Recently I was discussing how the disparity of numbers in analytics was causing me some aggravation. After digging a little deeper I think I found part of the source of my frustration, the Google Desktop Reader.
Here’s a screenshot from feedburner
The two lines I want to draw your attention to are Google Desktop. If someone has Google Desktop installed and is using the web clips a bit of background voodoo happens. Web clips autodiscovers RSS feeds and ads them from any site you visit. The subscription is automatic and completely out of the users control. IIRC if you don’t ever click or go back to the site it will automatically unsubscribe you at some point in the future.
This all comes back to Google personalized search strategy. Get the webmasters and web publishers to see an advantage to getting more people using Google’s products (see don’t become a Google traffic addict). I’m sure Google (and vista) would content most people don’t “get” RSS and this introduces them slowly to the benefits of the technology, and I will conceed that point. However the end user really needs to have more control over how/what is happening. For example it’s not out of the realm of possibility to accidentally wind up on porn site with RSS and start getting streaming porn headlines in your web clips section. The ability to directly influence what appears there and to simply leave it up to the machine to figure it out is a major flaw/oversight.
So if you’re playing the RSS game right now Google Desktop/Web Clips can be used to boost up your subscriber base, something to think about.
Patrick is talking about this too so check it out, Why Digg inflates your subscribers.