RSS subscription surprises in Feedburner stats

FB statsIf you use Feedburner for distribution of your RSS feed, it’s worth paying attention to the useful statistics about your feed such as how many people subscribe to it and which RSS reader they use.

Even if you only use FB’s free standard stats rather than the paid-for TotalStats Pro service, you’ll find some extremely useful information.

I just updated the list of subscription options to this blog and while at Feedburner, I reviewed my feed stats for the first time in a month.

The chart you see here shows the average number of subscribers over the past seven days and which RSS reader they use.

Some surprises there.

For instance, it does surprise me that nearly half (47%) of subscribers use Bloglines. The surprise is that this stat has been pretty constant ever since I first started using Feedburner in 2004. The market for web-based RSS reader services has grown dramatically over the past two years, with many other online reader options to choose from. Yet Bloglines still remains the favourite.

Number two in web-based subscription is NewsGator. The chart has clipped the numbers, which are 74 (14%). That’s a small increase since a month ago, which was also an increase.

Next surprise – the rapidly-increasing number of people who have susbcribed via the Live Bookmarks feature in Firefox since I last checked these stats at the end of May: 36 subscribers or 6% of the total.

A month ago, it was half that. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise, in fact. Maybe it indicates that more Firefox users are finding it simple to just add an RSS feed in their browser. This simplicity will spread out even more when Internet Explorer 7 is released in the autumn (or later) as IE7 also includes similar functionality.

Incidentally, subscribing to RSS feeds in Firefox is now even easier if you use a tool like the latest version of the Google Toolbar for Firefox which has a nifty “Subscribe to feed” button which highlights itself whenever it finds a feed on a website. You can configure it to add the subscription to your RSS reader of choice. Once you’ve done that, subscribing is a one-click process.

Also of interest is Rojo. Hardly any subscribers a month ago. Now, 14% of subscribers use this web-based services.

So three-quarters (75%) of subscribers to my RSS feed subscribe through three major online RSS services. How does that measure in your experience?

What about desktop readers, ie, applications you install on your own computer? The surprise here for me is NetNewsWire, a reader for the Mac (and purchased by NewsGator last year) with 24 subscribers (14%) using it. That’s not the surprise, though, it’s more that I expected FeedDemon (Windows app) to be the top one here – it’s my preferred method of managing my RSS subscription – but that has just 11 subscribers, one of which must be me.

Something else interesting – NewsGator products (that’s the NewsGator online service, NetNewsWire and FeedDemon) are used by about 25% of subscribers. Cornering a market, perhaps.

The FB stats can also give you a visual look at your overall RSS subscriptions as a timeline. This is the timeline for this blog which I started in February:

FB RSS subscriber timeline

Peaks and troughs but, overall, consistent growth in subscribers during the period. Nice to see that.

Finally, the stats suggest how varied and fragmented the RSS reader market really is. You have the prominent readers such as the ones I’ve mentioned. Yet the stats also show 134 subscribers (23%) using “other readers,” most of which I’ve never heard of.

Attensa for Outlook, for instance. And Windows Media Center 2005 Feed Reader. Or Hatena, NewsAlloy, Snoopy, Ilium Software NewsBreak and Topicca Alpha. None of those names appeared in the stats a month ago.

Could be a picture of an emerging long tail.

You learn some interesting and surprising things when you pay attention to your FeedBurner stats.

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.