Do You Read the Beat Less With a Restricted RSS Feed?

At the beginning of the year, Heidi MacDonald was very open about the status of her site The Beat, posting about how what readers say they want to see may not be what drives traffic (and thus income, since she monetizes with ads).

Comics Beat logo

She asks for ad clicks (which technically violates the terms of at least one popular ad network, but it’s a good reminder), link shares to her content, and help with links to interesting stories she can write about. I admire her for having that discussion in public, and what she’s asking helps out any site you enjoy. Later, in the comments, she says:

It is not at a a level where The Beat is the only thing I do for a living however, and that is a problem.

One thing that didn’t come up in her discussions was how she’s changed the Beat’s RSS feed from full-content to just a small taste, presumably to drive more views to the site, where the visit will count towards ad impressions. For me, that’s changed how I read her site. I follow the RSS feed avidly, but now, I only click over about a third of the time. It’s easier to skip articles I’m not interested in, or that reprint press releases that will show up elsewhere. Before I read all the RSS articles, and if I was interested in the topic, I’d click through anyway to read the comments.

(In case readers are curious about how I run this site, I’ve never felt luckier to have a well-paying day job that means I don’t have to consider such decisions. The ads and sales commissions (through Amazon links) that bring in income here are nice (and useful from a tax perspective), but I can cover what I wish or skip a day or two blogging as I need to. My site is more like a pet to me — something whose attention I find rewarding, that I have loved dearly for many years, and that needs to be fed regularly and cleaned up after (in the comments).)

Since Heidi isn’t commenting on the RSS feed change, I thought I’d ask, just out of curiosity: Has how much you read the Beat changed?

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13 Responses to “Do You Read the Beat Less With a Restricted RSS Feed?”

  1. John Jakala Says:

    I dropped the Beat feed from my news reader as I hate those snippets. I didn’t even think about it but since then I haven’t visited The Beat at all. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

  2. Ralf Haring Says:

    I was already reading less articles even with the full feed available once I realized that she’d been adding other contributors over the past year or two. I don’t begrudge her the need to spread the workload.

    That said, limiting the rss feed to just snippets is something that has caused me to drop feeds in the past (cbr, newsarama, among others). The four short lines (or in the worst case the simple headlines) are almost never enough to pique my curiosity.

    Bleeding Cool took a different approach to limiting their feed. They turned off all the media content, so it’s just the text of the articles. If you want to see any images or embedded video then you have to click through.

    I took a look at the trends page in Google Reader and I see that in the past 30 days I clicked on 58 BC items and 18 Beat items. The former also posts many more items per day (23 vs. 5), so make of that what you will.

  3. Chris Says:

    Bleeding Cool turned off their images from being hotlinked. So images would show up broken in the feed. When it was pointed out, instead of adjusting the restriction for newsreaders (I imagine a couple more lines to htaccess file would have fixed that) they just turned it off altogether.

    Gawker took the approach of offering two feeds. A full version with ads (like you see on Daily Kos) and a truncated one giving users an option. TPM offers a shortened feed that isn’t a truncation. It’s a leading sentence to get people to click through. It works very well too.

    I don’t read CBR because of the short feed (less Newsarama because that site is awful). RSS should be a part of your content strategy. If you can’t people to come over from the feed, why offer it at all?

  4. Jamie Coville Says:

    Huh, I hadn’t caught on that I was just reading snippets. Typically I click through if I’m curious about the comments an article might bring or I really want to see a pic that’s not coming through the RSS.

    It’s still better than Spurgeon’s RSS though..

  5. Ralf Haring Says:

    I gave up on Comics Reporter a long time ago. It was too much work to separate the wheat from the chaff. One big rss dump instead of spread throughout the day, too many minor updates with their own full entries, significant content (interviews and such) posted in other sections of his site and not appearing at all in the feed … way too much hassle. If there’s something of interest, I just hope that I’ll see it mentioned elsewhere.

  6. Anthony Says:

    If I’m at home, I don’t mind either a shortened or full RSS feed. When not at home and only with my smartphone (and no wifi), however, whether or not I click through a shortened RSS feed depends on how mobile-friendly the full site is (given I, like many/most others, don’t have 4G mobile service or a 5″-screen smartphone). I tend to hit “stop” if it’s just the full site version and more often than not just skip the entire article altogether if it’s not *that* urgent a read.

    For my own site, I’ve messed with going with a shortened RSS feed, but settled on sticking with the full version instead.

  7. James Schee Says:

    Odd, i haven’t even thought of RSS feeds in a LONG time. I do most of my browsing thru my IPad, only using my laptop at night when I’m running multiple things. (usually a movie) I’m not even sure there is an RSS feed on here.

    Typically the only sites I go to are links from people I follow on twitter.

  8. William Gatevackes Says:

    I read more articles before. Not that I’m complaining. There is one particular new addition to her writing staff whose writing I just don’t like (personal preference, I’m sure he’s a nice guy) so the new format means I can breeze past his snippet and focus more on the news that interests me.

  9. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    I do most of my reading via Google Reader these days. I don’t know that I clicked through that much with the full feed, to be honest. The point of reading via a Reader is that I don’t have to go to the individual websites. (And I guess with Feedburner’s demise, nobody has figured out how to put ads in their RSS feed? Remember when RSS feeds were littered with ads?)

    With these shortened feeds, I just have a bad taste in my mouth. It might get The Beat an extra hit or two a week from me now, but I don’t see the ads on the page, because that’s all the noise my eyes work hard to avoid in favor of the black and white column of text I’m actually interested in. Too many websites are so cluttered with ads that none of them stand out anymore to me.

  10. Hal Shipman Says:

    I read far fewer articles than years ago. That’s definitely a downward trend in the quality of writing, which is clearly a result of bringing on sub-par writers in the last year or two. Not so much a technology thing as I rely less on RSS than before, though.

  11. Heidi M. Says:

    Believe it or not, I JUST found this conversation — it never showed up in my (hm) track back RSS feed. I’m sorry you formerly loyal readers don’t like my new contributors — I think they all have something to add, and as I’ve said a few times recently, I’m trying to bring along a new drew for when I retire to Taihiti.

    As for the RSS feed thing, I tried it and I doubt it really made much difference. I guess I’ll add it back. THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT.

  12. Johanna Says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t know about the discussion, and thank you for taking it so well. And thank you very much for bringing back the full feed. Personally, I like seeing the various viewpoints, especially Steve’s more UK-based take on comics.

  13. Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, 2/28/13: please don’t hate me anymore Says:

    [...] ago people suggested I turn my RSS feed to excerpts. And I had to go to another website to find out you hated this. Okay! I turned full posts back on! Now are you going to tell me how much you love [...]

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