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RSS Feeds – The Full vs. Partial Conundrum

As I peruse through the 338 blogs in my feedreader every day, I find myself wondering why some blog authors chose to provide full feeds, some partial feeds and even a few provide titles only.

(If you know not of what I speak, the first video in this post is a short and simple explanation of RSS feeds. A full feed is exactly that — the full text of the post is provided in the feed. A partial feed provides a “teaser” — a few sentences, and a title only feed provides just the title.)

Darren Rowse of the brilliant ProBlogger wrote a post about this back in September. He followed that up with a poll showing 75% of the bloggers that answered provide full feeds.

Personally, I don’t care for partial feeds, and I loathe title only feeds. I use a feed reader so I don’t have to visit individual blogs. That’s the whole point in subscribing to feeds. A feed reader allows me to manage reading almost every post of every blog I subscribe to. Being forced to click through to the blog is not only annoying, it’s time consuming. And let’s face it folks, time is money.

If one were to read through Darren’s comments, you’ll see a couple of general thoughts about full vs. partial feeds.

Those that support partial feeds have two basic premises:

1) Partial feeds result in more hard clicks and direct traffic to the blog. If you are attempting to monetize a blog with Adsense, affiliate links, etc. then I suppose it makes sense to try to increase your direct page views — in the hope that someone will click on a paying link and add a nickel to your “paycheck”.

2) Some seem to think that if you provide partial or title feeds, that the splogging snots out there won’t steal your content. To that I say, “Fooey”. My blog gets scraped all the time, and often the splogger only captures the beginning and end of the posts — and the end includes the copyright notice that says:

If you are reading this outside your feedreader or on any blog other than The Phoenix Real Estate Guy, the site you are looking at is guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact legal@ThompsonsRealty.com so we can take legal action immediately.

If that doesn’t dissuade the pestiferous little thieves, then only providing a partial post or title certainly won’t either. Trust me, these lowlifes will scrape anything.

Those that support full feeds argue with me that the main purpose in a feed reader is the efficiency it provides, particularly if you read a lot of blogs. I don’t monetize my site (with ads and such) and while I would love for people to stop by and leave a comment or look at the pretty header and the crap in the sidebars, what I really want is for people to read what I write. Giving them an easy way to do that just seems to make sense.

I can only speak for myself, but I know that I read virtually every full post in my reader. A partial feed gives me three or four sentences to decide if I have the time to click through to read the rest. Often I don’t. And a title only feed hardly ever gets read.

There is no right and wrong, no hard and fast rules in this blogiverse. What I find annoying and difficult to understand, others may not.

So I am curious oh Bloodhound Blog reader, what your thoughts might be. Where do you stand? Do you offer full, partial or title only feeds, and why did you choose what you chose?

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  • 32 comments

    32 Comments so far

    1. Christina Ethridge December 31st, 2007 2:46 pm

      Well, I recently switched to partial feeds because of the sponging of my posts. It was coming mainly from sites that simply regurgitated the content from a feed. I thought it would help reduce the content they were able to sponge – but according to your post, it doesn’t. Frankly, I just don’t know WHAT to do now!

      I would like to include a sig file at the bottom of each of my wordpress posts – but right now I have to copy and paste it from another document. Do you know of a way to have it insert automatically in every post in WP?

    2. Bob in San Diego December 31st, 2007 2:53 pm

      I provide a partial feed for a few reasons. Here are two:

      1. I do care about scrapers, since I also know a few of them and how they operate. Depending on one’s perspective, they are either lazy or efficient. The pros are lazy so they need to be efficient. They simply scrape feeds and move on. The trick with scrapers is using them to your benefit, while minimizing any negatives they pose. I can do that with a partial feed.

      I don’t monetize my site (with ads and such) and while I would love for people to stop by and leave a comment or look at the pretty header and the crap in the sidebars, what I really want is for people to read what I write. Giving them an easy way to do that just seems to make sense.

      2. This is where I break from the pack. My blog is an integral part of my site which exists for the sole purpose of generating business. If people do not click through, then my odds of generating business drops, because my target audience is different than most real estate agents who blog. I don’t care if anyone in the industry ever reads it – my subject matter is not geared to them.

      My target is the consumer and I provide info that is specific to the consumer.

      IMO, the choice should be determined by the goal.

    3. mike December 31st, 2007 3:36 pm

      I too had a partial feed for scraping reasons. I had to go back to full feeds under pressure from subscribers. I lost several the first day I implemented it and even got a nastygram from a guy that hates partial feeds.

    4. Jay Thompson December 31st, 2007 4:11 pm

      Christina – This plugin claims to put a “signature” in each post. I haven’t tried it personally.

