Photo Credit: Photopia

455572466_19166858d6_o.gifNo offense to my loyal RSS readers, but it’s time others know that claims of having thousands of RSS readers is a farce.

Today’s Lesson

Often, on big name blogs they will post or brag that they have 15,000 +/- RSS readers. No, they don’t. They have that many subscribers to their blog.

Subscribing to a blog and reading the posts is two different things.

Case in point. I subscribe to approximately 40 blogs. Do I read them all? No!

Why did I subscribe?

1) I have a handful of blogs I subscribe to that I read and comment on religiously.

2) I subscribe to my “New Blogger Of The Week” blogs, so I can follow their progress.

3) If I like an article on a particular blog, I will often use RSS as a “bookmark” so I can go back later and read the post.

4) I subscribe to a couple of the big named blogs, but do not read every post they write. I scan the titles, and read what interests me.

5) I often forget to unsubscribe to blogs that lost my interest, but on their site, I am still being counted.

Why others subscribe or want high numbers

1) Some, will use RSS full feeds to plagiarize a whole post. This, however, should not stop you from providing full feeds to your loyal readers.

2) Some will use your post as the grand schema for a post of their own by putting a slight twist to it….not plagiarism, but sometimes they walk a fine line.

3) Others will subscribe so they can say, for example, “I subscribe to John Chow’s blog”…an ego thing? Or following the “herd”? Peer Pressure?

4) Big name bloggers have been known to have contests to “get the most subscribers”. This gets them a big number in their “RSS Reader” box”… a boost to their ego, but not necessarily any more actual readers to their blog.

5) Advertisers apparently love to advertise on sites with large RSS “numbers”, and, for those high numbers, the author will often receive more money. Should we tell them the truth?

And, lastly, RSS feed numbers can also be manually manipulated.

So the next time you see a blog claiming they have 10,000+ RSS readers, remember this post. And for goodness sake, (did I just say that?), don’t ever let those numbers intimidate you and make think you’re not doing a good job with your blog.

Although you may not understand all there is to know about RSS feeds, I highly recommend installing a feed on your site. Many will only read blogs via a feed. Install one and learn the details later.

For those who are confused about RSS feeds, I highly recommend an article written by Hunter, where he explains this subject in great detail. His article is titled:Using RSS To Manage Information Flow

Today’s Assignment

Do you have a RSS feed on your site?

If so, have you tested it to make sure it works?

Why do you subscribe or unsubscribe to blogs?

Do you use full or partial feeds?

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Look Who's Talking
  1. Ian DennyNo Gravatar says:


    Don’t you just love statistics? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to statistics. You can look at a set of statistics and decide which ones look more favourable.

    Sometimes though it’s not to deceive. I’ve been setting targets for our engineering. And the target I originally set is not easily being reached.

    But looking at them more deeply, I spotted a statistic that I think clients (and prospective clients) will like better – the last few days, we’ve got our average resolution time down for every incident to less than 2 hours.

    But our average resolution time within 4 hours has been 80-90+ percent. That’s because of the number of jobs we solve fast as compared to those that take a few hours working at it.

    I was going to use the percentage of “95% of your incidents solved within 4 hours”.

    But prefer to use “100% of your incidents are solved within 2 hours on average”.

    Both of them are true, but the second one proves the power of reading the stats as you see reflects you best.

    But it’s not lies! It’s true, but one of those stats is more powerful!

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..EMail Marketing Is NOT Spamming

  2. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – this is reassuring to know.

    I didn’t have an RSS feed initially – I just didn’t understand them. But now that I have a reader, I subscribe to anything that seems remotely interesting.

    Like you I have a handful of blogs I read regularly – including yours. But often I’ll just scan headlines to see what I want to read. I add a lot of new bloggers to give them support and I must confess that I hate removing people – as I don’t want to make them feel bad.

    I use full feeds although I was using partial until recently.

    How do you test your feed to see if it works properly Barbara?

    CatherineL’s last blog post..Authenticity in Business and Other Lies

  3. Catherine, you can test your feed just by subscribing to your own blog, and making sure that your posts always come through. It’s possible that making a change to your blog can break the feed, so it’s good to know that your readers are still getting your posts.

