Yes, I want those numbers too


I am a bit astound about the recent discussion of Jeff Jarvais article “My content, my readers, my numbers, damnit“. In which – if you did not read it – Jeff demands numbers from feed services so he can track how many people he is read by.

As said, I am astonished by the reactions, not about what Jeff (or in the originating post Brad Feld). They mainly seem to fall into those categories of “you did publish an RSS feed now live with it that others read it” and “they do cache for you, be humble and don’t demand” and “you just want to know your numbers to pump your ego”.

To me, those people are the kind of people who will give you a look of pity when you tell them, that of course one has set up several watch filter in different systems about your name and your blog rules.

It is not about ego, but about being informed, and yes, I want those numbers too. I find it a very poor service from companies like Yahoo and Google, if they don’t report. In case of Yahoo they did report but stopped, according to an update I read at Jeff’s it is about an error in the programming. So let’s address those reactions:

“You did publish it, now live with it.”
No. I did publish it in full feed to make it convenient for my readers to read them, because I want full feeds too. Some read it in their newsreader, some got to my blog, but this is not the number I am counting for me own ‘reporting’. It is the number of regular subscribers I am interested in.

It is meant to be easy for you and this includes being able for you to use your favorite reader. Which brings me to

“they don’t need to provide you that numbers, because they already help you out in caching your feed”
Wrong. As long as they do not help me out with the numbers, they are not holding up their end of the deal. Deal? Yes, deal. Those big portals want to have my content so their plattform is attractive to their users so they can sell their brand, their website etc to the user and tie him or her into their services. Additionally, they get material for massive data mining.

They take my content for free and do not report back – that is not the deal. As far as for caching: They are not doing me a favor and it is not as if this would be important to me as much more for them.

As for “this is just for your ego” – in this day and age, being able to know how many people have subscribed to your feed is not about ego. If I just am interested in a few subscribers, I know them anyhow. But if I want a feedback mechanism (which subscriptions are), then I need numbers – even more important when they come from big cachers.

If you just see it as an egoistical usage, please go on and blog about it or give a comment. It helps me to get to know you, because in the world I am living in, those numbers matter. Not to pimp my ego, not to go around and talk about them, but as information for myself if you appreciate the work I am doing here or if there is room for improvement.

This is my side, how I see it. Additionally, from a business perspective, I find it quite unclever of big cachers to not report those numbers, because this means no exposure to the feed producers (“oh, they are important”). It is not that hard to produce and it would make an impact on how this service would be seen from others.

As a person who is asked to explain RSS on a rather regular basis and to provide some suggestions for using an aggregator, I of course always tell them to use bloglines. And one reason for that is the fact that they do provide those numbers – not only in the logfiles, but also in feed view itself.

Of course Brad is right when he states that people tend to forget to delete feeds and those numbers are flawed – but if you always stay in this metric system, you will always have the same error and can live with it. I don’t care about whether or not those current 386 readers for my German blog beissholz as reported by feedburner are really 386. But I do care about the fact if they don’t grow as a number on a regular basis. Why? Because as more and more people read feeds and get to know blogs, the number has to grow or otherwhise I do ‘loose’ readers like your money gets less worth every year due to inflation.

Am I crazy to think of myself of being that important that the world needs to know about me? Of course not. But in my little micro cosmos the number of readers is as much of a currency as the number of links, track backs and mentions I do get on the net.

Reporting the number of subscribers for me is a must have basic information if you run a reader services. And if you are as big of a company as Google, I expect it from you more than from others; if you don’t provide them, it makes me wonder what else you do not know how to do.

And please note, that I am not talking about forced feedback from you, the reader, I am talking about anonymized feedback in the form of readers. As bloglines does it: When you like, you can make your subscriptions (or parts of it) public, so others can see what you read. But if you don’t want to, you don’t need to. And I don’t mean information like “she read this article for 10 seconds” which is not helpful as an information unless you have other information too (like reading speed).

For you as a feed reader this means: Try to use a system which allows feedback and stop using services who don’t. And tell them about it.

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3 Responses to “Yes, I want those numbers too”

  1. Podchef says:

    I agree with you about numbers–not for ego, but for data. It is nice, and important to know not only how many subscribers you have for a given feed, but also hits on a given link, downloads of a file, searches on a topic are presented by both your intended audience, and incidential viewers. Also, who is using your information in their work.

    There is no complete solution out there, and it seems like there should be. Technorati, PubSub, MyBlogLog.Com,, Feedburner, Libsyn – each presents statistics about who, what and how many–but correlating the data is a nightmare. Just how many people heard my last podcast, read what I wrote, commented elsewhere about it, downloaded my cookbook and how can I present a solid case to–say–a publisher, or an investor that I have an audience and a message, etc. . . . .

  2. Podchef says:

    Wow–don’t know how all that got struck out, but that wasn’t my intention.

  3. Nicole says:

    *lol* you run into using textile dash dash starts –stroken– text. :)