Your subscribers deserve full text RSS

Your RSS subscribers are special. They’ve taken the time to add your site to their feed, because they want to read your content. But not only do they want to read it, they want to be notified whenever you have new posts. You should thank them, not limit what they can view in RSS.

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone through the following routine:

  1. Find an interesting site
  2. Subscribe via RSS
  3. See they only show excerpts to RSS readers
  4. Grumble
  5. Go a few weeks / months rarely clicking through to full posts
  6. Unsubscribe
  7. Never visit the site again

Why? Because the author has created too much friction for me to read their blog. It should be your privilege that I am subscribed to your blog. It is likely that I’m not only subscribed, but also one of your biggest advocates. I’m your marketing department. I share your stuff, yet you limit me in RSS. Why? For a pageview? An ad impression? Ugh. If it’s that damn important then insert an ad in the RSS (WordPress SEO will let you do that easily). If you’re worried about scrapers, the same solution will solve that too.

I can’t say what the statistics are, but I know for a fact that I visit the blogs I’m subscribed to via RSS far more than blogs where I am not. Why? There are constant reminders in my feed that they’ve published new content. And personally, I click through to the website pretty often (probably 25% of the time), usually to see what kind of discussion is going on in the comments, but sometimes just so I can experience the read in the way the site intended. You may say 25% is low, but I’d say it’s a heck of a lot higher than never, which is what it will be when I’m not subscribed any more.

If you are so worried about a few pageviews from allowing full RSS feeds, then I’d bet you’re doing it wrong to start with. Quit milking your best customers for everything they’re worth.

Just try it. Maybe you’ll be surprised and it either a) doesn’t hurt or b) helps your pageviews.

Please enable full text RSS feeds. It’s the right thing to do.

13 thoughts on “Your subscribers deserve full text RSS

  1. I tend to agree with you about full RSS feeds but I also respect the argument that sites that provide free content need to generate revenue in some way.

    To accommodate this many sites provide advertising in their RSS feed which I am ok with as well. What are your feelings on this?

    1. As I mentioned in the post, I’m totally fine with advertising in RSS. My point overall is that I think the impact on readership is actually low. For one, RSS probably just isn’t that huge of a segment of a readership. Also, since RSS subscribers are more likely to be a brand’s biggest advocates, limiting them is limiting their ability to share your stuff. Each share is worth far more than the pageviews lost from one RSS reader.

      It’s kind of a catch 22. People say, “Man I need to monetize this user group. I’ll just show excerpts so they have to click.” My argument would be, “I want to monetize this, so I need to make it as easy for them as possible to read my content.”

  2. I hate shortened RSS feeds. As with you, if someone doesn’t provide the full article via RSS, I’m very unlikely to click through to read on the website. There’s a reason I use an RSS reading and not a bunch of bookmarks.

    As for advertising, I don’t click on ads on anyone’s website, and I use Adblock Plus so I really don’t even see the ads. Stuffing an ad in your RSS feed isn’t going to help you anymore than getting me to your site does, so just let me consume the content how I want.

    I will often click through to read comments or to check out your site and see if you’ve added any new elements or changed the design since my last visit, but I’m not clicking through just to read a blog post, no matter how good it may be.

  3. I agree with you – I’m not a fan of it, though I understand the logic behind it.

    The thing is, I can’t help but wonder if it’s one of those “theory, not practice” practices that people do because they’ve read that it works but haven’t really evaluated it for themselves.

    I’d be more interested in seeing statistics if “post teasers” actually result in higher conversations than those of us that just the whole post.

    1. I’d love to see some real stats on it. I looked around a bit before publishing this, but couldn’t really find anything that looked like it was based on numbers 🙂 I guess that would require actual testing…

  4. I hate that too. That’s why I built – I crawl the site and re-build the full rss feed with full text. It’s still beta now, but try it out if you’d like. Free. No limits.

  5. Hey Brian

    In my case its about content scraping.

    I’m tired of hunting them down and having to go through DMCA notices because they scrape the entire 20 posts of full content.

    This takes up hours every week.

    I don’t display ads so it has nothing to do with CTR.

    Why is it a problem to make one click after someone has gone through hours writing a post for you?

    One click takes 1 sec as my site loads in 1 second.

    I don’t understand

      1. I’m losing links and rankings because of content scraping and that pathetic company called Google can’t even get their act together.

        A multi billion dollar company like that and they still have no idea how to judge the original content owner.

        This site here is also reproducing my entire sites full content and displaying it in a frame:

        I have contacted them numerous times and they still won’t take it down.

        I have people stealing my Youtube videos and then using them to generate revenue on their websites.

  6. Personally, I don’t want to leave my RSS reader. Most RSS content is duplicates and reposts of the same content over and over again. On Sept 12th this year, I had to read the same f’ing post with the same details in it over and over again about the damn iPhone5. There’s no way that I’m going to not use an RSS reader for skimming through that kind of volume of articles especially if it’s duplicate content.

    When I do find an article that I like, I either read it in-line in the RSS reader (if the full content is available) or I go to the site, or I use Readability or Instapaper which crawls the site and pulls the content into a nicely consumable format that I can read at my leisure.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with clicking through to sites if sites didn’t do such annoying things to generate page views:
    * multi-page articles
    * slideshows that pull up a new page for every picture
    * tons of ads all over the place – sometimes obscuring the actual content
    * annoying javascript ad popups or shortened urls leading you to some other site before hitting the actual site
    * slow-loading or not-loading site (for whatever reason)

    These are all tricks that big sites use which have ruined news reading for smaller sites and for those of us trying to read the news in favor of the all-mighty extra page view and/or ad impression.

    I just want a simple tool to scan through all of the crap and dig out the actual content that I want to read. An RSS reader is this tool. There are no better tools out there. Sites that generate RSS ‘teasers’ hoping to bring people to their sites are the ones who are usually using multiple tricks shown above and in my eyes, scraping their site is justified because they’re using trickery to get us to go to their site. It’s an arms race. Next thing the tricky sites will do is to format their content so the scrapers can’t pull the content from the site somehow. Then the RSS news readers will either get smarter yet or they’ll just drop the feed/site alltogether.

    If you have a blog and are nice and put full content in your RSS feed, I’m willing to bet that you get more page views from people clicking through to read comments than the greedy sites do by playing all of these tricks in the first place.

  7. I’m glad someone finally wrote a post about how posting full content to RSS feeds is the right thing to do. I use IE as my RSS reader. This is because in that view, everything is very uncluttered, and using my screen reader, I can quickly navigate through articles via headings. If the article’s good, I’m likely going to click through to the site anyway to see what the comments are like, and in a lot of cases will try to leave one. But when people post excerpts thinking I’m going to click through to read the article when I’ve only seen a little of it, I usually unsubscribe. I publish full feeds myself, because I don’t want others to have to put up with that crap either.

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