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Do Full Feeds Increase Your RSS Subscriber Count?

Posted By Darren Rowse 24th of January 2007 RSS 0 Comments

Bouncing off Leon Ho’s post 0 to 12,000 RSS Subscribers: Ways to Attract More Subscriptions (a good read about how LifeHack.org grew it’s subscriber list)) Steve Rubel wonders out loud if someone should do some study into full feeds and if they are what makes a blog’s feed successful?

He wants someone to do the research – something I’d love to see it too.

I personally don’t think it’s as simple as a full feed or partial feed thing that determine’s a blog’s feed subscriber count. It definitely can help though. For example here at ProBlogger when I moved to full feeds my feed subscribers did increase by 10-20% in the next month (although onsite traffic decreased a little).

However on Digital Photography School I’ve managed to get my subscriber count up to over 4000 in 9 months using partial feeds. Having said that – I’m close to moving it to full feeds also as I’m keen to see if I can boost it further.

Ultimately the biggest factor in getting people to subscribe to your feed is producing quality content that people don’t want to miss.

I’ve said here before that I’m still torn on whether to recommend full feeds or partial feeds. I think it depends upon a number of factors including the topic, the style of posting, how much time you have in dealing with content theft and whether you care or not if people steal your content.

Still – if someone does a study into full vs partial feeds I’d love to read it!

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 and LinkedIn.
  1. I favor full feeds all the way. I think one important benefit is reaching other bloggers. If someone subscribes to a few hundred feeds, chances are they might skip reading your post if isn’t available in their reader. It’s annoying to have to stop your normal feed procession to go to a site at times. A partial feed seems selfish. If you publish a full feed there is a better chance the power readers will read you, enjoy the content, and link back to it.

  2. Darren, speaking from personal experience I would read more of the digital photography school articles if I could do it in my feed reader. I just don’t have time to click through and change to another application and then wait for the page to load. In the feed reader, at least I could start reading while I waited for the images to load. My 2 cents.

  3. I simply don’t read partial feeds. I don’t have the time or the inclination to click twice to read an article. On the other hand, I often jump onto sites from their full feeds to see if there are any comments or to add my own comments. I usually wind up visiting ~more~ pages at a site if they offer a full feed versus visiting the site itself.

  4. Interestingly enough I wrote a post (after reading a piece here by Tony Hung) about full vs partial feeds .

    I still subscribe to partial feeds but I very rarely click through to read the full article. If there’s a full feed I’ll galdly click through relevant links back to the site.

    I use full feeds on my site and I have noticed quite a growing trend in people visiting my site from various feed readers – thanks to my cross linking strategy (as mentioned in my above blog post).

  5. I definitely favour full feeds. When I’m working through my reader each day, I don’t always have time to click through to a website to complete reading an article.
    While I may still be subscribed as a reader, I am not reading the entire article.
    This doesn’t help the question of whether full feeds add to the subscriber count, but what if your partial feeds are not being read?
    I supose eventually I would unsubscribe because I’m not getting enough value.

  6. I am not particular about full or partial feeds. I am not even sure of how my readers want it – ’cause I do not have many subscribers to begin with. :P

    And regarding content theft – I am not sure of that either. I have had my content stolen, but I assume it was hand picked. So, I do not know if the RSS being on full feed facilitated that or not.

  7. I’m right there with John on this one. I once experimented with partial feeds and noticed a dip in subscribers (like you say Darren, there could be other variables at play here). I tend to look at my own feed as I would the feeds of others…if I have to struggle with reading, I’m more than likely to dump the subscription (sometimes no matter how good the content is). I rather believe the whole purpose of RSS is to make things easy for folks.

  8. When I first discovered Problogger I killed my RSS subscription within a few days because it was only a partial feed. I do the same with a lot of other blogs,which results in my forgetting that they exist. I’m back here regularly now because a few months after removing the subscription I re-discovered the site through someone else’s blog. I found enough interesting discussions to warrant returning, whenever I remember.

    The one thing that I feel is necessary in a feed for a community-centred blog is the number of comments. Without the comments, a full feed seems completely different – it’s more like a presentation than a discussion. It also means there’s no reason to click through and see your ads.

