Is RSS Dead?

After listening to (o.k., watching), the fabulous TWiT #228 on my Roku over the break, I’ve decided to test a few things here at There was some discussion about the relevancy of RSS and content subscriptions, etc. that I need to look into.

You’ll need to bear with me for the next few weeks and help me in this test. I’ll need you to click through to read the rest (please do if you’re interested in this topic).

You see, I’ve made my blog available since day 1 as a full feed. This meant that anyone subscribed to could read it in the RSS Reader of their choice without ever having to visit the site. I liked it this way (and still do) because the concept was simple: me meeting you on your terms was the essence of Web 2.0.

Despite attempts otherwise, we all know that RSS stats are pretty weak. I’ve got my numbers over at Feedburner – and am very happy with them – but it is time to get a better idea of who is really “out there.”

As a result, I’m going to, for the next few Blog posts, require a click-through to read the rest of the story. I’ll be tweaking the blog, blog rss and other social media strategies to follow along and then will share my results accordingly.

And, by about February, I’ll open up the feeds again. No need to visit this site if you’ve got the content coming to you. If you’re reading me, it’s the least I can do.

Anyone want to predict the results of this little test?

Updated: Made a few changes to the RSS over at Feedburner.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • conniecrosby

    I'm guessing the only challenge with this is that a lot of people monitor headlines using RSS but don't necessarily read everything. They still find value in the headlines and summaries, but don't read every post of everyone they follow. So, doing this experiment for just a few blog posts isn't really going to give you a full picture of behaviours of your readers.


  • Paul Colligan

    You are completely and totally right – but it will give me a better view of what percentage of my audience wants to read “all of my stuff.”

    It's a lot easier to write headlines than content. If I'm just in the headlines game, I'll leave blogging for Twitter πŸ˜‰

  • John Moore

    I am subscribed to your RSS feed, and I read the entire blog each time a new one is posted. Interesting experiment though.

    I think you'll have a hard time coming to any kind of conclusion, however.

  • Paul Colligan

    Well Feedburner reports thousands of subscribers to the Blog. If I don't see a % of that clicking through over the next few weeks, I'll know a lot about the makeup of that “list.”

    No, nothing totally conclusive, but circumstantial enough to warrant action.

  • taylormarek

    Awesome. Will be looking forward to the results Paul! :)

  • doughaslam

    I have always been hostile to the “partial feeds in RSS reader” habit. I remain so. I do come to sites in order to comment, but if you make me click just to read your pot, I get angry.

    You won't like me when I'm angry. πŸ˜‰

  • stevegarfield

    I visited this post via Doug Haslam's tweet.

    I have a feedreader, but haven't read much in there, except for my TOP 10 must read feeds for over a year now.

    All the things I need to be reading pop up to the surface on my social networks.

    1. Twitter and associated Twitter search and ranking sites
    2. Facebook
    3. Email
    4. RSS Reader

  • Paul Colligan

    Feel the same way about partial feeds. Hopefully the audience will forgive during this test.

  • Paul Colligan

    I beginning to wonder if you're the norm here Steve. Thanks for the comments. I do promise to post/share my results whatever they may be.

  • Mike Sigers

    Hey Paul,

    The underlying theme here is you way over-think some of this stuff.

    To test RSS's relevancy, you'd have to do it using actionable content, not a post such as this or these short, opinions and pimpin' an aff link posts.

    If they aren't clicking thru, it's got more to do with the lack of interest than it does the “Click Here To Read More” tag.

    If a content producer consistently produces content that's interesting or unique, we'll click to read. Same premise as a long-form salesletter. It can't be too long, but it can be too boring.

    If they've not really done much interesting and unique content creation of late, we only skim the headlines, whether it's an email, an RSS feed, a Tweet or a postcard.

    Simple. It ain't that dang hard.

    Content creators have 2 choices:

    1) Create more actionable, edutaining content and give fewer opinions, that include an affiliate link and you'll have people that will jump thru hoops to get to your content.

    2) Keep saying the same stuff, about the same things and they'll be talking to themselves and the crickets.

  • Greig Wells

    “require a click-through to read the rest of the story.” interesting strategy, I am glad you volunteered to be the guinea pig. lol

    I'm curious if consumption of the whole article is the only goal of the RSS feed or if there maybe other benefits once would miss out on by going with another approach.

  • paulcolligan

    Mike, I appreciate your comments – really I do – and I think you're dead on. At the risk of sounding silly here, I think you're thinking too much about about my thinking (how'z that ;-)?) I just want a bump from the external RSS only audience to make sure they're listening. If they're not listening, even the most actionable content in the world won't get them to click over.

    Don't worry, this posting isn't the only thing I'm experimenting with.

  • paulcolligan

    I think, in the end, “full feed consumption” is always better for the reader and (like many above), won't put up with the “click for more” play on anyone's site. RSS is “above” that – for lack of a better term.

    However, if my “numbers” are based on someone who clicked the subscribe button a few years back and haven't logged into their reader since then, … I need to know that too.

  • Mike Sigers

    Great reply, Paul! A sense of humor usually indicates maturity as a marketer.

    I'd love to move thousands of RSS readers into other “databases” myself, but for the most part, they only lurk, never join in and won't do anything else.

    I only keep 'em around for the simple fact that every once in a while one will come over from the dark into the light and buy something or join in in another way.

    Keep testin' and tryin', my friend.

  • paulcolligan

    The dark sense of humor, I'll agree with. Maturity, that's for my Dad.

  • SandraNoble

    I was wondering about RSS too. What's accomplished by testing the click through to read the whole thing. How does that relate to RSS?

  • paulcolligan

    If the rss “subscribers” are using me for nothing more than a headlines service – i'd be much better just putting everything on twitter. if they're clicking through looking for more information – then i have the kind of relationship with them where writing deeper content makes more sense.

    in theory at least πŸ˜‰


  • Dan the Importer

    Hi Paul,

    I think you'll find that RSS is not dead. With all the voluminous IM emails I used to get, I've removed myself from most peoples' email list and subscribed to the RSS feed of the sites I'm interested in. I use Google Reader and it is very convenient. I spend about an hour a day checking the latest posts of the IMs of my choice, in one sitting.

  • Daren Wride

    I use my reader 1-3 times per month to catch up on the 2 dozen or so blogs I'm currently following. After reading your post, I reviewed some of the blogs I'd just scanned and see that I click through between 1/3 and 1/2 of the postings.

    If there are 10 or so posts in a row on one blog that don't interest me enough to click through, I unsubscribe. So far, I tend to click through on about 1/2 of yours, which is near the upper end

  • paulcolligan

    thank you for the metrics here – and the kind words.

  • standubin

    that's interesting that I bumped into this particular post. I use Google Reader and I want to read full posts there so I'm not bouncing around. There's obvious advantage for the blogger for the reader to head over to his blog, but I like your view, Paul, of meeting the reader where he/she is.

    so when I saw this post was just an excerpt in my Reader, my first thought, without being fully familiar with how you do things, was: “okay, I'll head over because I really want to read this post.” BUT I didn't head over for a couple of your other posts in my reader but most likely would have read on if the full post was in front of me.

    My two cents.

  • paulcolligan

    two cents appreciated.

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