Discuss…Full vs. Partial Feeds: What's Best for a Network Blog?

Yesterday one of our commentators mentioned he wouldn’t visit our blog if we continued to shorten our feed. The truth is, we don’t shorten our feed, we shorten the post. There are steps we can take to shorten the post and leave our feed intact, but I haven’t been able to get it to work properly with this particular blog. We like to shorten our posts because they make the front page look tidy, but not at the expense of our readers. So what do we do?

The Benefits of Shortening Your Feed

The argument over whether or not to shorten feeds is ongoing in the blogosphere. Many bloggers like a shortened feed because scrapers and content thieves can’t carry the whole post. Plus page views and revenue are up among many bloggers who have a shorter feed.

Why Many Bloggers Don’t Shorten their Feeds

The problem is, many blog readers don’t want to have to click to read more. If they can’t read the whole post in their feed readers, they move on. I personally don’t get this. I feel if content is good, people will click..how much trouble can it be? But, as usual, I’m in the minority.

Should Network Bloggers Shorten Posts?

Most network bloggers use short feeds because they get more pageviews when readers click through to read the entire post. Since many are paid a base plus traffic bonuses, it’s in their best interest to get their readers to come to the blog rather than read feeds. Moreover, I’m of the opinion that people who visit the blog will be more likely to participate in the conversation and you’re better able to build up your community.

Because network bloggers are paid a set fee by someone else instead of their own blogs’ revenue, I feel they have to do what they can to bring in traffic. Especially since it’s their livelihood. The problem is, your readers want full feeds. So what do you do?

First of all, the decision to publish a full or partial feed is ultimately up to the network. About.com only publishes partial feeds and they have very good traffic. Other networks keep a full feed. When you hit the “more” feature to cut your post, you’re cutting the feed too. Try this…take one week and post only full posts/full feeds. Take another week and “more” your posts. Is there a difference in traffic? If so, is it a big difference? Do people complain? As a network blogger you have to do what brings your blog the most traffic, and the higher paycheck without alienating too many readers.

Keep in Mind…

There are a bunch of people who absolutely refuse to visit a blog offering a shortened feed. It doesn’t matter if your blog is great and your content is the best ever. It’s a matte of principal for them. They want to stay on their feed reader and never stray. Decide what is most important to you and your blog. To “more” your posts, making them prettier and bringing in more traffic, or to leave them whole and cater to everyone – even though it might mean scrapers will steal your content and you’ll have less traffic.

Let’s put it to a discussion here. Why do you use a full or shortened feed…and does it make a difference when you visit a blog? I’d also love to hear from those who run blog networks – what is best for the network blogger?

Discuss…

Comments

  1. A blog is a two-way street and depends on readers. If you’re providing free content for people to read, it’s because you want to. If you want them to read your content, then you should do what they want. I believe it comes down to the blogger’s selfishness: is it about you or your readers?

    Also, deliberately forcing me to jump through hoops to pad your revenue isn’t cool, in my eyes. I understand the principle, but that doesn’t mean that I have to play your games. (Using the general ‘you’, here). If you just want to measure money, then forget about full feeds.

    But measure how many comments you receive. Measure traffic. Measure overall reader satisfaction. Don’t just measure dollars.

    As for scrapers, that’s just silly. You can wall up your little castle and huddle in fear while digging a moat and preparing defenses, or you can stand up and show that you aren’t afraid to face your foe.

    We use full feeds. Always have. We get scraped and we fight the scrapers directly – we don’t force our readers to do something they don’t want to when there are alternative solutions.

    And as for not keeping a subscription to a blog with a partial feed? I don’t. Out of a long list, I have three feeds that cut me off (two are yours, Deb.). What happens is that I read the whole article a hell of a lot less and only click through when I am STRONGLY compelled to comment.

    On other blogs with full feeds? I tend to visit the blog and comment more.

  2. Hi James,

    When it comes to feeds, it’s a different ball game for folks who make a living of blogging and count on traffic bonuses for payment – sort of like a waitress counts on tips. We want our visitors and our community, but we also have to pay the rent.

    I understand why many readers want full feeds, but don’t understand why it has to be such a matter of principal for some. For someone to say he’s not visiting a blog ever because it offers a short feed, is sort of like treating dandruff by decapitation, in my opinion. If you like a post click to read on. If it looks boring move on. I don’t think it’s completely selfish to cut a post or feed – no more selfish than expecting a blogger to cater to someone who doesn’t feel like clicking.

    I keep a full feed for all of my blogs – the ones I own. I have no control over the blogs I don’t own – I don’t intentionally shorten posts on any of my network blogs. On two client owned blogs I’m required to cut the post after two paragraphs as that client is worried about Google seeing a post and its full front page content as a duplicate and doesn’t want a penalty. That cuts the feed too, but this client cares more about traffic and revenue than building a community.

    Anyway, it’s an interesting argument. I can see it for both sides. I found a solution for FWJ – just wish I could get it to work here.

    Jennifer and I did make the decision not to shorten posts here any more since they cut off the feed, even though we prefer a nice tidy blog.

