How's your feed? Are you serving up full or partial feeds to your readers?

8 years ago

The great thing about blogs is that readers can subscribe to your feed. Each time you publish a new post, readers are notified in one of a number of possible ways that you have a new post.

If you read a lot of blogs you probably use a tool especially meant to pull in and organize blog feeds. This software is commonly called an RSS reader. There are many, but the one I use is called Net News Wire.

Bloggers serve up their RSS feeds in two ways: full or partial.

Here's an example of a partial feed, as seen in my Net News Wire application. It shows a post from In Women We Trust. You see an initial paragraph, but to read the entire post, you need to click through to the blog itself.

Net News Wire showing a partial feed

Next, an example showing a full feed, from the blog Female Science Professor. You can't see the full post in the window, but you would only have to scroll down while still in the RSS reader to see it all. No clicking through to the blog.

Net News Wire  showing a full feed

Here's a full feed example from Time Goes By. See the big white space after the second paragraph? That doesn't indicate a partial feed. There's a YouTube video there. It doesn't show up in the reader. Whenever a post includes a video, I must click through to see it. (This may only true for Net News Wire.)

a feed with an embedded video

Since video implies sound, I really prefer not to have the video there in the reader, blaring away when I might want quiet. Clicking through to see and hear a video is non-offensive, in my opinion.

There are two points of view regarding the full vs. partial feed decision. Some bloggers fear that a partial feed may lose readers for the blog. Many readers find the need for that extra click to get to the blog annoying. Some even refuse to read blogs that use partial feeds. Other readers don't find it a problem and quickly click to visit the blog and see the full story. I'm in the second group; the click-through doesn't annoy me. But people in the opposite camp hold strong feelings about that extra click.

From a blogger's point of view, partial feeds serve a purpose. They bring traffic to the site. There are several reasons why bloggers may want to bring traffic to the blog site instead of sending full posts out in a feed. One is advertising dollars (although you can put ads in RSS feeds). More traffic equals more ad income. Another is because of material on the blog that does not get pulled into a reader with an RSS feed. I don't mean only video. None of the great information in a sidebar shows up in a feed. The hard work and talent showcase inherent in creating a beautiful blog design doesn't show up in a feed. The comment form doesn't show up in a feed.

Back at the beginning of this year, when Denise was handing out assignments for the Be a Better Blogger series on BlogHer, she ask me to do this post. I decided to switch to partial feeds for Web Teacher. I've used full feeds for years. I wanted to see for myself whether partial feeds would really bring in more traffic. Here's a view of my blog stats since that time.

a chart of stats for my blog

Ignore that big spike, one of my stories got Stumbled. Also ignore the big drop at the end: it's only part of a week. To understand the difference partial feeds made, look at the slow but steady upward movement in numbers from week to week. My conclusion is that partial feeds are helping my traffic. I can't tell from this how many readers unsubscribed to my feed in their feed reader when I changed to partial feeds, if any. I can say that partial feeds bring more readers to my blog. Not many, but I don't have teeming hoards of readers. Small increments matter to me.

I've decided partial feeds work for me. You might make a different decision. If you're one of the group who find partial feeds an annoyance, you may not want to use them yourself. Perhaps bring traffic directly to your blog doesn't matter to you. Let people read the whole post in an RSS feed.

I don't think there's a universal right answer for you about which way to go. My goal was increased traffic to the blog. I tried it both ways before I decided on partial feeds. Perhaps that's my universal answer: decide on your goal for your RSS feeds, and test it for yourself to see what works.

Virginia DeBolt
BlogHer Technology Contributing Editor
Web Teacher
First 50 Words

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