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The Age Old Debate – Excerpts of Full Posts in RSS Feeds

Posted By Darren Rowse 3rd of August 2005 RSS 0 Comments

Marketing Sherpa has a good post with 7 tips on podcasthing, RSS and blogging that might be of interest to readers. Here’s one on RSS that I subscribe to:

‘#1. Don’t give it all away

Whether you’re promoting in a third-party RSS feed or using a feed yourself to get content from your site to users, the rules should be the same: entice them just enough to lure them to your site.

If your entire goal is to get people simply to read your feed, then fill it up with as much copy as you want, Lawrence says. But if you’re interested in actually driving traffic to your site, give just enough content to draw them further in.’

Of course this is NOT a tip that all bloggers subscribe to and I can just see the comments this post will probably get now – many bloggers feel that RSS should give full posts rather than just excerpts.

I guess it depends upon your goal. As the quote above indicates – if you’re just interested in having as many people read your content as possible and don’t mind if they never come to your blog and don’t mind if your content appears in full on other people’s sites then full posts in feeds will be for you. But if you’re interested in building a community and discussion around your posts and want to limit how much of your content appears else where then excerpts may be a good bet for you.

It’s an age old debate – perhaps its time for another round of opinion in comments below.

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.
  • Will

    Personally, I prefer a feed to offer a short summary of an article. This allows you to see if it’s of interest before you read it all.

    If the feed has entire articles, then people are effectively downloading your entire site (or a portion of it) every time they check the feed.

    Another thing to consider is revenue from advertising. If you send your entire articles down in the RSS feed, then people won’t bother visiting your site, as there won’t be anything new for them to see there.

    Perhaps this is why Google seeks RSS ad patent.

  • I think the sherpa got it spot on. For my general blog, SYNTAGMA, I have full feeds, but for the newer ones with ads on, there’s only a partial feed. That makes sense, I think.

  • I’m using both systems on my blogs, but to be honest, I’m yet to decide for myself what is the best solution. If a post really catches my interest, I’ll go to the blog to read it, even if the feed was displaying it in full in my aggregator… Apart of this, I have no idea of what my readers would prefer. Anyway, whatever the choice, we can never please everyone. I suppose this would indeed depend on whether one has advertising on their blog, in which case, yes, it makes sense to only send teasers through the feeds instead of ull posts.

  • I agree that the solution depends on the situation. Many bloggers just want people to read their post. Therefore, why not provide the entire post in the RSS feed, especially if it’s all text, and therefore doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth?

    Business users have a different goal, which is to get people to their site, whether to see ads or to sell a product or service. In this situation, they should provide enough information for subscribers to be able to judge if they’re interested; they’ll click if they want more.

    Information sites, such as newspapers, may also want to go with just the short description option. Why? Aren’t they just trying to get out the news? Well, they may want to attract people to their site like any other business, but there’s another reason. Information hungry people (like myself) may subscribe to dozens or even hundreds of feeds, and short descriptions are easier to scan quickly.

    I discuss all the pros and cons in Chapter 10 of my book, including a 3rd option, which is to provide titles only. (Although, in my opinion, this is a poor 3rd choice.)

    Ellen Finkelstein
    Author of Syndicating Web Sites with RSS Feeds For Dummies

  • Jon

    There’s a spirit of generousity that is created by using full feeds that is good for business. I think, having read an interesting post, I’m likely to click through to see what’s going on in the rest of the site.

    I’ve been very happy with the number of click-throughs on my full feeds. That combined with putting affiliate links in the feeds has been working well. The google Adsense for feeds are not very effective in my opinion. I am experimenting with doing something similar to Adlinks [with my own affiliate links] and including them in my feeds.

  • When we started the Quotes of the Day, we had a company that would email them to readers every day. We set it up, but worried that our readership would go down because our faithful followers wouldn’t have to hit the site to get the quotes.

    Instead, our readership went up. It wasn’t exponential, but our following grew slowly because people would email the quotes to their friends and then their friends would hit our site. Word of Mouth is far more important in revenue generation than worrying about “giving away” your work.

    I suspect the same is true for RSS feeds. We use full feeds and our following keeps growing. Stop worrying about the nuts and bolts and concentrate on the content.

  • My feeds are a mix. Basically, I decide how much of the article I want to display on my front page, and that much shows up in the feed. If I am going to split it out, then I will make the first paragraph a descriptive summary (usually) rather than just starting and then having them click through, although that sometimes happens as well. 90% of my posts are around 200-300 words, though, and I generally just push everything through the feed.

  • Truncated feeds are the best way to go. I run an online blog aggregator, and we just include the first 100-150 words as a tease for the blog and allow the users to click to the site if the headline and tease interest them.

    This creates a good relationship with the blogs we feature while giving our users a better experience…it’s much easier to scan the stories when they’re all basically the same size.


  • If your feed’s goal is to get a click through to your site and so improve ad views or associated products then I say have excerpts. If you’re just being a nice person – use full posts.

