UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

RSS Readers Used To View This Blog

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 January 2007

I commented recently that this blog had received 4,000 visits since it was launched. It should be pointed out that this is (probably) visits to the Web site. The contents of the Web site can, of course, be read without needed to visit this Web site, through use of RSS readers or RSS aggregators.

WordPress provides details of the feed statistics, as shown below.

number of recent accesses

In addition details of the RSS readers are also available.

From this we can see that the most popular reader is the Web-based Bloglines service. I suspect that the ‘Web browser’ reference refers to RSS readers such as dynamic bookmarks in the latest version of FireFox and Internet Explorer and/or browser based RSS plugins such as Sage, InfoRSS and RSS Ticker. I’m not surprised by the popularity of Netvibes (I use this personalised Web-based RSS aggregator myself). I’ve also used the BlogBridge desktop RSS reader (which Michael Webb has recommended for use at Newport College).

As I write today (12 January 2007) there have been 118 visits to the blog’s Web site and 23 reads of the blog content using a feed reader. I would expect to see the proportion of RSS readers to grow, as greater use is made of the RSS capabilities in FireFox and IE, as more organisations start to provide access to RSS readers and Web-based RSS aggregators provide access to RSS feeds with end users not realising that the content they are viewing comes from an RSS feed. This may well lead to a challenge in writing blog posts which are usable in an environment in which the full content may not be displayed – a topic raised recently by Danny Sullivan in his self-confessed public rant on Google’s failure to provide descriptive titles for their posts.

The other comment I should make is that my blog postings may well have been aggregated elsewhere. I’ve added the RSS feed to my Facebook account, for example. Facebook appears to have cached the contents of my blog – so any views of the contents by Facebook readers will not appear on blog statistics, with the exception (I assume) of a single access by the Facebook aggregator for each article. I guess we can say there are lies, damned lies and Blog statistics :-)

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8 Responses to “RSS Readers Used To View This Blog”

  1. AJC said

    I’m a Bloglines man myself, I just don’t get on with Google Reader, which interestingly doesn’t appear in your stats.
    Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has an interesting post on “Does Blog Design Matter in an Age of Feed Readers?”:

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/01/16/does-blog-design-matter-in-an-age-of-feed-readers/

  2. I have come across a number of references to the Google Reader in the referrer logs, but, as you say, not by significant numbers of users.

    The reference you provided is very interesting. He did say, however, that you needed to visit a blog Web site in order to submit comments. This is not necessarily the case – there are various RSS tools which make use of APIs to submit comments, such as CETIS’s Plex demonstrator. However it’s probably true that such tools aren’t (yet) widely used.

  3. I’d also point out that such articles have been going around for at least the last five years and they don’t seem to have made much difference :)

  4. You’re quite right. RSS is loved by developers (it’s simple to use and is powerful). But use of RSS readers hasn’t taken off in the mass market. Possibly we need more advocacy – and support for RSS readers on instituional desktops. Michael Webb’s blog describes how Newport College have deployed the BlogBridge software on the institutional desktop. How many other institutions have done this?

    The other development which might help in take-up is the bundling of RSS readers in the latest versions of IE and FireFox.

  5. Mike Nolan said

    I use Google Reader and I’ve recently subscribed to your feed so you can see whether it increases much. I’ve found that it can sometimes be a little slow at picking up new posts so I wonder if they poll frequently updated feeds more often than slower paced ones. They’re also centralised so they only need to download it once for all their subscribers while web browsers could all be hammering your feed every 15 minutes

  6. AJC said

    Interesting article:
    Web Based Feed Readers – How do they stack up?

    http://weblogs.hitwise.com/leeann-prescott/2007/01/web_based_feed_readers.html

    Add them all together, and they still only make a fraction of 1% of US internet visits! RSS still has a lot of growing up to do!

  7. Hi AJC: Thanks for the reference. Yes it is an interesting article. However I’d like to respond with an alternative perspective (note I’m not 100% cofident of the technical points I’m raising, so feedback on this would be welcome).

    Validity of the Statistics

    There are lies, dammed lies and Web statistics. If you read blog postings in Web-based RSS viewers such as Google Reader, aren’t you reading the file which is cached by Google. Similarly for blog aggregators such as planet OSS Watch. I assume that if you read the contents of my blog at planet OSS Watch the statistics will be recorded there and I’ll only have evidence of the single visit per post by the Planet harvester. Can anyone clarify if this is the case?

    RSS is Embedded

    Is this is the case, we can argue that RSS is an embedded technology, which is used to ship blog contentto a wide (and growing) range of aggregation services.

    Implications

    Recently I read an article (Guardian editorial?) which suggests that “technology is stuff that doesn’t (quite) work” (the TV is no longer regarded as technology, for example). So we people say they need read RSS, perhaps that’s because it’s happening transparently.

    I would agree, though, (and Phil Wilson made a similar point) that dedicated RSS clients aren’t widely deployed.

  8. “the statistics will be recorded there and I’ll only have evidence of the single visit per post by the Planet harvester.”

    Yes, this is the case. The same applies for Google Reader, Kinja, Rojo, Bloglines etc.

    Bloglines is quite nice because its User-Agent header includes the number of subscribers to your feed. This info is exposed by tools like FeedBurner which are a much better way of measuring your RSS readership.

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