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The latest Full vs Partial Feed Debate

Lots of debate today over the good old ‘full feed vs partial feed’ question. Robert Scoble responds to a post by Duncan Riley who accuses Steve Rubel of ‘not getting it’. Kent Newsome say’s that Steve ‘Does Get it’ and Nick Wilson agrees with Robert.

Every other blogger and his dog seems to have gotten in on the debate in the comments of all the above blogs and there’s a whole heap of chest beating (politely done in most cases) going on.

A few readers have asked what I think and you know what?

I’m confused.

I see good arguments all round.

My thoughts are these (and be warned they are are not overly logical and will contradict one another).

  1. I ultimately blog because I want to communicate something and I want people to read my content. As a result I think full feeds are great as they put all my content into anyone’s hands who wants itI’m sick and tired of finding others publishing my feeds in full – quite often with no attribution to me as an author and quite often with no link back. Partial feeds solve this problem – at least ‘partially’.
  2. I’ll be honest and admit that part of me likes the idea of people actually coming to my blogs to read what I have to say. While I agree with Robert that this might not be very forward thinking it is an egotistically driven desire I have I guess. I get over it and ultimately it doesn’t matter – but it must impact my decision on some level.
  3. I personally prefer to read partial feeds. I follow hundreds of blogs daily and full feeds are quite overwhelming. Whereas Robert only subscribes to blogs with full feeds if I’m given the choice I’ll subscribe to a partiaone
  4. My experience of RSS advertising is that it does not convert. I’m sure it’ll improve but to this point it doesn’t sm to.
  5. Some argue that partial feeds help the bottom line as that you get more people to look at your blog. I guess this is true but quite honestly it’s not something I think much about. I guess some must be making the decision for partial feeds based on this thinking but it’s not been a big motivation for me.
  6. On most of my blogs the majority of readers don’t use RSS at present so it doesn’t really matter what type of feeds I run on some levels.
  7. Having said this I tend to agree with Robert’s in that I’ve long suspected the those readers who do follow my blogs via RSS are key readers in that they often either have blogs or are journalists. This makes them key readers in the sense that they have the power to link up and se traffic.
  8. On the question of making money from blogs (which is part of the argument) I wonder whether the decision for full or partial feeds might also depend partly upon whether you’re trying to make money directly or indirectly from your blog. If it’s indirectly then perhaps full feeds are better because you want as many people to read your content as possible to help build your profile. If it’s a direct think then maybe partial feeds are better (especially if it’s advertising conversion that y’re after).
  9. As I said on Robert’s blog in comments, ultimately ‘if your content is good enough and you give people a reason to read your blog – they will…. I find this is the case on my blog with some readers who tell me that I am the only partial feed they follow.’

My own decision to this point has been to go with partial feeds on every blog I own.

Having said this – in the past few weeks I’ve been seriously considering saying ‘stuff it’ to those who continually steal my content and moving ProBlogger to full feeds mainly for the reasons outlined in points 7 and 8.

ProBlogger is never going to set the world alight in terms of generating massive advertising income (although it has improved quite a bit of late). Rather it’s about the indirect methods I talked about a few posts back. Perhaps it’s time to test full feeds.

Having said that – I know that quite a few of my posts are LONG and I worry that full feeds might overwhelm readers and do more damage than good.

So – I’ll throw it open for some discussion and put up a ‘poll of the week’ for you to vote on. I’ll test whatever is the final winner for a month or two and then make an ultimate decision.

Should ProBlogger have Partial or Full Feeds?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Mike says:

    I’m sticking with the arguments I made in a post on my blog. I’ll not link to it here, but it ain’t hard to find over there.

    I even got 10 comments, so it must be a sensitive subject…

    My poor little opinion is and will always be ( unless I change it )…

    Partial feeds only.

    No ifs, no ands, no buts.

    I do respect the other view and I have no desire to change that view.

    In the words of another Appalachian-American, ” Hell, the difference ‘tween the two won’t buy you a gallon of gas. “

  2. Eric Gregory says:

    Kind of a pointless debate, since a lot of the popular RSS readers only show headlines (MyYahoo, Firefox, etc.)

