Who’s using RSS?


A question came up in a meeting I was at yesterday – to what extent are people actually subscribing to (and presumably reading) RSS (or Atom) feeds?

After casting around a bit all I could find on the web was this post from Feedburner’s blog talking about the use of aggregators (hot news: Google, Yahoo!, and Bloglines are the tops).

The aggregators certainly make it easy to subscribe to feeds, but I wonder if that’s the same thing as saying people are actually using feeds. When Rael Dornfest asked the crowd at O’Reilly’s Emerging Tech Conference in 2006 how many people thought their feed reader was more important than their email client, a significant number of people raised their hands – but that’s a pretty geekily self-selected crowd.

If you’ve got any data on how much you and the people around you are or aren’t using feeds, and how they’re being used, drop a comment to this post or send me an email.

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3 thoughts on “Who’s using RSS?”

  1. I am almost fully dependent on feeds at this point, at least for tech news. I use Safari as my reader, and I have a set of bookmarks that are feeds, and a set of bookmarks that are not feeds (both are on my bookmarks bar for easy access). The “non-feeds” get checked once a day, while the “feeds” get checked whenever the number gets big enough that it is worth spending 10 min on to keep up with tech news. So sites that have feeds may be visited by my several times a day, while those that don’t are far less seen by me.

    The same holds for blogs. I put all of the interesting blogs I follow into a folder on my bookmarks bar, and I keep an eye on the “unread count”. Then I check those blogs as I have time. The non-feed blogs (there are some) do not get looked at very often.

    But I think that this technology is even more critical to the people who use things like myspace and livejournal. They are used to consuming personal/relivant info in this way, and they want other relevant info presented in ways they can get at using the same tools. Even though I do not work in such spaces myself, my own use of this technology to track news etc. has made me far less interested in sites that do not provide feed data.


  2. You can check in the browsertype field of the stats for Google Reader’s subscriber count.

    Since I’ve been using RSS feeds on the school site since 2003 or 2004, I checked our stats.


    http://apps.sphcm.washington.edu/xml/pub/featured_events_rss.xml (Featured Events, which are on the School’s homepage) is the most popular, with 8 subscriptions. http://apps.sphcm.washington.edu/xml/pub/SPHCM_events_rss.xml (all events in the School) has 7. http://apps.sphcm.washington.edu/xml/pub/job_listings_rss.xml (current jobs listed in our jobs engine) has a mere 2.

    With jobs, I really should promote them more. Jobs/careers is now the #1 section of the site in terms of traffic, but we only have two users of the RSS feed.


  3. I have about 50 feeds that I peruse regularly — some daily, others more occasionally. I would use RSS even more if certain things — like UW mailing lists — were available via RSS. Request Tracker can also publish RSS feeds, for example, which I find handier than getting emails every time a new ticket comes in to a queue. If I could get Oracle Calendar meeting invites via RSS, I’d be ecstatic. I’d also love to see some of the Catalyst Tools RSS’ified as well.

    I found a “howto” about email-to-RSS conversion — http://lifehacker.com/software/how-to/turn-mailing-lists-into-an-rss-feed-283353.php . That might be useful for techsupport@u and other high-traffic lists that I’ve long-ago filtered and tend to forget about.

    I use several different readers — Firefox, Outlook, and Google Reader primarily. Each has its pro’s and con’s. But it’s a pain to keep them all in sync. I wish I could just point them all to a global OPML file somewhere and just keep that up to date. I need an aggregator for my aggregators!


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