  9. This is just in response to the part about having your content stolen – full feed, partial feed or no feed doesn’t matter. If someone wants to steal your content they’ll try. As far as photography is concerned, at least you can post that at a lower resolution with a watermark and it will deter theft.

  10. Darren, I prefer partial feeds, actually, as long as there’s enough information in the partial feed for me to be able to ascertain whether or not I want to read the rest of the article. I also agree with you — and disagree with Justelise — that having a full feed makes it trivially easy for people to steal your content. Really, though, as we get better RSS readers and as the entire blogosphere ecosystem evolves, I imagine that the partial versus full debate will be irrelevant.

    Also, worth pointing out is that for some sites, having more RSS subscribers and less traffic could be a negative, something that those bloggers would rather avoid than anything else. Some sites are designed for on-page readers, and even with advertising in the RSS feed itself (cf. Feedburner) it’s still a lot harder to monetize that content than it is on page (as you know, with your wealth of advertising here on this site!)

  11. I’ve had positive results with partial feeds with no notable subscriber flux whatsoever.

    I am also in agreement with Dave’s thoughts on partial feeds, especially since readers are more likely to join in on the conversation when they’re in the actual post page.

  12. Hi Darren,

    As a reader, I love full feeds. I generally read blogs on Bloglines (on my BlackBerry)/Google Reader (on my notebook) and hate partial feeds, especially if I am on Bloglines. Full feeds give me the opportunity to scan through all the content that has been posted by blogs/newspapers of my interest and I would then have to visit the site only if I want to comment on it or go through the blog archive. Saves a lot of time.

    I’d hate to see partial feeds on many blogs I frequently visit, and would usually e-mail the blogger about this as I am completely in favour of full feeds as a blog reader.

    Content theft is a sensitive issue, and I don’t think that partial feeds is really the answer to stop content theft.

    I agree with you that different blogs could have different styles and hence the blogger could choose between full and partial feeds as per their niche/style.

    Also, as Dave pointed out, for some bloggers it is essential to have traffic on their site rather than the number of subscribers. Since we cannot exactly say what increases your subscriber count, one could experiment with both strategies and see what’s more important – traffic or subscribers and then choose a strategy.

    At the end of the day, as you rightly pointed out; content is the king. Provide great content, and you’ll have subscribers.

    I am happy though that you publish full feeds on ProBlogger!


    Siddharth Thakkar

  13. I have often thought about moving my feeds to partial to drive traffic to my site, but I know, as a user, I prefer full feeds!

  14. Darren, thanks for bringing this topic up.

    Dave, I would argue that full feed will not give you a negative impact, especially not on your advertisement revenue, unless you sourced some CPM based ads. I have done some close measurements when I switch from partial to full feed. My Adsense revenue didn’t drop, but CTR increased. Logically it may be caused by the subscribers coming from RSS feed do not eager to click ads. They are after the content, not ads.

    The population that click ads are coming from search engine searches. (This statement can turn into a post itself)

  15. I do not like partial feeds. I was just thinking about this today as I went through my morning Google Reader routine. I prefer full feeds for so many reasons.

    Users: Prefer full feeds
    Site owners: Prefer Partial feeds

    Advertising is the name of the game. Unless it isn’t and all you are looking for are readers (paid ebook/rss feed subscribers?)

  16. It’s a very interesting topic for sure. Personally I think the full RSS feed is the only way to go, and when I recently did a study of the Top 100 Technorati Blogs, I found this is the most common practice in the blogosphere. You can see the study at:


  17. I have a preference for full feeds, it makes it much easier to read posts from my RSS reader than clicking over to a person’s site…which I still do, as I just did, when I want to make a comment or read other’s comments.

    I have full feeds on my main site and a partial feed on another site I run.

    One difference between full and partial feeds is people who hate partial feeds, really hate them. I lost a few readers of my main blog when I once played with partial versus full feeds. In one case I received a nasty email from an “ex-subscriber” who “quit” my blog when I went to partial feeds…I’m probably better off without that reader :-)

  18. I subscribe to the DPS feed and find that I end up not reading a lot of the articles because I don’t want to have to click through. I stay subscribed because there is enough good content that I occasionally do want to click through to an article.

