Full Text RSS

Full Text RSS

Of course, if your website publishes content, you should absolutely publish RSS feeds (or Atom feeds, but not both!). Luckily, a lot of publishers eventually do, even if they sometimes have trouble dealing with auto-discovery. However, a lot of these publishers will publish truncated RSS feeds, and that’s generally a bad idea.

The main reason publishers truncate their feeds is that they expect the subscribers want to visit the “original” site and then view its ads or interact with the content more… Other publishers fear that full text RSS feeds can be used by scrapers to duplicate content and rank better in search engine. Let’s face it: if somebody wants to duplicate content, there are many more ways than using the RSS feeds.

Who uses RSS feeds?

These days, it’s clear that RSS is mostly used by advanced users: millions of of them, but still a small fraction of the web’s 3+ Bn users. Given the relative complexity of most feed readers when compared to the social web applications, it’s also safe to assume that these users are at least savvy.

When it comes to ads, the most savvy web users are often the ones who use ad-blockers. Even when they don’t, they also tend to click less on these banners. So, chances are that even if they clicked in their readers to view the rest of the truncated content, they won’t even see or click on the ads.

It’s also important to remember that feed reader users chose to use a feed reader (many of them actually pay to use the feed reader of their choice). They understand their limitations as well as their benefits. It’s certainly much harder than expected to entice them to click on links away from their readers.

The feed readers are good!

Often, feed readers are offline first experiences: they aggregate content from multiple sources so that the data can be consumed while commuting, on planes… but more importantly (and more often), the feed reader users don’t have to wait for the data to load for each entry that they’re reading. Generally, feed readers will be able to load all recent stories at once, allowing for a much faster experience when reading story after story.

These days, modern feed readers also include a lot of social web features which let their users share the feed’s content, favorite the stories they like the most, and more. By doing this, the feed readers can drive a lot of traffic back to the publisher’s site.

Finally, degrading the experience can sometimes be worse than not providing any RSS feed at all. These advanced users are certainly very experienced and are also influential. If their experience interacting with the publisher’s content is great, they’re more likely to more of consume it and share it even more.

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On the same topic, check instant articles and the future of rss, it's called rss and rsscloud and pubsubhubbub.

Previously, on the Superfeedr blog: Hijacking API requests with Service Workers.