  3. I understand why many readers want full feeds, but don’t understand why it has to be such a matter of principal for some.

    It’s not real principle, it’s nerd principle. Nerd principle is where you’re technically right but you’re going to make a huge deal out of it, far out of proportion, because it annoys you. But it’s still the way people think.

    Kind of like how you won’t go back to that one store where a cashier 5 years ago was rude to you. That guy is long gone and it certainly wasn’t something worth holding on to for 5 years but you still avoid that place because you have so many other options.

    And that’s kind of the key. If you are the only one covering a certain subject of have a really unique point of view then they have to click through. There aren’t many that can say that.

    As for getting paid for traffic that’s something you need to work out in your contract. Feed readers should definitely count as traffic. One thing you could do is have separate feeds for each author, then you could really identify who’s writing was most popular and therefor brining in the most readers.

  4. Hm, yes. People who are paid very little for the writing itself but who have to jockey for hits to earn money are in a very different position.

    And in that case, I think it’s right to do what you have to do to get the money that you have to get. Even though that puts the blogger in a position of being the bad guy.

    Hm. Moral dilemma – is pay-per-click blogging a bad thing? The value for reader doesn’t matter as much as the clicks and the money do…

  5. James – I’m not talking necessarily about pay per click – more along the line of x amount of dollars for x amount of page views.

  6. Same thing in my head :)

    End goal, more people clicking to go read so that the writer gets paid. That’s what I meant (sorry)

  7. Man, I’m going to be in such the minority. I actually like short feeds because it keeps me active. Like Lorelle offers full feed and I like her blog A LOT but rarely leave a comment or interact there because I can read the whole post in my feed and move on. If a blog offers partial post or shoots me over to their blog, I’m much more likely to comment and interact with the blog community. I know I should interact on principle but full feeds make me lazy.

    Personally, I have no issue with feeds one way or the other. Full, half, what have you, if the blogger is good, I’ll click. It’s smart for me to go blog visiting though, so I prefer short overall.

  8. I think it’s a ploy to get people to come to their blog and click on all the ads. I hate partial/shortened feeds. If, in the age of 100 million something blogs, you’re depending on Adsense to pay your bills, maybe people should just go out and get a(nother) job to replace the pennies they make with Adsense? If you’re blogging because you really like/love blogging, then publish the full feed and if people really like you anyway, they’ll visit your blog. My opinion.

  9. The problem is, many blog readers don’t want to have to click to read more. If they can’t read the whole post in their feed readers, they move on. I personally don’t get this. I feel if content is good, people will click..how much trouble can it be? But, as usual, I’m in the minority.

    I actually prefer short (but enough to tell me what the post is about) feeds and I like the same thing on the actual blog. It allows me to quickly skim a large amount of posts to find the ones that I want to read.

  10. @CBM “maybe people should just go out and get a(nother) job to replace the pennies they make with Adsense?…publish the full feed and if people really like you anyway, they’ll visit your blog.”

    Network bloggers or blogger who work for clients are not normally paid by adsense clicks. You’re thinking of folks blogging for themselves. Blogging for others usually pays salary, or base and page views.

    However, pvs aren’t the only way bloggers are paid and I do agree that long or short feed, people will simply visit if they like you and won’t if they don’t.

  11. @CBM – Though I know there are some bloggers who do shorten feeds for more revenue, I don’t think to myself “Hmm….I’m not clicking through to read the whole post because this guy wants Adsense clicks.” It doesn’t occur to me. If I want to read through I do, otherwise no harm no foul. Besides, who says you have to click on anything once you get there?

    It’s a different story for network bloggers though. We don’t know how much revenue our own individual blogs pull in. Many network bloggers do receive traffic bonuses, so it’s in our best interests to get people to visit our blogs as opposed to a feed. Blogging is our real job and we need to make it as profitable as possible. We’re blogging because we love blogging, but it’s also how we make our living.

    @Fern – I prefer short feeds to. I subscribe to over 300 feeds and I like being able to scan the short posts and read through to the ones that interest me.

  12. Hi Jennifer & Deb, yes, I was thinking of individual bloggers. I’ve unsubscribed from so many partial/short feeds where it’s partial and then you go to their site and there’s only one or two more sentences left to read!

    I see what you mean about probloggers and network bloggers and I understand people have to earn their living. I was speaking of the few that I recently unsubbed from where it really didn’t make sense for me to keep reading half-assed content covered with Adsense, so I let those go.

  13. Full or short? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. I’m more likely to keep reading full feeds and I’m more likely to visit the sites because I’ll care what commenters have said about the article. Good lead-in copy is hard to write: as well as getting me interested, it’s got to get over my mild irritation at having to click through and wait for the page to download. Other things also play in my decision whether to subscribe. Most important are whether your feed is technically clean or gets labelled as semi-junk or junk on a regular basis (best is RSS 1.0 with a content:encoded tag containing the full xhtml) and whether your posts allow comments and pingbacks (so I can interact easily).

  14. just throwing out there that i *hate* shortened posts.

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