The Big Fat RSS Lie

Anytime a social media consultant starts talking to prospective clients and they bring up blogging, they talk about how RSS can be used to help them directly connect with their customers … the truth is in most cases it’s a BIG FAT LIE!

First off persoanlly I’m a big fan of RSS, I use it daily to help me efficiently process  a large amounts of information, the problem is I’m a techno-weenie-geek, and not “regular people”, and therein lies the problem.

In the past two to three years I’ve probaly looked at the backend and RSS subscribers of several hundred blogs. Across those hundreds of blogs once you step out of the techno-weenie circle, RSS adoption drops off the cliff. Let me give you an example, according to Google Reader TechCrunch has ~347,000 subscribers


Also according to Google reader techcrunch has more people reading it than read the politics section of MSNBC or the Washington post


If you seriously believe that techcrunch has as much reach as the Washington Post just turn off the computer and step away from the desk, because your reality is severely distorted and you need some quality AFK time. What these numbers really show is that RSS has a higher adoption rate within certain spheres of influence.

According to Feedburner I have ~10K subscribers


According to Google reader that’s almost 2,000 more people than subscribe to the New York Times travel section


Do I really have more reach than the travel section of the New York Times … hardly. While Google has tried to make RSS adoption higher with the google desktop, and Microsoft has tried with windows vista desktop gadget, most people simply don’t get or use RSS in a meaningful or significant way.

So does this mean RSS is a failure and you should give up blogging … no, but it does mean you need to have realistic goals. If your subject matter doesn’t heavily intersect or overlap with things techno-weenie’s are interested in, your RSS subscribers will be low. However you can use your blog like an email newsletter and send people updates to their inbox, something most people do understand. If you use google feedburner the service is available for free and pretty much manages itself (unless you get the occasional kook who can’t figure out how to unsubscribe himself and you have to do it manually). Your blog can still be used for viral content, linkbuilding, and ranking in the SERP’s you just won’t have that direct pipeline into people’s attention stream that you do for those who suffer bordline infomania 🙂
photo credit: kennymatic

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