      I use this plugin to put the Copyright notice at the end of each post in an RSS feed (but it doesn’t display in the blog itself)

      I see partial feeds in splogs every day. I’m not convinced they deter sploggers. I’d rather provide what the bulk of readers seem to want as opposed to caving to the sploggers. There are other ways to fight them.

      Bob – I don’t understand this statement:

      If people do not click through, then my odds of generating business drops, because my target audience is different than most real estate agents who blog.

      How does “forcing” click throughs from a feed reader increase business generation? There are ways to put contact info in a feed. And at least on my blog, the vast majority of the public (the ones most likely to generate business) come from web searches and not feed readers. I would think anyone savvy enough to use a feed reader would be savvy enough to click through if they wanted to contact you. What am I missing?

    5. Bob in San Diego December 31st, 2007 6:46 pm

      >And at least on my blog, the vast majority of the public (the ones most likely to generate business) come from web searches and not feed readers.

      Agreed. However, since I’m not looking for loyal readers, but prospective business, those that would bitch about my partial feed are not high on the priority list. The benefits of the partial feed outweighs the happiness of someone who doesn’t want to go to my site.

      Put another way, I am looking to engage people. A full feed doesn’t lend itself to that end.

    6. Christina Ethridge December 31st, 2007 11:15 pm

      Bob – great dialogue. My blog is the same focus as yours – the consumer. Additionally, the intent is to make my blog our main website (we do have a main site but I love the blogsite better). I’m still on the fence and nothing has fully lead me either way. But, what you are saying makes total sense – on the other hand, the activity from people in the industry commenting and reading my blog helps it’s search engine placement (google crawls it daily now). I know it’s not the end all be all, but it helps google see it as active.

      So – to full feed or partial feed – that is the question . . .

      Jay – thank you so much for the widgets!!!

      As far as partial feeds in splogs, well, isn’t that better then your entire post splogged?

    7. Chico CA Real Estate- Sandi Bauman January 1st, 2008 11:23 am

      Although I’m clearly the newbie in the group, I will share that I use my full RSS feed. I do this because I know I’m reluctant to click through to a main site after reading only the teaser feed. Even when I really want the rest of the content, I feel put out- having to go that extra step to get to the rest of the post feels like an imposition. If it’s interesting enough, I’ll go there, but grudgingly.

    8. Greg Swann January 1st, 2008 11:28 am

      I’m with Sandi — and for her reasons. The essence of the 2.0 paradigm is that vendors no longer have the power to inconvenience consumers in the vendors’ behalf. A more transparent opportunity is just a click away.

    9. Derek Burress January 1st, 2008 11:40 am

      Dear Jay:

      I used to think you were an expert at blogging until you wrote a post about keeping blog posts short. It was then when I realized you your way of blogging didn’t appeal very much to those of us down south. You see… “In the South, the breeze blows softer…neighbors are friendlier, nosier, and more talkative. (By contrast with the Yankee, the Southerner never uses one word when ten or twenty will do)…This is a different place. Our way of thinking is different, as are our ways of seeing, laughing, singing, eating, meeting and parting. Our walk is different, as the old song goes, our talk and our names. Nothing about us is quite the same as in the country to the north and west. What we carry in our memories is different too, and that may explain everything else.”

    10. Christina Ethridge January 1st, 2008 11:50 am

      “The essence of the 2.0 paradigm is that vendors no longer have the power to inconvenience consumers in the vendors’ behalf. A more transparent opportunity is just a click away.”

      I find it interesting that because I (the vendor) am providing a FREE resource for consumers so they are more knowledgeable – and I’m providing that resource full and complete on my blog site without requiring any information from them – that the resource I am providing is now an ‘inconvenience’ because it’s not compatible with another source that perhaps 5% of the internet world may use.

      Frankly, right now, and for at least the next year or two, 99% of actual consumers will not be ‘subscribing’ to ‘feeds’ of local real estate blogs. My consumer subscribers are all email versions (2k+ of them), where they get the entire article and can click through to the website. My ‘feed’ subscribers are all colleagues or industry professionals of one sort or another.

      Besides, no matter how many views my posts get, the overwhelming majority of my blogsite visitors go to the home search page – not available in a feed reader.

      All this to say, I still don’t know which one to use.

    11. Jay Thompson January 1st, 2008 1:04 pm

      Derek wrote: “Dear Jay: I used to think you were an expert at blogging until you wrote a post about keeping blog posts short.”

      ??? Where and when did I write a post saying to keep posts short? Have you seen the length of some of my posts? I’ve been told by some that I need to write shorter posts. I don’t recall ever saying others should write short posts. The length of a post matters not in my opinion. I have said often that there are no “rules” in blogging. No real rights and wrongs. I’d love to see the link where I said people should keep blog posts short.

      “It was then when I realized you your way of blogging didn’t appeal very much to those of us down south.”