    I would be much happier if it was a full feed. I find that with partial feeds, the content has to be an order of magnitude more compelling to keep my attention.

  19. I prefer full feeds also as I use my PDA/Cell Phone to read RSS feeds. If a site doesn’t offer a full feed, I have to evaluate whether or not it goes into the list of sites I routinely keep up with manually, and precious few make that cut.

    I think we’re going to start to see more people use RSS on mobile devices, and thus full content feeds will be more highly trafficked.

    Why punish RSS readers and reward HTML readers? It’s just another format? One that perhaps requires new methods to monetize.

  20. Interesting topic!

    As in China,only a few people use rss readers,but nearly all of them prefer full feeds to partial.So i always think full feeds is the best way to keep subscription number.However,when my friend gseeker.com joined CW and used their official poor but unique feed,his subscription was still booming.Now his subscription number is over 3000 ,it’s very special for Chinese Blogs.

  21. Pamela says: 01/25/2007 at 1:03 am

    I have unsubscribed to blogs that only have partial feeds and will continue to do so. Full feeds tend to say as a blog writer and reader I value your time and I thank you for reading my article whereas partial feeds tend to relay selfish stats and advertisement needs or issues instead of focusing on the reader and the content. Full feeds is simply good customer service. If the content is good then the readers will come regardless and an occasional advertisement post thanking sponsors is acceptable and understandable.

  22. Just anecdotally: I actually unsubscribed from your feed right after you went to partial feeds. I hung around for a few days, but hated clicking through every single message to see what it was really about.

    Later something led me back to your site months later, and I re-added your feed. Beautiful, full posts again, and now I’m an avid reader.

    I’ve seen over and over again that if you treat the user very well, even if it’s a short-term detriment, the rewards are almost always worth it. That’s how I view full feeds. Of course I want people to come to my site, but if they want to read it elsewhere, fine. It’s not costing me anything, and I have no doubt I’m getting more readers — readers who will link to me and spread the word to people they know.

  23. maybe it’s a stupid question but: how can i know if my subscribers view my feed as full or partial?
    and if it’s partial how can i switch to the full one?
    thank you so much. bye

  24. I use full feeds for my sites and rarely subscribe to partial feeds. Even if I like the site content it’s just too irritating having to click through for every article I want to read. If I wanted to click through to the site on every post I would just bookmark the site and visit it.

  25. […] Henri, sur 2803.com nous pose la question…Est-ce que vous préférez lire dans votre aggrégateur l’ensemble de vos articles ou préférez-vous juste avoir les premières lignes pour vous faire une idée et ensuite aller lire le reste directement sur le blog ? Vos avis seront très intéressants pour nous autres blogueurs et nous aideront sûrement à répondre à certaines questions, comme celle que se pose Darren Rowse: “Est-ce que les articles complets vont accroître le nombre de lecteurs d’un blog?“. A l’opposé, est-ce que proposer une version tronquée de l’article va en faire fuir certains ? […]

  26. […] * Missed this last week, but I thought I’d mention something I saw on ProBlogger and full feeds about Leon Ho’s 0 to 12000 subscribers article. I hate partial feeds. If the stuff is good I’ll read it…but I hate them. Full feeds everyone. […]

  27. […] I feed completi possono aumentare i vostri sottoscrittori? […]

  28. einfach persönlich Blog-Experiment mit Voll-Feed im März…

    Mit Beginn des Monats März biete ich Euch den Feed meines Blogs als Voll-Feed zum Lesen. Als alter Exzerpt-Fan gehe ich zeitbefristet neue Wege und lasse mich überraschen. Wer nicht wagt, bekommt keine Erkenntnisse! In den letzten beiden Woch…

  29. Subscribers make up a large percentage of your loyal readership, it is in your best interests to keep them happy. providing quality content that they don’t want to miss.
    Personally, I opt to use full feed and I only subscribe to those blogs that provide full RSS…

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