Note: Some of the below may seem like criticism of the RPG Bloggers Network. It is not. The network is a fantastic service run for nothing by volunteers to whom this blog owes a lot of its traffic. However there are a few things I would do slightly differently.
Yesterday I posted an OPML file allowing users of Google Reader and similar tools to easily get the RSS feeds for all the blogs on the network directly from the blogs themselves. Geek’s Dream Girl posted this comment in response.
I think the reason why the founders chose partial feed was to encourage TRAFFIC to the individual sites. Now with this full feed, the members will see traffic go down, which is sad for those little guys getting less than 20 hits a day. (Not me, but many many of the younger blogs out there.) I would rethink this post and probably delete it for the good of the community.
Now I think Geek’s Dream Girl (GDG) is wrong, and by inference, that the Network is wrong.
GDG believes that a partial feed drives traffic to a site. The idea being that the reader sees an interesting headline and the first couple of lines of text so they click on the link and end up at the blog. Conversely if you published the full article, people will read it in their RSS reader and never visit your site. This is a perfectly sensible argument but it makes two major assumptions.
Firstly that readers will behave in the predicted way. How many users of RSS feed readers click-through even when they have the full feed? I know I do because I generally want to see the comments or want to see the article formatted the way the author intended. The flip side of this question is how many click-throughs do you lose because the headline does not catch the readers’ eye? Any blogger who is focused on the more graphical side of the hobby (such as Greywulf’s Lair) is disadvantaged by the partial feed.
The second big assumption by GDG is that traffic is the ultimate goal of all bloggers. There is no doubt that seeing your blog’s visitor stats climbing is good for the ego. And if someone is looking at your blog they might click an advert and earn you money. If you are aiming to be a profitable GM, this second reason would seem to be rather overwhelming argument but there is one thing more valuable than traffic.
Or you could call it branding or any of half-a-dozen different marketing words.
Traffic from the network is fleeting. It comes and goes because you are only as good as your last headline. Reputation is forever. Consider Chatty DM, one the most successful bloggers on the network. If he sold his ChattyDM site to a games company and then set up a new domain, EvenChattierDM.net, how many readers would switch to the new site? Lots, simply because Chatty has a good reputation and a style that people like.
Partial feeds, especially the way that the Network does them, remove all trace of a bloggers brand or identity.
If I knew people where seeing the 6d6 Fireball name along side the full text of our articles, I would happily sacrifice all the click-throughs I got from the Network. Why? Because as a Profitable GM I know the value of a good brand and how to turn that brand into cash.
A Few Notes
1) The debate between full and partial RSS feeds is not new. Google on “RSS Full Feed or Partial Feed” and you will see a host of articles on the subject.
2) If any blogger wants me to remove their blog from my list, I will do. However it will definitely cost you one reader because the list I use is my daily reading list.
3) Before asking to be removed, consider your RSS feed in general. If you only want a partial feed on the Network then why are you putting a full feed on your RSS in the first place? Most blogging software allows you to control whether your RSS feed is full or partial.
4) It would be great if the Bloggers RPG Network had two feeds that bloggers could opt into. One partial and one full. Then it is up to the bloggers to decide what they want published and the readers to decide which format they prefer.
5) On the Network’s partial feed, it would be a great improvement if the name of the blog appeared somewhere or possibly the blog’s logo. Anything that helped make the individual posts on the feed look different. At the moment it is a unbroken lists of identical looking entries.