Full RSS feeds kick the crap out of partial feeds

by Shawn Smith on January 31, 2008

Half full RSS feed just looks unappealingThe debate of serving full vs. partial RSS feeds isn’t a new one. Several big-time marketing blogs have polled, blogged and agued the point up and down the blogosphere.

I originally started with only offering partial feeds on NMB, but moved to full feed disclosure some months ago (if I remember correctly).

I’ve pushed for the majority of feeds on MLive to feature the content in full, including any photos and/or video embedded. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced any pushback.

Let me give my argument real quick:

I hate partial feeds. Hate. Hate. Hate. I subscribe to more than 200 feeds through Google Reader, and what drives me up the wall nearly more than anything else is only getting a few snippets of info. I can’t stand it. And in case you have the same issue, use this Greasemonkey script to kiss partial feeds goodbye.

I am arguing as a reader, not a business-side news organization. Partial feeds don’t give enough information, make it frustrating to read feeds and waste my valuable time. As a reader, partial feeds are just about enough to make me unsubscribe to a feed. Partial feeds will not grow your readership, but full feeds might.

Online marketing guru Steve Rubel notes that the majority of Technorati’s top 100 most popular blogs offer full feeds – coincidence? Subscribers want full feeds (read comments). Do news orgs really have the digital clout to be able to stick with partial feeds and frustrate readers?

But what about stats?

If readers aren’t clicking through, newspapers can’t can an accurate reading on what stories are striking an interest – WRONG!

Rick Klau, former VP, Publisher Services at FeedBurner, tells ProBlogger:

Publishers who use FeedBurner’s feed management services can measure both feed item views ( i.e., posts which are read in the aggregator) as well as clickthroughs – giving them an accurate view of both clickthroughs, and more importantly, the clickthrough rate. …

Full text feeds makes the reading process much easier. It means it’s that much more likely that someone reads the full piece and actually understands what’s being said — which makes it much, much, much more likely that they’ll then forward it on to someone else, or blog about it themselves, or post it to Digg or Reddit or Slashdot or Fark or any other such thing — and that generates more traffic and interest and page views from new readers

Monetize full feeds!

Run your feed through FeedBurner and you have a great way to toss ads into your feeds. Most news orgs probably haven’t developed ways to hack their feeds to include ads, but FeedBurner makes it easy. If this content is going out there anyway, might as well make money on it.

But could you imagine reading a partial feed with only a couple snippets of text. Talk about a horrible subscription.

Keeping the drumbeat rolling

I’m not arguing anything new. Yoni Greenbaum put together a much better argument for full feeds than I have. He’s got stats and great pull quotes about the benefits of full feeds vs. partial feeds. Check it out.

What do you think? What kind of feeds does your org push?

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March 20, 2008 at 11:39 pm


Yoni Greenbaum January 31, 2008 at 10:23 am

Shawn – Glad to see that you wrote this and thanks for the reference. I was thinking of resurfacing my original piece since so many of the people on Wired Journalists are pushing their own feeds and many are using partials at that. And thanks for the GreaseMonkey script suggestion, I’ll definitely be checking that one out.

Stan February 5, 2008 at 12:28 am

We have gone back and forth between partial and full feeds, and there’s one factor you haven’t considered. For popular, easy-to-monetize niches, full feeds often result in your content showing up on “splogs” minutes after you publish. These are automated blogs that are set up to steal content and publish it with contextual advertising on the side. There are networks of these things containing hundreds of splogs apiece. You find yourself competing with your own content.

Although for our readers’ sakes we’ve always preferred full feeds, the constant waste of staff time in tracking down ISPs and issuing DMCA notifications makes partial feeds much less of a hassle.

At the moment we’re offering a full feed because that’s what Amazon needs for Kindle, but if we have another splog outbreak, we’ll have to figure out if we can make a hidden RSS feed for Amazon and go back to partial feeds.

If Google Reader would support password protected feeds, that would help, for a while at least, until sploggers start to manually search for passwords.

As a reader and an editor who does research in Google Reader, I’m not bothered by partial feeds if the posts are tightly written with a top graf that tells you what the gist of the post is. We write this way anyway, because we’re in Google News, and our ranking depends on a clear, explicit, keyword-filled first paragraph. With a clear, non-clever, non-cryptic top paragraph, the reader can judge if the click-through is worth it, and isn’t pissed off by clicking through to something he isn’t interested in.

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Ferodynamics March 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I agree with most of what Stan says about scrapers. This is why I don’t even post partial feeds now. It’s a terrible feeling to get scraped and then worry about 30-day penalties because some hacker was able to change the timestamp or get indexed first for something you wrote!

Dropping my RSS feeds has NOT lowered my traffic at all, in fact my traffic is increasing since dropping my feeds!

Content is king. If you really want the content, you’ll walk over broken glass to get it.

As for your point about monetizing with in-feed ads, here’s why that argument fails: CPM inside Feedburner is not even .01% what I get via the web.

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