Editors note: The following article is an opinionated piece, and while we tend to stay away from taking a “one-side-fits-all-approach”, I really thought Ronalfy did a great job pointing out true disadvantages to using partial feeds.
In the spirit of controversy, I am frustrated with site owners who use partial feeds to serve content. This nail has been beat to death, but it bears repeating. Alex King wrote on his blog a little over a year ago that the debate between full content vs. partial content is a non-issue because eventually partial feed sites will risk being made irrelevant by the quality full feed sites. However, something that is a “non-issue” sure irks the hell out of me.
I don’t know about you, but I use my feed reader religiously. I use Google Reader, and I have a smaller version of Reader embedded in my personalized Google homepage. Whenever someone I’m subscribed to updates their site, I’m notified almost immediately (I use Google a lot).
When I stumble across a blog (or some other kind of site that has feed capabilities) that I find somewhat interesting, I immediately add them to my feed reader. I do this so I can scan their headlines and skim some of their posts without having to jump through the hoops of web navigation. I do this to “test” out the site to see if I might have a long-term interest. Imagine the frustration when I find out that the new feed I added only has partial content and is forcing me to actually look at the website in order to read the content. Rather than do that, I unsubscribe from the feed and add in the next blog I might find interesting.
I don’t mean to sound whiny or naggy, but what is the point of having an RSS feed if there isn’t full content in the feed? One commenter wrote some choice words on Paul Stamatiou’s blog that describe exactly how I feel towards partial feeds (although I dare not repeat the words here).
In my humble opinion, not having full content feeds is doing a disservice to the reader. It also nullifies any convenience that a feed reader might bring.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a few reasons to have partial content feeds.
- To lambaste me with advertisements. The simple truth is, if I don’t go to the site, I won’t see the advertisements that make the site money. However, there are ways to embed advertisements in feeds. ProBlogger does a great job of this in their feeds and explains how to do it.
- People (or bots) are ripping the content. Google has made it clear that sploggers will not affect your ranking. It is easier to steal content using a full content feed, but why let a few bastards stealing content ruin it for the rest of the readers? Furthermore, if people want to rip-off your content, they will. A partial feed is not going to stop a ripper from going to your site, going to View-Source, and copying your content.
- Web stats might suffer. All I have to say is that it will be a wonderful day when the most important stat for the website owner is the number of readers, rather than the number of unique visits.
- Bandwidth issues. I can kind of see where having a lot of images in a feed might pose a problem with bandwidth, and a partial feed could be a solution.
- Displaying posts as they were intended to be viewed. This point came from Chris Marshall of Marshall Development. Although he has a valid point, content should be able to stand on its own.
- Keeping sponsors and advertisers happy. This is another point from Chris Marshall. Again, this is a valid point. However, without the readers, the sponsors and advertisers wouldn’t be on a site to begin with. A comparison would be corporations who serve the stockholders rather than the consumers. Does the site have the best interest of the readers in mind, or the advertisers?
- Some readers like partial feeds. A solution to this would be to offer both a partial and a full feed. But why? Most feed readers already show (or are capable of showing) a short excerpt.
Here are some reasons to include a full feed rather than a partial feed.
- Full feeds provide a convenience for those that read feeds. Readers like me won’t give a site that offers partial feeds the time of day. There was some rather lively discussion on Paul Stamatiou’s post regarding full or partial feeds. Some commenters shared the same view that I have: partial feeds are evil.
- Full feeds help readers “discover” you. As stated earlier, I add blogs to my reader in order to skim the content so see if I might have a long-term interest. Another point — made by Robert Scoble — states that journalists add tons of feeds to a feed reader in order to quickly consume a site’s content and possibly link to it. Just as journalists go through feeds, some bloggers out there go through thousands of feeds a month to find link-worthy posts. Imagine going through that many feeds a month and having to take an extra (and unnecessary) step in order to access the full content. Can you imagine the loss in productivity?
- Feeds will catch on. It’s only a matter of time, but feeds will catch on (probably later than sooner unfortunately). What do you think will happen if all mobile devices suddenly relied on feed readers to supply web content rather than web browsers? It’s difficult to predict the future, but I predict that feeds may someday rival web browsers in content delivery.
- Full feeds can cause feed income to rise. Both ProBlogger and Digital Inspiration wrote about their experiences with full feeds and income. Both ProBlogger and Digital Inspiration noticed a jump in feed income after switching to full feeds.
- Feeds are available even when the site is not. Digital Inspiration and ProBlogger brought up this point as well. If a feed is externally hosted (such as with FeedBurner), or downloaded to a desktop-based application, then a reader can view the site’s content even if the site is offline. If a partial feed is being served, then the reader will be left hanging out to dry.
Feeds are the future. Feeds are wonderful since they are the content of the site, but without all the nasty code to go with it. Feeds are flexible, and portable. However, a feed is only as good as the content it serves.
This is my plea: for the sanity of myself (if you even care) and for others who share my frustrations, please, please use full content for your web feeds.