RSS Feeds: To Truncate or to Expand

24 Jan

When creating an RSS Feed (or Atom, if that’s your flavor), how do you decide the level of information you want to provide in your feed?  Many sites decide to post only the headline in their feed, causing the reader to visit the site, thereby enhancing page-view counts.  At the other extreme, others decide to put the entire article in their feed, allowing readers to use a feed reader (like Google Reader or NetNewsWire) without having to click out to the site.  Some also truncate the article, giving readers a glimpse of the article–most likely designed to hook them into the draft and get them to click through to the main Web site. I’m torn on what makes sense here and what to recommend to clients. Surely, you want page views, which not only gives you better stats, but may provide income in the form of advertising page- or click-thru’s.  Still, the experience of having to click out of your feed reader every time you want more and waiting for a site to load (especially those bogged down by slow ad-servers), can be terribly annoying.  Some more innovative sites have interstitial ads in their feeds, but that’s not the same as complete page views.  

As a reader, I find clicking out of feeds as annoying as watching live TV and enduring commercials.  We in the TiVo generation want what we want, without interrupting our flow or appetite for devouring information.  Clicking out of feeds, in my opinion, is like experiencing traditional media’s interruptive commercial breaks.   It messes up my thought flow.   There’s so much information I need to devour to keep up with the various subjects I write or consult about, taking the time is simply not worth it.  With mostly regurgitative information on blogs these days (especially tech and automotive–my areas of expertise), there’s always another site displaying with the same info–the story will eventually come across my radar as a result. 

So today I’ve ended my obsession with reading every bit of every headline that catches my attention.  There’s not enough time to click through to other sites, so sites like German Car Blog will lose a reader (because I know if it’s interesting Winding Road will post it anyway).  I also am recommending at least a 40% truncated story to be including in each feed post to anyone who asks–but will ultimately advise full articles.  If your story is compelling enough, you will gain readership to your site, which ultimately will gain you more traffic, ad views and click-through’s.  This is the new media way.