The Profitable GM: RSS Full Feed or Partial Feed?

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.

Reputation

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.

8 comments

  1. I know you prefaced this by saying that it’s not an attack on the network, but I have to respond specifically to “the network is wrong.”

    You’ll note that my own blog, Critical Hits, uses a full feed instead of an excerpt. I agree with much of what you’re saying for an individual blog.

    But the Network’s topmost goal is to not take any single thing away from any member site, and only add to it. Some member blogs have their feeds excerpted, and some do not. It’s not my job to try to convince them to change. It would look bad to have full posts and excerpted posts next to each other, and we really do want to drive traffic back to the originating sites. And we would LOVE it if people subscribed to their feeds specifically instead of ours! So those blogs that want to make that choice need to convince people to subscribe, and hopefully from their own writing and reputation they are able to do that.

    Putting the icons into the feed is something we can look into, but my gut is that it’ll be fairly complicated to get Gravatar to work with Feedburner, which makes it very easy to manage feeds. Admittedly, part of the reason we have things setup the way they are is because it’s relatively easy to manage, but still adds up to a lot of work in scale.

    Splitting the feeds isn’t very feasible either: while it could easily be done, getting mass adoption one way or the other is tricky, and then confusing to new visitors. We haven’t even had much luck getting subscribers to the category feeds, which I think are a very valuable resource.

    Dave T. Game´s last blog post..Mean Things I Have Done in Horror RPGs

  2. Dave,

    I understand the technical issues. I’m very much coming at this as an “in a perfect world” situation, especially as I’m not the one doing the work.

    I’m not sure having some full and some partial feeds in the network’s RSS would look bad. Though I agree with you that it would on the network’s web site.

    If you wish to encourage people to subscribe direct to the site, would it possible to add a simple link to the originating RSS feed to each post?

    Chris

  3. Chris,

    I see and I understand your points. I even agree with your arguments on branding. Although I’m with Dave that Brand and promotion comes from the authors.

    Another point I must add to Dave’s comment is that we may at some point generate ad revenues to maintain the site and make it better. When we get there, we have absolutely no intention in getting into a profit sharing model with authors, that would be hell. That’s why I’m not interested in putting up full content except for posts that we write specifically for the website.

    We want people to click through, we want people to discover blogs, we want the network to be this page you lazily scan for cool titles and discoveries. We don’t steal content, we don’t leech it.

    That’s the philosophy the network was built on…

    I see your arguments, but our original intent lies somewhere else.

    Thanks for taking the time to address this though, I find discussion on the network healthy and we WANT to make it better.

  4. I can only comment on my own behaviour with RSS feeds.

    If I get a partial and it’s interesting to me, I will follow it to the source.

    If I’m given the full content via RSS I won’t bother going to the site, I’ll just read it as it’s presented on my screen there and then.

    So, taking ‘Blogger A’ I may really like their posts and look forward to new ones, but I won’t visit their site to read them if it’s already been delivered to me via the feed. My interaction remains just through RSS.

    I’ve seen others who offered full RSS start putting Google Adwords into the feeds, so I guess I’m not the only one…

    Paul Maclean´s last blog post..Walker in the Wastes Audio Game – Comes in from the Cold

  5. This is an issue I also have with the RPG Blogger Network. I skip the vast majority of articles in the partial feed, because the headline or first few sentences don’t interest me. There may well be interesting content there, but I’ll never see it.

    Worse, many of those partial entries are clearly introductions, such as “Well, I was trying to figure out what to write today, so I pulled out my copy of the DM’s Guide. I haven’t looked at it since I ran my end-of-the-world campaign six months ago, and….” This gives me no reason to read further.

    This is a disadvantage for the smaller bloggers, who are generally less accomplished writers. They aren’t as good as established bloggers at capturing the reader’s interest in the title or first few sentences. As a result, I tend to read the more established bloggers anyway.

    I’ll also add that I will click through to the website, if I particularly like the article (and want to check out more from the author), or if I feel the article has a good chance of generating discussion. This is especially true on a large meta-feed like the RPG Blogger Network’s, where I’m likely to miss one or two articles by a particular author.

    Now, this is a quibble. I don’t think the RPG Blogger Network is evil or whatever, and I understand their reasons. I still subscribe to the partial feed, and I’m content. Just making my behavior and opinion known.

    Brent P. Newhall´s last blog post..Why I Host a Halloween Party Every Year

  6. I’ve moved to using full feeds for my own blog, simply because I think it’s more reader/visitor friendly, and I put that above any amount of blogstats. Content and readership, not numbers, is what’s important to me 😀

    At the same time, yes, offering a full feed does impact your stats.Folks who like to click through will click through anyhow. It’s clear though that some folks don’t like the idea of them much, and I can understand their concerns as providing them means there’s less reason to click-through.

    I’d see that as a challenge though. If the stats matter to you (and honestly, they shouldn’t) then make thought provoking, insightful posts that pose a question. Invite debate. THAT gets the click-throughs regardless of whether it’s a full or partial feed.

  7. I don’t know if I need a FULL feed – but I do feel like I’m making quick decisions about what is worth clickthrough from very little info via the RPGBlogger home page. Most don’t even have two full sentences pulled into the blurb-feed.

    Ernest Mueller´s last blog post..Asian Monsters

  8. I’ll ponder this and discuss it further with Dave.

    While I don’t think we will post full feeds (We truly encourage people to find and subscribe to subfeeds they care about ), It might be possible to “show a little more leg” by lengthening the feed’s excerpts.

    However, this would come at the price of lowering the number of posts showing up on the first page…

    Speaking of which, a recurring theme from members of the network is how to play the system to stay on the first page longer. Something we wish to discourage.

    However, I foresee a series of post on taking the network into account when writing a post and put some effort in writing punchier titles and introductions.

    For instance, I often preface my post with unrelated pre-topics in italics which gets to be the only thing that shows on the Network. Not a good thing.

    Then again, The network has actually slowed my growth, not helped it… which was to be expected, given that we are offering more sites to the same global readership.

Comments are closed.