      Sorry, I don’t set out to write to appeal (or not) to any particular geographic group. Not that it matters one bit, but I fully understand “the South”. Both of my parents are from Tennessee and I lived most of my life in the south. I consider myself a Southerner.

      I’ve never claimed to be an “expert at blogging”. If what I write doesn’t appeal to you, the solution is simple.

      And I am curious… what does any of this have to do with this post?

    12. Cathleen Collins January 1st, 2008 1:10 pm

      Derek:

      By contrast with the Yankee, the Southerner never uses one word when ten or twenty will do

      Yankee? Hank Hill was born in NY, too, but he ain’t no Yankee neither! No more’n any cowboy. Don’t know whether you ever met Jay in person, but just look at his mustache for God’s sake.

      My folks and theirs and theirs are forever from south of the Mason-Dixon, too, Jay. But you wouldn’t know it from my Ohio accent. You, however, have clearly picked up your parents’ speech patterns. If ever I knew a cowboy Realtor, it’s you my friend.

    13. Jay Thompson January 1st, 2008 1:26 pm

      Christina – I agree that the vast majority (currently) of Internet users aren’t using RSS feeds. I too get a significant amount of blog traffic using the IDX search on the blog. (I just added a link to that page in my RSS signature. Though I don’t think that will matter.)

      I think whether to provide full or partial feeds is really a matter of personal choice. In the long run, it probably matters very little in terms of readership, splogs, whatever. I guess for me it basically boils down to this – I prefer to read full feeds, so I offer a full feed. It’s really that simple (I could offer both, maybe that is the best solution).

      I would love to hear any tips you’d like to share on how you got 2000+ email subscribers. From what I can see, Coeur d’Alene has a population of ~35K (in 2000). So getting 2K subscribers is a phenomenal number, congrats! How’d you do it? Inquiring minds need to know! :)

    14. Christina Ethridge January 1st, 2008 2:29 pm

      I too like reading full feeds – so mine is back on full feed.

      Our email subscription includes our in house database – past clients, current clients, prospects who’ve given us their contact info, etc (we sell a lot of real estate). The Coeur d’Alene area (aka Kootenai County) has a population of 130k. The majority of that population is within a 10 mile radius and includes Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Hayden Lake & Rathdrum with an approximate population of 90k.

      I’ve just recently incorporated our email newsletter database with our blog – turning in the fancy (lots of work) weekly & monthly email newsletters for a weekly email from our blog. It has been an incredible success.

    15. Ben Martin January 1st, 2008 4:05 pm

      Robert Scoble commented on this post I wrote to notify five blogs that I’d unsubscribe if they didn’t start publishing a full text feed. I’m an evangelist for full text feeds. Have been from the start. Like Jay, I’m less likely to click through and read a relatively uninteresting post if teased with a partial text feed. But for some inexplicable reason, I’ll waste my time reading a relatively uninteresting post if it’s pushed out full text. If you really want to engage me, push a full text feed.

    16. Scott January 1st, 2008 5:13 pm

      I am a fan of the full text feed —- in my view, generating real estate business via a blog is a result of providing valuable real estate related information over a prolonged period of time. While I have no empirical data to support it, I suspect that more people opt to *not* click through to read the full post than those who *do* click through and then read other posts as well. That being the case, getting the full content of the post in front of the rss readers is the key to showcasing your real estate expertise.

    17. Derek January 1st, 2008 6:50 pm

      Jay, I will email you later tonight. Cathy, the mustache doesn’t make the cowboy. If it did, you should see mine. But of course, I am not gonna argue with you as there’s only two theories to arguing with a woman. Unfortuantly, neither one works.

      LMAO @ your Hank Hill comment.

    18. Bob in San Diego January 1st, 2008 7:07 pm

      Ben – two questions. How did you find the feeds you subscribe to and how did your subscribers find yours?

    19. Bob in San Diego January 2nd, 2008 12:47 pm

      Here’s the trade off for your full feed – magazinelife.net – for those that don’t care about duplicate content issues, which can negatively impact your search engine results.

    20. Ben Martin January 2nd, 2008 1:41 pm

      @Bob: I don’t know how my subscribers find my feed, and I find the ones I subscribe to all over the place: Google alerts, trackbacks, other peoples’ blog posts, blogrolls, etc. etc. etc.

    21. Jay Thompson January 2nd, 2008 1:59 pm

      Bob – fully aware of MagazineLife.net, just posted about them on my own blog. They’ll be shut down soon enough, hopefully.

      As for the duplicate content, Matt Cutts and other SEO experts have said that scraped content won’t impact SERPs for the original content. Are they right? I don’t know, but my SERPs are fine.

      I’m of the mind set that I provide my readers what they want — that being full feeds. I choose not to compromise that for what might reduce splogging. Other’s will have a different opinion.

