Since I’ve started using a feed aggregator (the Google Reader — excellent for my purposes, when combined with its widget on the personalized Google homepage), I’ve actually been keeping up with quite a few weblogs. It’s just not very easy to visit many weblogs individually, aggregation methodologies like the LiveJournal friends page are simultaneously both too limited and too easily filled up with stuff that puts me to sleep, and every email aggregator I’ve come across is broken in some way. Of course, part of the reason for that is likely the fact that I use a text-only mail user agent rather than some bloated HTML-email client, and that’s not likely to change.
Since I’ve started using a feed aggregator, I’ve discovered that the net result is that I visit others’ weblogs a lot more often. I do so when I want to link to them from SOB, when I want to save what I’ve read to go over it again later, when I want to IM URLs to people I know, when I want to submit them to reddit, and so on. A good syndication feed promotes more page views on the weblog itself, at least where I’m concerned — as statistical studies have shown that increased online music filetrading actually correlates with increased CD sales (though causation is as yet sketchy, whereas it is not at all sketchy in my online reading habits).
Since I’ve started using a feed aggregator, I’ve discovered some factors that contribute to my continued reading, and to my likelihood to unsubscribe:
- Only providing takeaways in the feed, rather than the full text of a post, increases the likelihood I will unsubscribe — which means I’ll probably stop reading, and visiting, your weblog altogether. If I can’t get enough information from the syndicated text to determine whether it’s worth reading the rest, I’m likely to decide it’s not. Rather than prompting people to come to the website, your first-paragraph feed may in fact be driving people away. So much for that all-important ad revenue.
- Lack of effective spam blocking increases the likelihood that I will unsubscribe from a comment feed. This being the case, I’m glad that I bit the bullet and decided to go ahead and use a really user-unfriendly spam filter for SOB rather than using one with an actually useable, helpful interface that doesn’t prevent spam trackbacks from getting through.
- Link posts don’t make me want to read your weblog. I like the occasional link post, as long as it’s absolutely clear what’s on the other ends of those links and as long as the links are of interest to me, though cryptic descriptions make me more likely to just ignore link posts entirely since I just don’t have time to click through every single link on the web to see whether any of them are interesting. On the other hand, original, thoughtful content on subjects of interest to me do make me want to read your weblog. They even make me want to check out your link posts. If your weblog consists of more link posts than original content, I’m likely to unsubscribe.
- The occasional analysis and introspection related to the broader weblogging social network is interesting stuff, especially if you discuss some theories of principle or provide data with interesting implications about the interconnectedness of things. Spending 90% of your time talking about your interactions with other webloggers, on the other hand, just gets boring after a while.
- Mislabeling your political leanings, talking up your affiliations and beliefs without actually talking about them in any substantive manner, or otherwise misrepresenting your weblog’s content such that it looks like it would be of interest to me based on politics when in fact it isn’t, is a great way to make me unsubscribe — even if some of the other content is interesting once in a while.
Since I’ve started using a feed aggregator, I’ve learned a lot about what not to do in my own weblog.
(note: I just unsubscribed from a few feeds today.)