The Ups and Downs of Full-Text RSS Feeds

Up until a few days ago, I had a partial text feed on Bokardo. This wasn’t because I planned it that way ahead of time, it was because that was the default action and I had no reason to change it. Also, I didn’t have anybody asking me to change. In my own feed reading […]

Up until a few days ago, I had a partial text feed on Bokardo. This wasn’t because I planned it that way ahead of time, it was because that was the default action and I had no reason to change it. Also, I didn’t have anybody asking me to change. In my own feed reading habits, I didn’t particularly have an attitude one way or another: I would read a post if it interested me.

That last sentence has to be a lie, or at least a glossing over of facts. What I must mean is that I didn’t notice all the times that I didn’t click through to the site because I wasn’t compelled to do so by an interesting lead, a relevant topic, or a trust in the author. To be fair, I also didn’t notice when I started to read a full-text entry and then stopped out of boredom. Even so, full-text feeds have to affect the experience in some way. This is because that no matter how small the step is, the mere fact that we have to click to get more information is a barrier to going forward.

Steve Gillmor is adamant about full-text feeds, as seen in this bit he wrote to compell Om Malik to use them. His argument, from what I can tell, is that so many people offer full-text feeds that he doesn’t have time for sites that don’t offer one (“time is money”). To recast it into attention terms: his attention is too valuable for him to go down the rabbit hole and click through to a site.

The jury is still out on them. Lockergnome’s Chris Pirillo recently changed away from them, citing the fact that there are many posts pointing to posts pointing to posts. Steve Rubel, as well as some vocal commentators on the announcement post, are suggesting a different explanation: that Pirillo is trying to get more advertising money by making folks visit his site directly.

I’m torn, too. The tension is between providing a full-text feed that provides a better user experience vs. a partial feed that drives more people to my site in an attempt at showing them all the other content that is there. I have to point out, however, that I do not have the same issue that Pirillo has: I have no advertisements to change or dilute your user experience. I’m very happy about that.

This often happens when advertisements are involved. When someone offers advertising, they become slaves to it. When we are rewarded for a certain behavior, we continue that behavior. Unfortunately, what happens is not always in the best interest not of users, but in the best interest of advertisers. As pockets are lined, messages and branding are diluted.

So, for me, several things are clear: Full-text feeds…

  • Provide a better user experience
  • Put more power in the user’s hands, letting them visit the site at their leisure
  • Strengthen the brand by making it easier to access content
  • Are iffy for advertising (currently) Here’s a discussion on MarketingStudies

There is another item that I can’t add: Full-text feeds decrease traffic to the site. The reason why is that since I went full-text, my traffic has increased! This could be a coincidence, of course. I may have had more inlinking around that time, or my content all of a sudden became more interesting, or a story got picked up on Google, or well, maybe the full-text feeds actually improve the user experience enough to get people interested…

At any rate, I’m sticking with the full-text feeds. A side-effect of this is that I have to innovate where the users are. So, I’ll be playing around more on the RSS end of things. As you saw in my last post, and as you’ll see more in the future, I’ve added links at the bottom to “join the discussion”. Because that’s what I want: a discussion. Someone reading my post and moving on to someone else’s might strengthen my brand, but I would love them to join the conversation, too. On the other hand, maybe not everyone enjoys a conversation as much as me. So, either way is OK.

Going forward, I’m really anxious to see how these changes affect your experiences. If they’ve improved your experience or made it worse, let me know.

Join the Discussion | Bokardo Interface

Published: June 16th, 2005

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