July 11, 2007

Good RSS feed users

Writing about web page http://www.rss4lib.com/2007/07/rss_focuses_site_readership.html

By using my Bloglines account to read RSS feeds of interest to me, I found this blog posting about a report on the impact of RSS feeds on visits to websites. I find it interesting that someone thought this worth measuring. When I read RSS feeds in Bloglines, I’m not actually visiting the site from which they came. Most of the time I just read the entry in Bloglines itself without ever visiting the site itself. So, presumably RSS feeds ought really to be reducing the number of visits to a web page even whilst the content reaches a desired audience? Or does my access through Blogline get counted? I don’t really understand how RSS works nor, how the statistics of web page accesses are counted. The report itself discusses the results, but not the methods used.


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Martin

    Hi Jen, I was pretty sure that there’s no way for the creators of an RSS feed to know how many people are using the feeds. If, as you’re doing, you only look at the information within your feed reader, then the site that originated the feed has no way of knowing that you accessed that information.

    However, the hits to this blog are going up, becuase I follow the links from my reader through the blog itself!

    11 Jul 2007, 12:49

  2. Ken Varnum

    Jen and Martin,

    Actually, you can tell a lot from looking at your web server logs. The aggregator (Bloglines, Google Reader, etc.) still visits your web site to get the RSS feed. Many well-behaved aggregators include the number of subscribers to that feed in the “user-agent” field when they make a request of your server. I blogged about this not long ago. See Counting RSS Subscribers (http://www.rss4lib.com/2007/05/counting_rss_subscribers.html, 4 May 2007).

    11 Jul 2007, 13:37

  3. Jenny Delasalle

    Thanks Ken,

    I like the blog posting that you brought to my attention: I learnt a lot from it. If someone were to do a survey on how well visited a news web page were before and after introducing RSS feeds then they might use the kind of methods you describe. It’s a pity that those who measured the marketing websites didn’t go into more detail about how they measured hits as it would make their work more valuable in my opinion.

    What Martin says about not really knowing how many people are reading RSS feeds still stands true though, because whatever methods you use, and however rigorous you are in calculating likelihoods, you can never know exactly. (Perhaps this is so with all statistics.) The best way to measure is to describe how you did it, and to try to be consistent to make results comparable with other studies.

    You can obviously tell that I’m one of the subscribers to your blog, but I follow quite a few RSS feeds, so its easy to dismiss some postings, and I find the “Mark all as read” function of Bloglines quite useful sometimes. :) This explains how I missed your earlier posting, but I’m not sure whether it doesn’t add another factor into your calculations about how many people are reading your blog. ;)

    I put a Google Analytics count on the URL of this blog ages ago, and was interested to see where in the world blog readers came from… but didn’t try to interpret the statistics properly. I guess that theoretically anyone, from anywhere could or might read this (or any) blog. One of the things I like about using the Warwick blogs system is that I can tag entries as for University members only, or make them visible worldwide.

    Jen

    11 Jul 2007, 14:32


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