Give Us Our RSS!


Jeff Jarvis has started a little weekend kerfuffle over aggregator services not reporting subscriber numbers

Hey, My Yahoo, Google Reader, Pluck, Newsgator Enterprise and other RSS readers: Hand over my numbers. You are taking my RSS feed and caching it to serve more efficiently, which would be fine if only you told me how many times you are doing that. But you%u2019re not.

He goes on to call it theft, which is silly, but it IS damn rude! Yahoo! have stopped, that's baaaaad, Google never did, that's worse.

Snobbery and stupidity all in one story, how charming.


Agree it's a lame practice, but...

I agree that Google and others not providing such numbers should shape up in this respect.

With that said, though, Jeff and many bloggers like him need to get a life (in this context at least) and put things in perspective. Like you noted, Nick, it's just stupid calling this theft ("waaa... mommy... the WSJ didn't tell me how many people looked at my letter to the editor! they dun stole my content!")

Maybe I'm just inordinantly cranky on this chilly Sunday and I bet I'm being at least a bit hypocritical, but I'm getting increasingly annoyed at bloggers screaming about entitlements ("waaaa... I shouldn't have to register at this site... I want free content without any stipulations!" "Waaaa... these bloggers aren't posting stuff every day... they suck, and they should turn in their blogging card!!!!1")

People need to turn off the computer, go for a jog outside, and grab a pint with friends in meatspace more often for crying out loud.

Check the user agent name

Check the user agent name of the spider fetching your feeds:

Bloglines/2.1 (;
22 subscribers)

) // fetches and caches feeds for Google homepage, #of subscribers on the to do list

YahooFeedSeeker/1.0 (compatible; Mozilla
4.0; MSIE 5.5; // Not always as promised here even with a fair number of subscribers
YahooFeedSeeker/1.0 (compatible; Mozilla
4.0; MSIE 5.5;;
users 33; views 44) // MyYahoo

Providing the number of subscribers as well as the number of views in the UA name should be part of the regular service for publishers. Unfortunately, at many places it's not (yet).

but why?

why should rss be special? no one moans so loudly about pages cached by proxy servers. this is no different.

publishers who need to track web pages whether proxied or not apply technology to the problem instead of whining. the smart ones understand that the resulting numbers are first approximations.

The point is, people don't

The point is, people don't "subscribe" to a web page, they do to an RSS feed - different content delivery, different metrics.


A feedreader can hit an RSS feed once an hour 24/7 - this makes judging readership rather tricky when you start thinking about dynamic IP's etc -- for RSS, subscriber data is a VERY important metric.

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