    I don’t have any numbers on this, but I bet most subscribers only see headlines.

  3. Cary says:

    I’ve switched to partial feeds on some of my blogs, and full feeds on others. The ones that are full have YPN ads on them, and I track them carefully through FeedBurner to see if they get resyndicated…I’ve had so many people re-publishing my content recently that I’m pulling my hair out! ;D

    Personally, I prefer to read partial feeds, though I guess the ultimate would be to give your readers a choice as to which feed they want to subscribe to — partial or full. I’m not so worried about whether people who read my feed come to my blog or not, since they usually aren’t the ones who click on ads anyways, but I AM worried about duplicate content issues, etc.

    I think you should keep ProBlogger as a partial feed, or offer both — very easy to do with FeedBurner, just burn it two different times with different settings.

    The conundrum continues ;D What cracks me up are the people who get so worked up about how someone else chooses to offer their feeds. Uh oh, here come the feed Nazis!

  4. My content is only rarely republished, and the few times it happened was with permission. I use full feeds even though I’m making money directly from advertising on the blog. It’s been my experience that people will click through anyway if they found the article interesting, whether they decide to comment or not. And my ad revenues certainly aren’t down after switching to full feeds.

    Then again, I display almost no ads to anyone until the post is 3 days old, at least on this site. It still gets a very good CTR. The upside: My regulars can come by while posts are fresh and be assured of seeing few or no ads. They’ve told me they HATE ads. And by the time the post is indexed in Google, the ads are running or will shortly, so the people who click are coming from there.

  5. Kent Newsome says:

    Darren,

    I prefer full feeds for all the reasons I and others have already mentioned, but I don’t refuse to subscribe to partial feeds. The threshold is probably higher for a partial feed, but I subscribe to your feed and a few other partials.

    I guess where I come down on it is people should do what they feel good about as far as the full vs. partial things goes. I just don’t buy the argument that partial feeds will be effective in forcing people back to a site where the ads are. Sure, some will come, but many others will either not subscribe at all or just read the partial feed and move on.

    Peace,
    Kent

  6. Duncan says:

    I won’t rehash it all here but I didn’t cover the content theft thing in the most recent post (but I have previously). full feed=invitation to have your content stolen.

    I would also add that I was a full feed advocate for along time, but it was a combination of lost traffic and content theft that made me change. Within 48 hours of dropping full feeds my site traffic went up a full 50%! A lot of people reading full feeds will never visit your site (sure, many will, but a lot won’t) so they are lost readers as far as I’m concerned, also bringing people to your site encourages the conversation as well!

  7. Let’s kill this bold, shall we? ;)

    I prefer full feeds, but I have no strong preference either way. I’ll subscribe to both. I do find full feeds rather overwhelming though.

  8. Darren, I joined the crowd and posted my own thoughts about this issue – basically, I am still somewhat undecided but following your logic: I’d really rather not open myself to (easier) content theft. So I’m a partial feeder for now. As a reader, I generally like to read full feeds unless the resource puts out tons of posts.

    This topic is highly interesting and I look forward to learning what others have to say.

  9. Kent Newsome says:

    Duncan,

    Is the loss of the ad revenue the only reason why you feel they are lost readers?

    I can understand the logic of that argument, even if I don’t agree with it for the reasons I stated. But other than that, I can’t see why subscription readers aren’t the same as web site readers. I’ve always considered them even better in some ways, because someone isn’t going to visit a web site every couple of hours, but many of us check our feeds that often.

    I get the conversation angle a little, but I read all my content via feeds and if I see something I want to comment on (or if I think it’s a topic that others will have commented on), I click right over to the page and read, comment, etc. Maybe it’s a little easier to comment if you’re right there on the web site, but I wonder how much of a content deterrent full feeds really are.

    Hey Darren, if you ever do go full feed, maybe you could track the effect on commenting.

