RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

I am a HUGE New England Patriots fan. For quite a while, my favorite source of Patriots News has been Reiss’s Pieces, a Boston Globe sponsored blog written by Mike Reiss. Mike provides the best up-to-date Patriots news and info and is always the first place that I look for something to read in my Google Reader. That’s until recently.

Somewhere around October 26th of this year, without warning, the blog switched from a “full-content” RSS feed, to a “partial” one. In other words, instead of putting the whole enchilada into the feed, he now offers a snippet (a taquito?) of each post. If I want to read more than the snippet, I must click on the link and wait to be transported to the Boston Globe, where I get the privilege of reading the content over there.

RSS gives a subscriber the ability to read lots of information quickly. Partial feeds interrupt that flow. The problem is exacerbated when Mike writes multiple posts per day. On game days he can write up to 50 posts, but for argument’s sake, let’s just say that on an average day he writes ten. If I want to read the full content of all ten posts, I must execute 32 mousclicks:

  • To open my Google Reader (once)
  • To click on Mike’s blog (once)
  • To open an entry in Mike’s blog (ten times)
  • To be transported to Boston Globe to read the rest of Mike’s story (ten times)
  • To close the window that was opened when I went to the Globe’s site (ten times)

Partial feeds are old Media’s “answer” to a New Media “problem.” With a business model based on eyeballs — their goal was to inflate  page views. This works well except for the people who subscribe to the RSS feed. Since RSS subscribers can consume content without ever having to visit the site, the more popular the feed, the less web visitors there are to inflate page views — something that scares the hell out of people who live and die by those numbers.

I get the logic, I really do. Without page views, there are no ad impressions, without ad impressions, there are no advertisers, and without advertisers, there is no money to pay Mike to write his blog.

But there is a solution to the problem. Put RELEVANT advertising into the RSS feed.  It can’t be the generic Netflix and ING ads that The Boston Globe wraps Mike’s content with now, because those ads have nothing to do with The New England Patriots. Perhaps ING offers tickets to a game for new customers? Or Netflix has some package for Patriots DVDs. The point is that just because I don’t want to click twice, doesn’t mean that I expect my feed to be advertisement free.

Heck, I wouldn’t even mind a “This post is sponsored by ING,” text with a link to something that Boston Globe bean counters can measure.

Publishing partial feeds is The Boston Globe’s prerogative. Reading or not reading them is mine.  And so, while the Boston Globe is trying to divert my eyeballs to their site, I’m doing something else with them. I’m looking for new sources of information to replace this one.

Please, don’t give your subscribers a reason NOT to read your blog.

Filed under: Content Development

Comments

Great post, Ron! That “old media” emphasis on tangible page-view numbers became the bar for success in my journalism days, and while I understood the reasoning, it drove me nuts! Partial feeds are such an annoyance, I’m more likely to ignore those blogs/sites than to do the extra work. When a reader subscribes to an RSS feed, can the outlet track the number of feeds and bundle that into their advertising numbers somehow?

Christa
December 4, 2008

Great post, Ron! That “old media” emphasis on tangible page-view numbers became the bar for success in my journalism days, and while I understood the reasoning, it drove me nuts! Partial feeds are such an annoyance, I’m more likely to ignore those blogs/sites than to do the extra work. When a reader subscribes to an RSS feed, can the outlet track the number of feeds and bundle that into their advertising numbers somehow?

Christa
December 3, 2008

Hi Christa,

Yes they can. If The Boston Globe samples unique visitors and the number of RSS subscribers and adds those two numbers together, they’ll have a good estimate for Mike’s audience.

ronploof
December 4, 2008

Hi Christa,

Yes they can. If The Boston Globe samples unique visitors and the number of RSS subscribers and adds those two numbers together, they’ll have a good estimate for Mike’s audience.

Ron
December 3, 2008

Hi Ron,

I’m on your web site right now to leave this comment because I don’t know of a way to leave comments from within Google Reader. Is there a way to do that with Reader or any other feed catcher?

harry

harry the ASIC guy
December 9, 2008

Hi Ron,

I’m on your web site right now to leave this comment because I don’t know of a way to leave comments from within Google Reader. Is there a way to do that with Reader or any other feed catcher?

harry

harry the ASIC guy
December 9, 2008

Thanks for this insight, Ron.

I’ve noticed that EE Times also has fractional feeds *and* ads in their feed. Double whammy!

I can understand the desire to increase eyeballs on sites and in turn increase impressions and clicks on ads, but if you make it too hard to get at the content people will eventually say “y’know what, I can find this content elsewhere”.

I’m seeing that with Yahoo! vs. Google lately. I’ve been a long time My Yahoo! and Yahoo! mail user, but increasingly I’m seeing that Google is easier to work with for the way I want to operate (free pop/imap mail, and better presence on the iPhone/iPod touch). I’m keeping this in mind as I decide how to set up my own sites.

-Bob

Bob Dwyer
December 10, 2008

Thanks for this insight, Ron.

I’ve noticed that EE Times also has fractional feeds *and* ads in their feed. Double whammy!

I can understand the desire to increase eyeballs on sites and in turn increase impressions and clicks on ads, but if you make it too hard to get at the content people will eventually say “y’know what, I can find this content elsewhere”.

I’m seeing that with Yahoo! vs. Google lately. I’ve been a long time My Yahoo! and Yahoo! mail user, but increasingly I’m seeing that Google is easier to work with for the way I want to operate (free pop/imap mail, and better presence on the iPhone/iPod touch). I’m keeping this in mind as I decide how to set up my own sites.

-Bob

Bob Dwyer
December 10, 2008

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