  • I was tired of policing sites leeching my content when I had a fulltext feed. Right now it’s fulltext because there is an advertiser paying to sponsor it, but if there is no advertiser it is a summary only.

  • Another variable to consider is which part of your audience you care more about. I believe that as time goes by, more and more heavy-duty blog readers will simply unsubscribe to feeds that don’t carry full text.

  • If you’re business model involves advertising sales, it almost has to be summary feeds unless you have an advertiser willing to sponsor the feed on a flat rate (not per click) basis. If you’re attempting to build credibility in a business, a full feed puts your knowledge in front of the greatest number of eyes.

  • That was a bit spooky after your previous post about 31 tips … I was thinking about this very subject of partial feeds for my tip tomorrow.

    Anyway my thoughts agree with most of the previous posts. It’s been said already but it would advantageous to cater for different types of reader, Russell Beattie has this system and it works well (for the reader anyway).

    Interesting post from commentor no. 6 (Laura Moncur) regarding the mailing list to encourage word-of-mouth website promotion. The method could be implemented for rss feeds at somepoint available through a built-in feature for rss readers, web browser and (or) the website itself. Basically it would allow a user to send a link to a friend, along with the original website link.

    There is a solution built into IE for sending a link but it only sends the active address link, not the link you are eyeballing.

    Final thoughts … I obviously like full feeds better but the incentive for me to go to your web page is 2 things 1) Good content. 2) Interesting comments.

  • Another consideration not brought up yet is that offering full text feeds makes it WAY too easy for other sites/bots to steal your content since it is so easily parsed.

  • I just blogged about this topic yesterday:

    The interesting thing is that Adsense is suggesting full content.

  • I used to let them have the full posts until I found a site copying my entire blog (and others) and using ads to make money off my posts. Since it is a higher PR site (and a decent site… I was surprised to see them doing this), I didn’t want them getting all the traffic that should have been mine. So, now I just do partials. Too bad, because I wouldn’t care of people using readers read the full posts without visiting my sites. But if anyone’s going to make money off my pain (my blog is on RSI and ergonomics), it’s going to be me :P

  • tod

    Hmm, as a reader I subscribe to the theory of full posts in RSS feeds. I commute and for awhile was using Newsgator Outlook Edition on my tablet PC. It was really frustrating to get into a good post only to have it cut short and require me to click-through to the site when I was on the highway without a net connection.

    On the flip-side, I’m looking at creating another blog that will run Google’s Adsense and/or other advertising tools. So this thought has crossed my mind as to whether or not I should use full or partial RSS feeds and if that will influence the potential ad traffic. My gut tells me to go with full feeds until something changes my mind (like Lindsay states).

  • LA

    Maybe it’s just me, but I find myself clicking more often on full posts than truncated posts.
    If a post is truncated, then you better be a really engaging writer and be able to fully grasp my attention with the few words you’re allowing me to see… And usually that is not the case.

    Anyway, I care more about making my reader’s life easy than forcing them to go to my blog to read a post.

    Sure I may miss out on a couple of hits, but it’s alright.
    And as far as missing out on revenue, I figure that most of the people who read my feed are regular readers and regular readers don’t really click on ads too much anyway.

  • Vix

    My main beef with truncated posts in rss feeds is the lack of useful information. Often than not the few lines of text are not enough to give me an idea about what the post is about. If I see a feed like that I’m not going to subscribe.

    I wish that people who do offer partial text in their feeds would make meaningful summaries about what the post is about rather than putting in x number of words.

  • I have to use full text feeds. I’m using a script from that converts my text blog into speech via the RSS feed .. when I put the feed to short summaries, the way their system works is that once a URL is read, it is archived or cached somewhere .. and will always remain 30 seconds ..or how long it takes to speak the text. If you change your feed later, the speech will not be updated.

    But I think a full-text is the way to go. Listen .. Right now I have about 350 RSS feeds and search topics in my ‘bloglines’ and in June I was overzealous and had about 650 feeds. I’m sure I deleted a lot of quality feeds, that just didn’t have a ‘catchy’ first paragraph and didn’t catch my eye. I’m still sorting the type of feeds that I have been getting and unsubscribing feeds daily … but I tell you one thing ..

    I have NEVER clicked on an add in a RSS feed in my blogline feeds … do you ? My goal is traffic comes and stays on my sites and searches topics and reads sections and hopefully I will get some adsense clicking … right now, I get nothing.

  • I recently moved from providing the full text in my RSS feeds to providing excerpts and have seen an increase in traffic to the blog sites. Consequently, I’ve also seen an increase in ad revenue in these sites as well. So I guess my vote is for blurbs versus full text.

  • Full feeds leave you much more open to full content theft, RSS = Really Simple Stealing ;-)

  • Soooo… since there’s no way to do trackbacks to this post, and I wanted to comment, here’s my ghetto trackback.

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