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To the Heart of Full-Content RSS Feeds

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If you offer an RSS feed from your website or blog that isn’t the full content, here’s something for you to think about.

Like many people, I’m an RSS creative-consumer. That means I read almost everything of interest to me via RSS as well as publish content that you can get via RSS. I don’t visit many websites including blogs unless I’m googling in search mode or if I want to leave a comment.

I read my content of interest on different devices, from desktop PCs to laptops to mobile phones, whatever is to hand and wherever I happen to be.

If I find a site of interest, I’ll subscribe to its RSS feed. If it doesn’t offer a feed, I usually leave it there. And if it offers a feed that first leads you to a login firewall – bad mainstream media tactic – that usually gets deleted unless the content on offer is unmissably compelling (very few of those).

I no longer subscribe to any site that only offers subscriptions to RSS feeds that contain partial content, not the Full Monty.

There is one exception: the PR Headlines aggregation feed from Blogdigger which I’ve been subscribed to since 2004, but that’s likely to be a casualty very soon.

From the reader’s point of view, I think it’s quite clear what the benefits are from full-content RSS, starting with you get all the content that interests you without having to go to a site - especially useful if you’re somewhere where you can’t get online (eg, in an aircraft).

Maybe most important of all, full content via RSS lets you focus on all that content – and no distractions with website design and other visual elements.

Now add in the publisher’s perspective (and if you write a blog, you’re a publisher) with the clearest explanation I’ve yet seen on why offering complete content in your RSS feed, rather than partial content, is a good thing.

From Techdirt:

[…] 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, who we hope subscribe to the RSS feed and become regular readers as well.

The whole idea is that by making it easier and easier for anyone to read and fully grasp our content, the more likely they are to spread it via word of mouth, and that tends to lead to much greater adoption than by limiting what we give to our readers and begging them to come to our site if they want to read more than a sentence or two.

So, while many people claim that partial feeds are needed to increase page views where ads are hosted, our experience has shown that full text feeds actually do a great deal to increase actual page views on the site by encouraging more usage.

The bold emphasis in the second paragraph is mine, as that gets right to the heart of it.

Full content RSS feeds. It’s a no-brainer.

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