Full-Text Feeds

In case folks out there haven’t noticed, by popular request I have switched over to full-text feeds. If that is irritating people to no end, then let me know and I’ll add another feed that is abbreviated like the old one was.

I’m torn on the whole question of full-text feeds. On the plus side, speaking as a feed consumer, it is convenient as heck, as it means you no longer have to exit the feed-reader to read the piece. That makes RSS faster and more useful, and that’s good.

On the negative side there are various problems, some mundane and others less so. For example, full-text feeds means feed providers must work harder to drive traffic to their site. I can no longer give people a teaser, knowing full well that you will then have to click through and see Google Adsense ads when you get to the site. Then again, I wasn’t exactly on a path to a Porsche Carrerra GT on the payouts from Google Adsense, so I’m not totally broken-hearted.

More vexing, at least to me, is that going to full-text feeds breaks Feedburner. By going to full-text feeds I no longer know how many people are reading each article that I post. While knowing what people were reading never changed what I would post here, it is still nice to know what people find interesting. Now, however, I don’t know — I only have aggregate traffic data.

Is there a solution? I’m not sure. It’s hard to imagine how a client-side feed-reader app like FeedDemon could ever tell the difference between someone loading a story and actually reading a story — they’re both the same, from a technical point of view. It is not clear to me how you get back story-by-story granularity on readership.

That said, it is clear to me that the click-through advertising exposure problem is solvable by inserting something like Google Adsense into RSS. While we are seeing some of this already, with ads intermixed as separate stories in RSS feeds, that specific approach doesn’t do much for me  — and it risks being filtered out by future feed-reader tools.

More interesting, at least to me, is a Feedburner type service that inserts Google Adsense (or equivalent) as banner ads inside each story as it appears in your reader software. Assuming you could do that in unobtrusive fashion it seems like a reasonable compromise.


  1. Marc Hedlund says:

    Feedburner could “splice” a 1×1 pixel image into each item, and count downloads of that image to give you reader counts of your full-text feed.
    I’m a big fan of full-text feeds. I usually only subscribe to bloggers who provide them. While I was reading your blog anyways (it’s infectious!), I’m happier since you made the change. So thanks!

  2. Thanks Marc! As you say, full-text feeds are certainly my preference as a reader too …

  3. Gotta go as a fan of the full text feeds. I’m starting to have so many different feeds that I’m tempted not to bother with the ones that aren’t full feeds.

  4. Dick Costolo says:

    Paul, we’re about to trial some things with existing FeedBurner publishers that address a couple of the items you cover in your post here. Stay tuned.

  5. Dick — Thanks for the info. Look forward to seeing what you folks do.