So you’ve set up an RSS feed for your organization, and are serving it up via Feedburner. Now you can just sit back and let the magic of RSS work for you to achieve your goals, right?
What’s that? You’re not exactly sure what you hope to achieve with RSS? Or what options you have to get there?
What’s the decision?
Feedburner gives you the option to provide your feed in one of two ways: full-text or summary view. These are pretty self-explanatory: either the reader can view the entire post in their reader, or they can see part of it, with a call-to-action to come to your site to read the rest. When setting up your feed, Feedburner gives you the option of the length of the excerpt in characters, as well as the verbiage for the call to action.
The subscriber’s plight
When a subscribe to your feed gets notification of a new article, he can do one of four things:
- Unsubscribe to your feed
- Skip the post (‘mark as read’)
- Read what he’s been provided
- Click through to your site
Obviously, the first two are undesirable, but what of the other two? Which do you want to optimize for?
Why the options exist
Providing full text to subscribers maximizes your ability to get your message across. The subscriber has already indicated their interest in your service by subscribing, and you are responding to their request.
If you only provide the reader with a summary, you’re requiring an additional response on the behalf of the reader. But getting this click-through gives an organization a bit more information: they can gauge how popular particular articles are based on click-through rate. As well, driving people to the site makes sense if there is additional information (or ads) that are not in the RSS feed. As mentioned above, however, there is the potential that your primary message will reach fewer people as they simply won’t make the effort to click through.
If you have full-text posts in your RSS feed, you can still encourage visitors to come to your site to comment or view further information. There are many ‘add-ons’ to RSS feeds (which I will cover in another post) to enhance the engagement of your readers. As well, your overall quality of site visitors may increase if they have committed to this additional step.
So what’s right for you?
The decision is based on your overall objectives, but my thought is that a newer site (not dependent on ad revenue) will want to post full-text articles. This way, they are building brand equity with their subscribers, and ensuring their message gets across. For a site that has a large amount of content, it may make sense to drive people to the site so that they are getting more than just the latest posts. This was the decision I made myself earlier this year: I have years of content on my blog, much of which was hidden from my more recent subscribers. By encouraging them to come to the site, they are exposed to additional relevant content as well.
Update: Jan 9, 2009: Following this post and the overwhelming consensus of commenters that full-text was preferred, I’ve updated my feed to offer full-text articles. Thanks for the feedback!
I admit that I tend to prefer full-text articles in my feed reader, although sometimes too long of a post can be overwhelming and prompt a “mark as read” without consideration. By offering an enticing summary, you can engage the subscriber and they may be more willing to read a longer post once they’ve already committed to visiting your site.
What are your personal preferences in accessing RSS feeds? Do you think my reasons for posting one way or the other make sense?