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Friday, January 27, 2023

The Numbers Behind Your Feeds

FeedBurner’s View of the Feed Market at FeedBurner’s blog gives us a detailed look at the numbers and statistics behind your feeds. With the recent adoption of Google Reader subscriber numbers, many bloggers have seen their “subscribers” and other feed stats spike up. In fact, we learn from FeedBurner’s post that overall; publishers noticed an increase in subscriber numbers by 53%!

In short, the statistics behind our feeds show us just a small snippet of our true feed universe. Let me explain…


Your RSS or ATOM feed can be included in dozens of places including an RSS reader, a widget, desktop aggregators, wireless devices and more. But even in the world of RSS readers, the statistics vary greatly. FeedBurner’s post delved into web-based feed aggregators, so that is what we will focus on below.

Subscriber Statistics:
Some RSS readers share subscriber numbers; and many count subscribers differently. Here is how some of the RSS readers report subscriber numbers:

  • Bloglines will count anyone who is currently subscribed to your blog even if they have not viewed your blog feed ever as a subscriber.
  • Google will count anyone who is currently subscribed to your blog even if they have not viewed your blog feed ever as a subscriber.
  • Microsoft’s Live.com does not appear to share subscriber numbers.
  • Netvibes will count anyone who is currently subscribed to your blog even if they have not viewed your blog feed ever as a subscriber.
  • NewsGator will count anyone who is currently subscribed to your blog even if they have not viewed your blog feed ever as a subscriber.
  • Pageflakes will count anyone who is currently subscribed to your blog even if they have not viewed your blog feed ever as a subscriber.
  • Rojo will count anyone who is currently subscribed to your blog even if they have not viewed your blog feed ever as a subscriber.
  • Yahoo requires that the subscribed user has viewed (logs into My Yahoo or Yahoo Mail) your feed within 30 days to be counted as a subscriber.

Engagement Statistics:
Engagement, is when a user actually participates in your feed by viewing it or taking some sort of action, like clicking through from the reader to your content.

View Statistics:
Like with subscriber numbers, different RSS readers tracks views differently. Some track views of all posts and some don’t, when a feed is accessed. As FeedBurner defines;

Item Views All on page/Visible Only: To track item views, FeedBurner inserts a “tracking GIF” that corresponds to a specific feed item. When a feed item is viewed in an aggregator, it requests this tracking GIF, allowing us to establish that the feed item was viewed. Some aggregators render all images on a page at once; others render only what is visible in the browser window.

View all on page measurement tends to report higher views than visible only measurements.

So which reader uses “View All on page” to track clicks and which readers use “Visible Only” to track clicks?

  • Bloglines tracks by view all on page
  • Google tracks by visible only
  • Microsoft tracks by both figures
  • Netvibes tracks by both figures
  • NewGator tracks by view all on page
  • Pageflakes tracks by both figures
  • Rojo tracks by view all on page
  • Yahoo tracks by view all on page

What I find interesting, is that in FeedBurner’s post they have a chart on view statistics overall. The interesting part is that Google’s numbers are way higher than others, showing 59% of Google users view more posts. But only 33% of Bloglines users view more of the post within the reader – and they use a tracking method that should be higher in theory.

Click Statistics:

To make things simple, FeedBurner is able to track clicks on virtually all web-based RSS readers. Simple, no? Not really.

Yahoo is dominating these statistics, showing 54% of Yahoo’s RSS readers click through to the story at the publishers site. Google’s users only click through 21% of the time and Bloglines users only 11% of the time. Why the difference?

Yahoo by default shows only the article headlines and no other content from the site. But the other web based RSS readers show all or some of the contents with the headlines, giving the RSS reader more information in their click-through decision process.

FeedBurner’s post is truly fascinating and they promise to do a series of these posts for each type of feed aggregator, in future posts.


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