  10. Darren Rowse says:

    Kent – yep IF I decide to go with full feed for a period of time I’ll definately be tracking a number of things including traffic levels, comment levels, incoming links and how many other sites start using my full feeds without permission etc (some harder than others to track). Would be an interesting experiment. As long as people know it’s a trial and not to get too used to the full feed thing :-)

  11. Liam Daly says:

    While feed subscribers are key readers now, they will become less so as more people take up the practice – so why let the practice of the early adopters dictate your feed policy?

    How I subscribe and how I want visitors to my sites subscribe are different things, and likely to change anyway such is the pace of both technology and take-up.

    Darren, are you likely to implement Co-Comment on ProBlogger so your readers can see your comments here without having to go around the houses when these debates occur? Or will that lessen direct income (whilst posibly growing indirect income – oh, I have a headache!)

  12. Dominic says:

    I blogged about this today.

    I prefer full feeds. If someone publishes truncated feeds, it’s not a problem, but I will probably only end up reading about 15% of their websites content as the writer has limited resources to grab my attention in my feed reader.

    On some of my sites I do publish partial feeds but use the WordPress Better Feed plugin which, I believe, provides the reader with more of what the post is about and lets me customise a footer for each post (take a look at the plugin for a better idea of what it does).

    Thats my tuppence worth. Each to their own.

  13. derek says:

    not sure if anyone else has noticed this but blogburst, which “BlogBurst is a syndication service that places your blog on top-tier online destinations [...]” requires that registered use full feeds for published content.

    my latest journal is fairly new and without any plagiariable content so i’ve enabled full posts. i can see myself switching to partial feeds if i were to have valuable content copied and used elsewhere.

    unfortunately, as with any web based service, stats may play an important role in deciding whether or not to offer full or partial feeds. any thoughts on stats whores?

  14. Publish both feeds and give people a choice which to subscribe to.

  15. anymounous says:

    My main aim is to make money out of my work (after all you I am putting all my time and energy behind it)

    I stopped publish full feed because:
    Other just copy and paste my hard work on their site and start to make money.

    I have also noticed that both Incoming links and My adsense (aff) income doubled.

    Final point, it is my blog whatever I want I will do it. I do not care if 2/3 reader will not subscribe because I am not publishing full feed.

    nuff said.

  16. DavidC says:

    I think there’s another argument for partial feeds – it forces (or at least encourages) the writer to get to the point. In a way it helps you to write better material, because you know that you have to get someone interested in just a few sentences.

    That’s the main reason that I prefer to read partial feeds. I don’t have the time to read everything, I need to know pretty quickly if this is something I should spend more time on.

  17. raj says:

    From a reader perspective, I prefer partial feeds because it’s easier to skim content. For ProBlogger.net, I don’t subscribe because I’d much rather come to the website every day (or other day) and read a bunch of articles simultaneously.

    From a publisher perspective, and as an RSS evangelist, I prefer partial feeds because my agenda is to get readers to my site(s). If you don’t want to read my site because you’re too lazy (or time-strapped) to click a link in a summary, that’s fine. You’re also likely too lazy (or time-strapped) to view the summaries on my blog’s main page and click links there.

    And despite what Scoble says, there is no technological reason why it should be difficult or awkward to browse through a partial feed, click on a “read more” link, and see the full article in the text pane of my rss reader. Granted, some sites have a bit of weird behaviour in that regard, but the experience he wants is really not that different from the partial-text version. All it takes is one extra click per headline, and a GOOD RSS reader.

  18. Tim Houghton says:

    Argh, stuck in bold hell :-)

    I think Robert’s point about RSS users being highly web-savvy and most likely completely blind to advertising is the crux of the issue. It has certainly pushed me a good portion of the way to switching back to full feeds.

  19. Paul says:

    From a bloggers perspective: full feeds serve the reader better. Readers can read the whole post (if they want to) or move on after reading just a bit. Just because a reader is presented with a whole post doesnt mean they HAVE to read it all. If you want to get people from your rss feed back to your blog there are many other ways to do that other than partial feeds.

    From a readers perspective: I skip over a majority of partial posts because 1) im lazy 2) i think the blog should bend towards me not me towards them. I am the “customer” as it were. 3) The portion I get to read in a partial feed fails to be enticing 95% of the time. I guess I’ve trained my self in reading full posts to know when to continue to read or move on.