    Barbara, this is interesting. I hadn’t considered that people might subscribe to a blog but not read it. Thanks for the link love–in that post, I said “I wish I understood how people can keep up with 50, 100, 500+ blogs.” I’ve heard someone say they subscribe to 600 blogs, and I didn’t understand how that was remotely possible. I guess it’s a lot easier if you’re not actually reading them.

    I read every post on every blog I’m subscribed to. If I start to lose interest in a blog, I’ll move away from reading every word and start scanning the posts. When that happens, I’ll probably unsubscribe at some point. I only want to be subscribed if I’m actually going to read all the posts.

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..Happy Singles Awareness Day

  4. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Hunter – I’ll do that. I wonder if it was Problogger you read about. He’s subscribed to 666 blogs.

    CatherineL’s last blog post..Authenticity in Business and Other Lies

  5. Ian DennyNo Gravatar says:

    I read in “The Tipping Point” about research which suggests that humans, as compared to animals, have a maximum limit of 150 individuals with whome they can maintain a meaningful relationship.

    So if you think about that, how many family do you have (who you have a meaningful relationship with), friends, work colleagues and fellow bloggers?

    I loved that bit of research and won’t bore you with the rest. Suffice it to say that there are limits. Certainly for me that bears out. I’ve deliberately not spread myself too thin blogging – there are only a handful of sites I visit regularly.

    And in fact, we have decided that we will break our business into units which serve the needs of 150 clients each. That will help build a kind of shared knowledge base that can easily be handled by that group.

    I saw that the magic 150 number applied to a company in the US called Gore who did that with employee numbers – every time a branch reached 150, they opened another.

    I’ve read the science behind this which quite frankly goes over my head, but it does feel right that beyond 150, things start to become less manageable when applied in the business world.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..EMail Marketing Is NOT Spamming

  6. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:


    Statistics are great, if you know what’s actually behind the numbers. And, like you say, we choose to use those which are more favorable.
    Isn’t that amazing how they can be manipulated, in a sense?


    When you check your stats, do you find you have a lot of feed readers?
    I know I do, and even though I didn’t use one myself for sometime, I did know that others liked that option.


    You’re welcome. I like the article you wrote as you covered it so well. It saved me time, and certainly shortened up this post, by linking to you. Hope it brings you a few visits.

    I would have to believe those that are subscribed to 600+ blogs, only read titles and maybe the first line. They may be using them as ideas for posts of their own., or may want to follow the “competition”.


    I remember you wrote about the 150 before, and I can imagine if we try to increase our relationships above that, our performance will suffer.

    Barbara’s last blog post..RSS Feed Reader Numbers – A Farce

  7. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara – now I’m totally lost. How do I check this? I must admit – I’m pretty hopeless at stats.

    I do have WEB CEO but I’m way too lazy to switch it on. And also they keep wanting extra money for some sort of updates and I’m not prepared to pay them more – it’s a big scam.

    So I just check in the bluehost awstats thing and I just see how many people came and what keywords they use.

    Sometimes I google the keywords to get an idea what page I’m on.

    How do I find the feed readers in the stats?

    CatherineL’s last blog post..Are Your Customers Reading Your Message?

  8. I did a little checking and the guy I was thinking of who reads 600 feeds might have been Robert Scoble. He used to read 1400 feeds! But it turns out he’s just scanning them, looking for posts he wants to read.

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..Happy Singles Awareness Day

  9. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Catherine,

    In your AWStats, look under “Pages-URL (to 25)
    There you should find /feed/ It then shows “viewed” (pages) and “Entry” and “Exit” numbers. I believe these are the number of visits you received via your feed…not the number of subscribers. If you have a Feedburner account that shows the number of subscirbers

    Hi Hunter,

    So, this guy doesn’t read that many, he scans titles and probably reads some only some full posts.

    Barbara’s last blog post..RSS Feed Reader Numbers – A Farce

  10. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hello, unknown commenter,

    I found your comment in my spam folder, checked it as “not spam” and then when I emptied my spam folder, it took all of the comments away, including yours. I apologize for this. Please try commenting again. I will be watching for it, and will make sure it gets posted.

    BTW: I clicked on your link and it looks like you have a great blog.

    I also thank you for subscribing to my blog.

    Barbara’s last blog post..RSS Feed Reader Numbers – A Farce

  11. CatherineLNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks Barbara – I’ll try that – there’s so many things in stats that I’ve never looked at.

