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Full or Partial RSS feeds

© November 2007 Anthony Lawrence

Almost two months ago, Problogger had a little post on Full Or Partial RSS Feeds - The Great Feed Debate. The great majority of responses were in favor of full feeds.

I was opposed to full feeds at one time, and that was mostly because of bandwidth: RSS readers can be absolutely stupid about how often they hit your site, and most seem to pay no attention to any "updateFrequency" you set in your files. Of course a full feed is more data than a partial feed, so partial feeds are less burden on the site. However, I switched my feeds to Feedburner some time ago, so that's not an issue for me any longer: it's Feedburner's bandwidth now, not mine.

When I read that post at Problogger, I had only partial feeds - subject and a few bytes of introductory text. After seeing the overwhelming opinions there, I figured I had better add full feeds. I say "add" because I didn't want to just switch to full feeds overall: I like partial feeds myself, and there must be at least some people who share that opinion. So if I offered a choice, at least those minority folks could still get what they wanted.

So, I created all the new full text feeds, and added a little blurb to the partial feeds that just notified readers that a full text version was now available if they wanted to switch to it. Choice is good, right?

Ok, it's now just about two months later, and although this isn't exactly the most popular website that ever was, we do pick up new RSS readers now and then. What I expected to see was that new readers would gravitate to the Full feeds and that at least some old readers would switch from partial to full.

Well, yeah, some of that happened. But overall, MOST readers opted for partial feeds and only a small number of former partial readers switched to full.. very unexpected.

And partial feeds have grown - even though they are not the default and you have to go out of your way to get them. It's easy to get full, that's the default. Not so easy to get partial - but people do. What does that tell you?

So what's the story? I don't know. It could be that I just haven't given it enough time - after all, two months really isn't very long. Or it could be that the people who read and comment at Problogger aren't representative of the type of people who would read this site. That's actually what I suspect: I think a lot of the RSS subscribers here might be very much like me: I subscribe to dozens and dozens of sites, and all I want to see is a subject and maybe a little bit of the first paragraph. If I do want to read more, I'll click through - I really don't want to have the whole post in front of me.

Well, we'll check back in now and then and see what's happened..


These are snapshots in time; daily figures fluctuate up and down..

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> Full or Partial RSS feeds?


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Mon Nov 5 22:04:48 2007: 3228   ScottCarpenter

Well I for one welcome our new full-feed overlords. :-)

Put me firmly in the full-feed camp. I once dropped a feed that I enjoyed reading just because I got tired of always having to click through to read it.

Tue Nov 6 11:47:10 2007: 3232   TonyLawrence

It's interesting that "full feed" subscribers took a jump here shortly after publishing this post, but "partial" didn't go down.. who knows what that means..

It does seem that people are very fussy about which they want. I think if you HAVE to choose as a publisher, choose full feeds - I suspect the folks who prefer partial are less likely to drop you than if you did the other.

Thu May 29 12:11:46 2008: 4260   TonyLawrence

Well, it's seven months now and partial feeds are still growing even though people have to go out of their way to get that.

It shows that the conventional wisdom of most "experts" is wrong.

Mon Mar 30 12:45:00 2009: 5901   TonyLawrence

Full feeds have surpassed partial, but people do still choose the summary feeds.

Thu Oct 15 12:29:10 2009: 7237   TonyLawrence

And now partial is shrinking but full continues to grow.

Wed May 19 12:41:52 2010: 8613   TonyLawrence


I wish my retirement funds were growing at the same rate as feed subscribers :-)

Wed May 19 12:50:46 2010: 8614   TonyLawrence


Somebody just asked in email why I don't use the same day of the month to post these figures.

Well, for one thing that would be distorted: subscriber counts always fall over the weekend. I suppose I could pick something like the third Wednesday of every month, but the real reason is that I simply forget about updating this.

I need to add a reminder to my calendar. Every third Wednesday sounds good..


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