    ALso, as a reader, my feed reader should be able to meet my needs in various ways. It should be able to present a feed in multiple ways to meet my reading habits.

  20. kalbzayn says:

    I don’t really care either way. If I only get a partial, the bit that I get better be pretty interesting, though.

    As for the effect on click advertising revenue, do you think that regular subscribed members actually generate that much click through revenue, or is it people that find the article in a search engine, read the one article, and then click the ad never to be seen again?

  21. It’s definitely the search engine traffic that drives the majority of ad clicks on my sites. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that no regular readers click ads.

    I’m currently experimenting with a full feed on one of my sites and actually haven’t seen any big changes so far. No noticeable increase in readers (so much for that argument full feed fantatics!) and no noticeable drop in revenue (so no go there partial-feed partisans).

    It looks like I might be getting a handful more comments, but at this early stage that’s about the only difference.

    What annoys me about this who debate however is the notion that anyone other than the blogger him/herself has the right to say what sort of feed they should provide. The whole advantage of blogging over regular media is the freedom to do what you want, and not be dictated to.

  22. Ben Helps says:

    Hmmm.

    Well I use my RSS reader to quickly skim through posts.

    When I hit a partial feed, I often fire up the site in question in a browser window. Do I then browse around that site? No, I read the article and close that window/tab. If I like another partial RSS post from them I’ll open up another browser window to that post. It just goes with the flow of skimming/processing my RSS “inbox”.

    However after a while you begin to recognise the sites that take too long to open repeatedly (and by too long I mean >2 seconds for me). Unfortunately ProBlogger (and Slashdot) fall into that category, while MAKE magazine typically doesn’t, for example.

    Maybe you need “lite” versions of you post pages for those visiting from partial feeds?

    Oh, and this blogger’s dog (Ice) says, “full feeds are the way to go”.

  23. David Ward says:

    Still being a babe in the blogging world at a month & a half old, I also can see both sides of the argument. My bloglines reader currently tracks 75+ feeds and I really could care less if the feed is full or partial. I can say this I think because, after being an MS IE user for years and years, I converted to Firefox about 2 months ago and love it. The tabbed browsing really does it for me and is far less a memory hog than IE. It’s so easy to click on a partial feed to open the full feed in a new tab and then close when I’m done or browse the site some.

    Full or partial doesn’t play into my reason for subscribing to any feed. If I like the content, I will remain a subscriber. More often than not, if I’m interested in a particular topic I will go ahead and click through to the site anyway. I currently have my blog feeds set to full.

  24. Kevin says:

    I use SharpReader, and I get your full post each time.

    Perhaps I’m doing something “wrong”.

    Anyway, I prefer full feeds as I like all the information to be presented to me, and then I decide how much I want to read. Quite often the content I’m interested in isn’t in the first few lines, and most people do not write that catchy an intro that it then piques my interest enough to go and read the full article.

  25. Declan says:

    Darren as I said in earlier email it will be almost impossible police whether others are posting full feeds in a ‘select’ kind of way. By doing this they are in effect creating static pages which are being spidered unlike dynamic RSS feeds which are not. Making full or partial feeds available won’t do anything to stop the reproduction of a ‘public feed’.

    At what point does syndication become reproduction?

  26. Full feed. Partial feeds defeat the purpose of RSS, in my opinion. People are subscribing to RSS feeds to avoid having to visit the site and waste the time of loading full site information. With RSS feeds, people are just looking to pull content. Why on earth would people want to pull partial content–that usually still tells you nothing about the full content, actually–and have to visit the site?

    99.9% of the time, if I subscribe to a site with partial feeds, I soon unsubscribe and pretty well never visit again. It takes up time, especially on my dialup connection, and I’m looking to save time by just reading the content I want. I go beyond that and comment on something if I have the time.

    I really, really hate partial feeds.

  27. Jay says:

    RE: other people stealing your posts, why not just put a byline at the beginning or end of each post and link back to this site (or post).

  28. Karen says:

    I know I’ve arrived at this party late, but hopefully the band’s still playing. I’m not sure why this is generating such debate. I would have thought it was like most things in life…a personal choice.

