSS spam. The spam comes in the form off RSS feeds that are identical except for a specific keyword. The idea is that the feeds get added to different categories and use a brute force method to gain traffic.
Should we be worried about RSS spam
The great thing about RSS for the end user is that they are in control of which feeds you subscribe to so there is little danger of end users being badly affected. The large search engines and directories will stay on top of the problem but the smaller directory owner will probably be spending more time verifying genuine feeds.
FeedGhost contest winner
First off we have a winner for the years subscription to FeedGhost. The winner is Pierro Marie, congratulations Pierro who suggested I blog about how to add advertising into your RSS feed and how to protect RSS feeds.
eBay RSS experiment
A while ago I mentioned that I was experimenting with SimplePie (I love SimplePie) and eBay RSS feeds. I have put together a very simple site about handbags (don't ask) using an installation of SimplePie and ebay RSS feeds. The feeds can include your affiliate ID so if someone clicks on one of the auctions you display on your site and buys you get a commission.
Well it's been over 2 months now and the site is indexed in Google and gets some traffic. I have recently updated the site to include more feeds, a feed for each type of handbag. It will take a while for Google to crawl these deeper pages but in principle you can create a viable site using RSS feeds.
If anyone wants to try it themselves you can download a free copy of SimplePie and get your custom ebay feeds. If you want to get commissions from ebay you'll need to sign up with Commission Junction as they run ebay's affiliate program.
It looks like more and more bloggers are worrying about content theft. As RSS becomes more mainstream and a valuable metric this is making RSS news feeds a more visible target for lazy webmasters.
Just browsing through my feed reader I have found several Copyright notices appearing at the end of each feed entry. I am sure this sort of practice will become standard soon but why not get a jump on it and make sure you are protecting your RSS content.
Here are a few example to give you some ideas.
I have recently added a copyright notice to the feed for Newsniche. Included in the notice I have added a link back to the site and a link to the RSS feed.
There is much debate about whether or not you are allowed to republish the contents of an RSS feed on your site. I revisit this debate every now and again to see if there has been any developments.
Since last I wombled on about RSS republishing I have seen more and more feeds containing copyright notices. This I believe is a good idea if you are concerned about your feed being republished verbatim without attribution.
The worst offenders
The most blatant republishing of RSS feeds offenders I have seen are those that remove any links from within the feed and then republish with a liberal smattering of Adsense advertising. This is blatantly wrong, bad karma and they will get you.
A simple yes or no will do
The reason RSS was created was to allow easy syndication of content, but I believe in the spirit of personal and fair use. This means that if you want to republish a feed you need to always apply attribution and out of courtesy contact the webmaster to ask permission to reuse their feed.
If the feed contains a copyright warning them the publisher clearly does not want you to republish their feed. If you publish a feed I would suggest you make sure you have a clear warning that appears in your feed.
What does RSS mean? I don't mean that literally but what does RSS mean to you. First and foremost it is a way to keep updated with what's going on in your field of interest. There is no other way to stay on top of so much information, I read 76 different RSS feeds, imagine trying to read the same amount of websites of newspapers.
It's because of this unique ability of RSS to provide a large manageable amount of information that is totally in your control that news feeds are now a growing influence amongst web publishers.
RSS as a metric
RSS is becoming more of a valued metric for webmasters. An RSS subscriber is like a vote of confidence, remember unlike email a subscriber can stop subscribing to a feed easily at any time. Your RSS news reader of choice will never contain any spam unlike your email reader.
More and more web publishers are proudly displaying their RSS reader count badge. This is not merely a boast but a way to promote their site to other potential subscribers. If your site or blog is good then you will get loyal RSS subscribers. If others see you have loyal subscribers they will be more likely to subscribe.
Problogger has just released their reader results on which feed reader their reader prefer using. The results show that Google Reader is overwhelmingly the most popular reader.
If you compare these results with our readers here at Newsniche very similar results are now born out. Google Reader is now slightly more popular than Bloglines. Before Google launched their feed reader Bloglines was by far the most popular feed aggregator.
Google dominates the RSS market
With the previous news of Google buying Feedburner this means that Google is now the dominant player in the RSS market. What does this mean for RSS? It looks like a move by Google to control RSS.
Inspired by Darren's contest about creating a top 5 relating to your blog. Here are the best 5 things about RSS.
RSS saves you time
When you subscribe to an RSS feed all the latest information from all your favourite blogs and sites are in one place, your RSS reader. This has saved me so much time in having to visit every site individually.
