RSS: The increasing influence of Google Reader

Earlier this month, I wrote about the increasing number of subscribers to this blog’s RSS feed with numbers exceeding 1,000 for the first time.

Since that post, I’ve been reading quite a bit of commentary on the overall impact Google Reader is having on RSS subscriptions generally where it’s now possible to know how many people subscribe to your feed via Google Reader or their Google personalized homepage (it wasn’t possible to know this before).

Most people commenting about the Reader have largely talked about a sudden jump in their subscriber numbers which coincides with the Reader now including RSS subscription data.

While this feature of Google Reader may have been a contributor to the increase in subscribers to my feed, a sudden jump wasn’t my experience – my subscriber increase showed a gentle but consistent rise over time.

Nevertheless, Google Reader clearly is making its mark as an RSS aggregator. One small example of its emerging appeal is to look at the RSS tools subscribers to my feed use.

Here’s the FeedBurner stats picture over the last seven days.

While is shows that the single most popular tool used by subscribers to this blog’s RSS feed continues to be Bloglines, you can see that Google Feedfetcher (the means by which Google’s tools get subscription data) is the second most popular method through which people get my content via RSS.

What I find interesting is how Google has literally come out of nowhere in the past six months or so to become a favoured RSS tool.

What’s not surprising is that a combination of the latest browsers that offer one-click subscription options (and where the acronym ‘RSS’ isn’t prominent), Google Reader and the Google personalized home page just make it dead easy for anyone to pick up an RSS feed.

That wasn’t the case six months ago.


Compare this picture to the stats I reported in July 2006 which you can see in the second image here.

Bloglines was the favourite tool, which continues today as I mentioned although it’s share of the pie is significantly reduced, down from 47% last July to 30% today.

In this stat from last July, Google doesn’t get mentioned at all. Today, it accounts for 22% of subscriptions.

Yesterday, FeedBurner’s Rick Klau wrote about the overall RSS subscription picture noting that subscription numbers in a vacuum only tell part of the story. Equally important, he says, is the extent to which people are reading feeds and interacting with them.

Rick’s concluding comment:

[…] Today’s key takeaway is that feeds represent only one aspect of a publisher’s overall content consumption. We’re living in a world of distributed media after all: people might be reading your content directly on your site, within a widget, via resyndicated headlines on another site, or on a social networking site.

I agree. Knowing how many people get your content via RSS and from where is great, but knowing what they do with that content – how they interact with it – is becoming equally if not more important.

What do they click on in your feed? Where do they go? FeedBurner already offers useful stats on such aspects, where you can see in one place what your subscribers do when accessing your content via RSS.

We need more, though. More useful data to better understand how people interact with your content in a very crowded world of competing information.

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