    Hunter – that is what I do to. It’s like reading a newspaper – I just scan thru for the posts I’m interested in reading. It does become overwhelming though – going through your blogroll and I have nowhere near that amount.

    CatherineL’s last blog post..Are Your Customers Reading Your Message?

  12. @Barbara – Good article. RSS subscription counts might not equal the number of blog readers. But it is a nice ego boost as those are the number of people that at least found your blog interesting enough to do something so they can find it again.

    I look forward to exploring through your site and reading further posts.

    @Catherine – Looks like you use Feedburner. It shows detailed info on live hits from browsers, bots and readers and tries to make an educated guess on actual subscribers. Just login to your account to view stats.

  13. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Sterling,

    Welcome to my blog!

    Yes, high RSS feed readers is a boost to the ego, and subscribing is a great way to follow a blog. For me, it has become a real time saver.

    I just visited you blog. So far, I like what I’m seeing. Based on your past experience, it’s obvious your posts will continue to be very informative.

    I’ll be back to read more.

    Barbara’s last blog post..RSS Feed Reader Numbers – A Farce

  14. NezNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Barbara,

    Very observant about subscribers versus readers — I hadn’t thought about that. A lot of tips out there talk about increasing subscribers, but increasing readers is a better way of looking at it. “What would my readers want to see next?” is a good way of thinking.

    @ Catherine: Another way of seeing your stats would be to use Google Analytics, and install the Google Analytics plug-in. It presents data in a number of meaning graphs, and is more convenient for me than logging into my webhost control panel.

    Nez’s last blog post..When Is A Convenience Too Much?

  15. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Nez,

    That would be a great question to ask, and one many forget to consider. For a new blogger, you certainly have the right outlook.

    Great advice to Catherine too.

    Barbara’s last blog post..RSS Feed Reader Numbers – A Farce

  16. NicoleNo Gravatar says:

    Grin, I love my feed numbers.
    They go from 9 to 28, back down to 12 up and down.
    People seem not to be able to make up their minds 😉

    Anyhow, yes, I have RSS, have tested it. Both email and feed reader, comments feed as well.

    Why I subscribe / unsubscribe.
    All the reasons you mentioned.
    Curious, liking something or getting bored…. 🙂

  17. BarbaraNo Gravatar says:


    Thank you for sharing.

    All the more reason, not to get hung up on the numbers.

    Barbara’s last blog post..New Commenter Becomes NBOTW

  18. […] your free time you start doing more research. You decide to add an RSS feed reader, contact page, and with the addition of some SEO, you notice not only an increase in you traffic, […]

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  20. Do you have a RSS feed on your site? yes

    If so, have you tested it to make sure it works? yes, it works..sometimes I get that funny looking code and other times it takes me right to a list of options. I don’t know what’s up with that, but either way it works.

    Why do you subscribe or unsubscribe to blogs? I subscribe for two reasons, if I think this blogger has something to teach me and if they make me laugh. I unsubscribe when I’m not longer interested. I just moved all my subscriptions to a reader…away from email? Too much stuff in my inbox.

    Do you use full or partial feeds? Full

    Natural Woman’s last blog post..Free Stuff!

  21. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Natural,

    Isn’t a feed reader great? I like the fact that everything is in one spot.

    You aced this one too. You’re good. 🙂

  22. DavidyaNo Gravatar says:

    I could also observe that page hits does also not = readers. Just check some of the search terms they used to land on your blog. If they get something way off the subject, how many will stay and read? How often do you in surfing. Occasionally?

    But you’re right – Feed #s are much less accurate. Also interesting that the feed numbers can carry for several days. Not sure if the late comers are more likely to be readers?? I would seem to tend to indicate fewer subscriptions. How much can we second guess the reader?

    My most popular post remains a one-off curiosity thing i did. I get searches for the term every day.

    Davidyas last blog post..The Electric Sun

  23. Barbara SwaffordNo Gravatar says:

    Hi David,

    I agree. Hits aren’t visits, and sometimes visits aren’t visits. I wrote about this earlier–how stats can be so misleading.

    With numbers being able to be manually manipulated, you do have to wonder which numbers are accurate.

  24. […] has been no different. I’ve found RSS feed reader numbers can be manipulated, page views are over rated , and a “visit” may not be a “visit”. When it […]