I'm not speaking to anyone in particular with the above title, just the blogging world in general.
I pruned a few RSS feeds from my reader today (Newsgator Outlook Edition in case you're keeping count) and afterward I realized that each of the three was using post excerpts in their RSS feeds. It was not a conscious decision to target those types of feeds, but that's just the way it worked out. I've never really felt that strongly that excerpts are a bad thing, however today I found myself dropping subscriptions to three blogs that use excerpts. Why is that?
I mentally categorize blogs to which I subscribe in one of four buckets:
- Definite Instant Reads - the blogs of friends, fellow Telligenti, or other .NET citizens who I know personally. Because I have personal relationships with these people I look forward to anything they write and will go directly to a new post whenever I see one and read it from start to finish.
- Instant Reads - blogs that post short but meaningful (or funny or stupid or whatever) content that I can quickly read and then either delete, keep for later review, bookmark for followup, etc. After looking for posts from group 1, I will look for posts from blogs that fall into this category and will read each new post. Seth Godin and Rick Segal fall into this group.
- Delayed Must Reads - blogs that usually post longer, meatier content that are definitely worth the time investment. This is for blogs like Scott Guthrie and Scott Hanselman. I usually only read new posts for these types of blogs about once a week or when I have some downtime. I know the posts on these blogs will take a bit of a time investment and they are worth it.
- Delayed Reads - blogs that I'll read when and if I get a chance.
For the most part, it is all about time investment for me. Currently I subscribe to about 120 blogs and other feeds. So each post that comes in has a lot of competition. If I only have 30 minutes on a particular day to devote to catching up on my blog reading then maybe only a portion of category 2 feeds get read (the best ones first of course). This may happen several days or weeks in a row. When I decide to catch up on some more serious reading I will read the category 3 feeds that I think are the best and then I may eventually work my way to the category 2 feeds that have been recently ignored (effectively being bumped to category 4) - or I may not. If I find that I haven't read a blog's posts for a couple of months then I will delete it even if it's for no other good reason than I haven't had time.
So what does all this have to do with full-text RSS feeds? Hold on one more minute, I'm getting there.
How does a blog fall out of favor? How does it move down the list from a good "read it as soon as it's posted" blog to a "I'll get to later if I can" blog. Besides the obvious issues of good content I can think of a couple of other things:
- Way too many posts. This is the reason I no longer subscribe to Engadget. If I know that there will be 20 posts for a blog in an afternoon and I only have 5 minutes between meetings to see what is going on in the blogging world then I will skip that specific blog. (I am considering just subscribing to a category or two on Engadget.)
- Relevance to me. Some blogs that I subscribe to may only have one post out of five that I am interested in. That is fine - it's easy enough to quickly delete the posts that I'm not interested in. But knowing that I may have to filter some posts to find a good one means that blog may get bumped.
- Longer content that is not of the "must read" variety.
and drumroll please...
- If I know that the RSS feed only contains excerpts I may choose to skip it because reading a post (or many posts) will take the additional time of having to click to go to the site. That extra few seconds may be more than I have to invest at that moment.
Finally, my "Delayed Must Read" list is pretty short. I currently only have about five blogs in that list. If a blog is not of the caliber of ScottGu or Scott Hanselman then it is not making that list. So if a blog gets bumped once there is a pretty good chance that it may never fall back into favor.
Some "experts" say that excerpts are good in your RSS feed because they force the reader to visit your site. However I think that strategy is a very thin double-edged sword that has just as much chance of backfiring. In my case I find that excerpts are just as likely to cause me to unsubscribe from your RSS feed as they are to visit your site.
Maybe I'm the only one with issues of too many blogs to read and so little time. If so, feel free to ignore my pleas. My educated guess is that I'm not.