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Monday, 26 November 2007

Full feeds please

This is an old but classic post from Techdirt. It talks about whether to include full information in a syndicated feed or whether to simply include a strapline or teaser to persuade the user to jump to the full web page.

I am going to steal from the text the following: "However, in our experience, full text feeds actually does lead to more page views, though understanding why is a little more involved. Full text feeds makes the reading process much easier. It means it's that much more likely that someone reads the full piece and actually understands what's being said -- which makes it much, much, much more likely that they'll then forward it on to someone else, or blog about it themselves, or post it to Digg or Reddit or Slashdot or Fark or any other such thing -- and that generates more traffic and interest and page views from new readers, who we hope subscribe to the RSS feed and become regular readers as well. The whole idea is that by making it easier and easier for anyone to read and fully grasp our content, the more likely they are to spread it via word of mouth, and that tends to lead to much greater adoption than by limiting what we give to our readers and begging them to come to our site if they want to read more than a sentence or two."

We have spoken to, and you may have happened across if you have mipped a site, a number of publishers that choose only to include a strapline to seek to persuade you to click immediately through to their branded and monetisable website. Now, Techdirt's article argues that this is a nonsense even from a web perspective - and increasingly in this web 2.0, community-driven, world and that those publishers that take this line will ultimately find themselves of the fringes of conversation rather than the nexus point.

The justification for a full feed is even more apparent when you consider how these feeds are being picked up on the mobile internet. Services like Mippin provide value because they can help bring the mobile internet to life for the end user - perfectly formatting the look and feel of the content for the user's device. Sending the user to your desktop web designed site immediately is a value destructive exercise as the reader will end up with a poor brand experience. Mippin also allows the publisher to control and monetise the mobile environment with the feed, so there is no justification for trying to get the user into branded or monetisable territory as soon as possible.

The responses to this Techdirt post were overwhelmingly from people who supported the policy: unsurprisingly I guess. But I do find when I discuss this point with publishers that those who actively support the view that the feed should be truncated, rather than this be a default setting of their CMS, do so because they are scared that this will end up losing them eyeballs and do not see the wider picture.

I have my eyes peeled for a web side survey which demonstrates unequivocally that this is the losing option; for mobile I can already show it with the data we have so far but clearly we need to wait until mobile becomes a more extensive part of the user's journey before this will help change policy amongst the laggards.

In the meantime, do not feel shy to reach out to your favourite sites and ask for them to make more of the content available in the feed.

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