    22. Bob in San Diego January 2nd, 2008 3:44 pm

      As for the duplicate content, Matt Cutts and other SEO experts have said that scraped content won’t impact SERPs for the original content.

      Actually that is not what they are saying.

      Adam Lasnik and Matt have said that with duplicate content, including syndicated content, there is no guarantee that they’ll pick the right source as the original.

      SEOs like Greg Boser, David Naylor, Eric Ward, Adam Sussman, Michael Gray, Mike Grehan and Danny Sullivan top the list that other SEOs go to for advice. All of them use partial feeds as well as recommend (as does Adam Lasnik) that you take certain precautions to eliminate the dupe content issues that blogs pose.

      Others like Aaron Wall, Rand Smith and Jeremy Shoemaker care more about their reader experience and use full feeds.

      It’s still all about your goals. I understand that many real estate bloggers say that SE results are not that important to them (which I don’t believe for a minute), but to say there is no downside to a full feed is not helping those who like coins with both sides.

    23. Jay Thompson January 2nd, 2008 4:57 pm

      Did I say there was no downside to a full feed? If I did, I’ll retract that. There are up and down sides to both. (though I’ll stand pat that title only feeds are no good for anything)

      But, to say partial feeds eliminate scraping (and I’m not saying YOU said that Bob) is incorrect. Partial feeds get scraped too.

      Agreed that bloggers should take steps to reduce dup content exposure (ie: not indexing archives, categories, etc. I assume that is what you are referring to?)

      I’ve never understood either how anyone with a web site, blog, whatever can say SE results don’t matter. If a site can’t be found, it’s not worth a whole lot.

    24. Jay Thompson January 2nd, 2008 5:21 pm

      One last thing on this and I’ll let it go.

      Bob – you mentioned Adam Lasnik. Certainly he is highly regarded in the SEO world.

      Here is something Lasnik wrote on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog regarding the effects of scraping on search engine placement:

      Don’t worry be happy: Don’t fret too much about sites that scrape (misappropriate and republish) your content. Though annoying, it’s highly unlikely that such sites can negatively impact your site’s presence in Google. If you do spot a case that’s particularly frustrating, you are welcome to file a DMCA request to claim ownership of the content and have us deal with the rogue site.

      (source)

      I’ll take Adam’s advice. “Highly unlikely” isn’t a guarantee, but it’s good enough for me. YMMV

    25. Bob in San Diego January 2nd, 2008 7:17 pm

      That’s Google’s company line that another site can’t hurt you. It is a matter of semantics.

      From the same source:

      Syndicate carefully: If you syndicate your content on other sites, make sure they include a link back to the original article on each syndicated article. Even with that, note that we’ll always show the (unblocked) version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer.

      The only difference between syndicated content and scraped content is permission.

    26. Michael Wurzer January 2nd, 2008 7:48 pm

      Full feed from me. I don’t care about traffic to my site, though, I just want my stuff read and hopefully discussed. I’ve been splogged quite a bit lately and I haven’t had the energy to pursue it. I did just put up a Creative Commons license on my site, though, in the event that I ever get interested in that fight. Back to full or partial feeds for a second, I rarely read blogs that provide partial feeds. That’s enough to prevent me from doing that to anyone else.

    27. Ben Martin January 2nd, 2008 8:10 pm

      This debate has sparked my curiosity and so I would like to try this out in the real world. The Va Assn of REALTORS is just about to start a new blog. When it goes live, I’ll serve up both a full text feed and a partial text feed and track the number of subscribers to each. I’ll also track click throughs and anything else y’all think would be interesting. I’ll report back in a few months. The blog will be at http://www.VARbuzz.com by the way.

    28. InsideHoops January 3rd, 2008 12:33 am

      If people are running a business, why would they give their entire articles away in an rss feeder? The only logical business reason to do that would be to get tons of subscribers so you can eventually stop posting the full articles and only providing partial rss.

    29. Bob in San Diego January 3rd, 2008 9:43 am

      @Michael – I would use a full feed in your situation as well.

      @Ben – looking forward to seeing your data.

    30. Richard Querin January 14th, 2008 7:20 am

      We’re discussing this issue right now as well for a screencasting site we maintain. I’ve always been for full feeds although there are a few (quality) blogs that remain in my aggregator that provide partial feeds. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but it’s annoying.

      My cohort just sent me this link which looks interesting. A plugin that may help thwart the scrapers in a manner similar to what has been discussed in the comments above this one:
      http://www.joostdevalk.nl/make-the-scrapers-work-for-you/

    31. [...] of short feeds point to two very simple reasons why they have taken to only publishing part of their content in the feed [...]

    32. [...] much like the chicken and egg debate. Everyone has their reasons… a lot of people are of the mindset that partial feeds drive higher click thru rates, even though the VP of Publishing Services at [...]