    My personal preference is for partial feeds because
    a/ I want people to visit my blog and perhaps read some of my back catalog whilst they are there,and
    b/ I tend to use a lot of pictures.

    But ultimately it’s different strokes for different folks.

  29. Tech Tester says:

    Personally, I offer partial feed only.

    Why ?

    Because my articles are generally quite big. So, I think it’s better to get a preview of what is written. If it’s interesting go ahead and read. You’re not, then go ahead and go find something other interresting.

    ****************************************************************************
    Tech Tester
    My Blog (In French) ==> http://NetIformatiK.C.La/
    Translated to English by Google ==> http://66.249.91.104/translate_c?hl=fr&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&langpair=fr%7Cen&u=http://netinformatik.c.la/&prev=/language_tools

  30. Tech Tester says:

    Sorry, a type error of my blog URL. It’s http://NetInformatiK.C.La/

  31. I prefer to treat RSS based upon its original purpose, as a Rich Site Summary – syndication has NOTHING to do with it, in fact, it ISN’T syndicated at all (Bet the cartoonist are laughing their heads off at all the blogger who feel Syndicated because they have a feed)

    That said, RSS should be used as a tool to let other people know that there is, in fact, some new content on your site – it is not, was not intended to ship around entire web-sites as the full feed is now causing it to do – hell, people who subscribe to full feeds probably don’t read it anyhow – Scoble himself says that he initially just “glances” at it.

    So, then…someone should come up with a Bookmark Reader…

    And one last thing – those full feeds – the ones which are stolen and duplicated on those crappy link-bait sites? Yeah, I am very tired of trying to Google something, only to be taken to a site like that – having a full feed only contributes to that mess – until Google quits indexing link bait sites, why don’t you all just publish partial Rich Site Summaries instead..

    k, nuff siad.

  32. “If at any point in this a feed gets boring I just mark all as read and go to the next feed. It’s a grazing metaphor. I’m looking for a green blade of grass so I’ll look through a lot of brown grass to get that.”

    Comment by scobleizer — November 28, 2005 @ 2:53 am

    What is the point of offering full feeds then?
    Mark as as read – why the hell did we waste bandwidth delivering our full content to him in the first place?

    We’re treating our internet sources like we treat our oil supply – ahh, just use however much bandwidth that you want – there will always be more.

    Rewind the clock a bit – put Scoble, et all back on a 300 baud dial-up, see if their view of partial feeds change any ;-)

Trackbacks

  1. Another Round of Partial vs. Full Feed Debate

    Another round of the debates about full-text vs. partial text RSS feeds has begun. Robert Scoble still insists that full-text RSS feeds can be of benefits to both publishers and subscribers. Nowadays, he won’t subscribe to partial feeds. Nick De…

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  4. [...] You can decide which you want to use – it’s a matter of some debate as to which is best. Take a look at Problogger’s view and that of Feedster. Both have lots of links which are interesting to follow. [...]

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  8. [...] Darren Rowse, the ProBlogger, took a look at this issue in February last year (around the time of Scoble’s post) and came up with arguments for and against both partial and full feeds.  One of the distinctions between Rowse’s approach and Scoble’s is that Rowse preferred to subscribe to partial posts himself and Scoble preferred to subscribe to full feeds.  One of the benefits of partial feeds is that they force readers to your site if they want to read the full post and that exposes them to your ads and other means of generating some form of revenue from your blog.  Notwithstanding what I said above about this rationale, you may find that your readers are happy to visit your blog to read the full post and to support you by supporting your sponsors. [...]

  9. [...] The latest Full vs Partial Feed Debate [...]

  10. [...] * The latest Full vs Partial Feed Debate [...]

  11. [...] If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting! (Don’t worry, you won’t see this again.)The full vs partial RSS feeds debate isn’t new (see ProBlogger, Robert Scoble, and Nick Bradbury), but neither is it settled. [...]

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  13. [...] • More on the debate: Problogger, Syndicative, Marketing Studies, 33 Rockers, Danny Wirken. [...]

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