Building loyal readers
As a publisher you like to know people are reading your blog. With RSS you know how many subscribers you have (with the help of FeedBurner).
Syndication has never been so easy
With your content packages up in an RSS feed it makes it really easy to syndicate your content.
RSS is opt-in
Unlike email a subscriber can remain anonymous and instantly unsubscribe at the click of a button. It make for a great democratic tool.
Let's not forget RSS has meant that I have had something to rant about for the last 2 years and hopefully filled your lives with some warm orange RSS fuzziness.
There has been a lot of bragging about the size of your RSS icon on the internet over the years. We all know that in reality it is not size but the color of your icon that counts. So in the spirit of sharing (bragging) here is a fine selection of colored RSS icons you can use to brighten up your site.
Feel free to save these icons to your own server, just right click any one of the icons and save them to your own computer. Don't forget to tell your friends where they can get there free RSS rainbow goodness.
As an RSS feed publisher you should always be on the lookout for new ways to improve your readers experience and your marketing return. Here are a few things you can do to improve your RSS experience.
Full feeds are becoming de facto standard for bloggers as busy readers seem to prefer this. A big reason for this is that your readers can get all there news in one place, their news reader. While this is great for your readers it is probably not great for the number of visitors that are actually visiting your site.
While you don't want to drown your readers in links a few well placed links can add value to your post. Consider referring back to previous posts when you mention related content. If you are writing about something you blogged about several months ago then link back to that old posts.
Your readers will appreciate it as they may have not previously read the post or may need a reminder about it. You are also giving your readers some background information. At the same time you are drawing readers back to your main site. You will have readers from your RSS feed visiting the site and visitors from where your RSS feed has been republished.
An RSS footer
Another way to temp readers back to your site is to have an RSS footer at the end of each post. This can be just a few links back to the main areas of your site. Here at Newsniche there is a footer containing links so readers can leave a comment and view the blogs archives.
The importance of site traffic
Many sites publishing RSS feeds only monetize their site so visitors reading content only in their RSS reader will not be seeing any advertising. While many readers may think this is great, if you depend on advertising to keep your site running then that's not good news.
Only having recently reported on the reporting of Google readers stats it seems that both Pheedo and Feedburner are only too happy to quench our thirst for RSS statistics.
Both parties have produced some pretty graphs to show us how RSS feeds amongst the general population are being consumed. On surprising statistic is that MyYahoo is showing a large market share, although MyYahoo tends to only display headlines rather than being an RSS reader.
I click you
After taking a look at the Feedburner figures I decided to compare this to our own RSS readership, that's you. It seems that MyYahoo readers will click through to the website to read a post, this is mainly because they usually only see the headlines rather than the entire post.
You may remember that I carried out a little experiment on publishing full feeds at the end of last year. The results that I was expecting was that there would be an increase in subscribers. There was a small increase but nothing significant.
Is it something I said
Now for the shocking news. As a direct result of publishing full feeds there was a significant drop in clicks back to the website. Now you may be thinking that it is pretty obvious that this would happen. Why visit the site when you can read the content in your feed reader.
As a result I think we can conclude that if you want your RSS subscribers to visit your site do not publish full feeds. If you do publish full feeds then you really need to attract your readers back to your site by providing some additional content and also linking to old content in your new posts.
It's not every day an RSS web property comes up for sale but today Fedafi is being sold over at Sitepoint. It was back in November last year that I spoke about their Feedburner style counter and RSS Generator.
It will be interesting to see who it goes to as it looks like a lot of development has gone into the software. There is an opportunity here for someone to get into the RSS industry without having to start from scratch.
Way back near the end of last year following much debating on both sides of the argument I decided to start publishing full feeds here at Newsniche. Now two months on we will review the results.
Ironically or not the day I decide to blog about this the number of RSS subscribers to this blog reaches an all time high of 212 readers. This although not a staggering amount I cannot categorically say that publishing full feeds is the result of this.
Looking at a longer term stats from Feedburner it look like this blog has continued to grow at a natural rate. Other than today's jump it looks like switching to full feeds made no difference to RSS readership.
RSS stats no surprise
I am not surprised at the results and didn't really expect there to a dramatic change. The reason for this is that the number of readers is quite small and any change would be difficult to attribute to the switch.
As a result I am still going to continue with full feeds for the simple reason that the majority of RSS subscribers appear to prefer this.
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