Do you display your feed count?

By Daniel Scocco

There is a small debate going on about displaying or not the feed count on blogs. Maki from Dosh Dosh created a meme around this question titled โ€œStudying the Impact of Feed Count on Blog Feed Subscriptionโ€.

Some readers are more likely to subscribe to a blog if it has a large subscriber base. This is probably true because a large feed count somehow validates the readability and worth of a blog in some way.

I completely agree with Maki here, but while I find that this is a good reason to display the feed count he defends the opposite, arguing that the feed count could motivate some readers to subscribe due to the โ€œsocial factorโ€, and he prefers his readers to subscribe uniquely for the quality of his content.

In my opinion even if readers get initially motivated to subscribe if they see a big subscriber base on the long run they will remain subscribed only if the content is worth, so the equation remains intact.

Finally, just like a large feed count can encourage readers to subscribe to your blog a very low count might discourage them from doing it. In my opinion, therefore, one should wait until reaching a couple hundred RSS subscribers before displaying it.

Update: Chris Garrett, Andy Beard and Shawn Blanc answered the same question.

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34 Responses to “Do you display your feed count?”

  • Shawn Blanc

    For the first year of my site I never displayed the stats. I liked the mystery of it. But as a ‘test’ to see if subscriptiosn would increas I have been displaying mine for the last two weeks.

    I prefer sites to display thiers. When I arrive at a site it’s pretty easy to find out what it’s about (tech, politics, religion, etc…) and if thats a topic I like to read on and there are 5,000 subsciptions that tells me it may be a good site with quality content.

  • egon

    That’s a question I’ve been battling with myself for some time. I finally decided to display the number of readers when I was doing a minor overhaul on my sidebar. I’ve noticed the number gradually go up, but that could be just because my blog is getting more popular.

    The real question is what amount of subscribers should you have before you start to display them? You say a couple hundred here, but I think it depends on the type of blog is is and what its niche is. I for one have about 360 readers as we speak, and I’m still questioning if I should have that up because 360 readers really isn’t that much.

  • Daniel

    egon, the number certainly depends on the topic of the blog. Someone talking about poetry, for instance, could be proud with 100 subscribers.

    I think that 360 is a good number for any blog though.

  • Andrea Micheloni

    Well, I understand somebody could reject to subscribe to my blog’s feed because of the small quantity of readers, but to me it’s largely enough.

    I don’t keep that image(s) to make people follow the sea of readers I absolutely have not, it’s just a way of saying “Hey, I’m a very little blog, you can help me grow” in a fair way.

  • egon

    True Daniel, but it’s hard to see 360 as a good number when you see monsters like Problogger with over 20,000 readers. I certainly don’t expect to be another Darren Rowse, but I would like more. Your 1600 is a good number. Yeah, I’d be happy with that ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Leftblank

    I don’t display my RSS stats, simply for the fact they aren’t that impressive (perhaps 10-20 people at max), which wont work too positively.

    However, I think it might work out counter-effective as well with (very) big websites, not everyone likes to follow the masses; websites that aim for the masses often don’t contain very in-depth or exclusive data, potentially scaring people away who already know a lot

  • Daniel

    A good thing to keep in mind is that displaying or not the feed count is a detail. If you have good content people will read and subscribe to it no matter what, so don’t get discouraged if your feed count is low at beginning.

  • Maki

    Thanks for participating in the meme, Daniel.

    I’m just really interested in finding out how many readers will subscribe to my feed if I don’t display any semblance of popularity.

    I guess it’s my own little sociological experiment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Bill

    One thing I took from the Dosh Dosh article (and you include it in your conclusion) is that I should probably remove my feed stats until they grow a bit. While it’s nice to have quick access to it – it may be a bit of a deterrent to some readers.

    I myself have looked at feed stats to justify adding a site to my reader on occasion. I don’t think it’s a bad thing – it’s just one of a number of variables you can use if you’re trying to keep your Feed Reader easy to access.

    From a blogging perspective I’m not sure I would really be concerned about why my readers are subscribing though. Yeah, I want to have engaged readers but passive readers aren’t a bad thing. Strong feed stats are one of many things that help gauge a blog’s overall value too. Having good feed stats, high page views, and a vibrant community are all badges of honor for any blogger – why not show them off?

  • Daniel

    Bill, you said it ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree.

  • Ian Delaney

    I have worked on monthly magazines that had readerships in the 10K area. They worked perfectly well as businesses because they were in a niche and so those 10K readers were important enough to spend enough money on to reach them.

    Add together the 200 readers a day (who aren’t always the same readers, btw, that’s not how feedreader stats work – you might have 1000 subscribers who read your feed once a week on different days), then add on the people who find you via search and links, and that’s pretty respectable for one person doing this stuff in their spare time.

    It also means that a lot of niche monthly magazines are in big trouble once their ad clients and their agencies work this out.

  • Ian Delaney

    Here’s a weird one that you might want to base an article on: my number of feed readers has *picked up* since I stopped posting daily…

    It’s not what Sifry says in his technorati analysis recently, but if you aren’t A-list, maybe the rules are different.

  • Nick Ellis

    Great point, Daniel, thanks a lot! Bill is absolutely right too. I took the advice, since I have only 160 readers by feedburner. Now I’ll wait and see if the number increases or not.

    Ian, I hear some people get angry with a high frequency of posts, why I can’t tell you… My gadgets blog has 8 to 10 posts a day, so I maybe that’s one of the reasons why my feed count is so low.

  • Ian Delaney

    @Nick LOL! I found I had to unsubscribe to BoingBoing & LifeHacker even though I love their stuff, just because it takes a massive chunk of your day to keep up.

  • Ben Evert

    Honestly, I think feeds and feed counts are a bit overated. Reason being, that most people using the net don’t use feeds. They still use bookmarks or search engines to find your blog. Second reason, in my opinion, feed count tells me the number of people who would rather not be bothered with any advertising while reading an article. Kinda’ defeats the purpose of monetizing your blog.

    I do display my feed count on my blogs only because my niche is so small, that even 10 readers is a good number. I have found that as the subscribers increase, so does the traffic. It gives me a quick idea of how well I’m doing without signing in to Feedburner.

  • Daniel

    Could RSS feed counters will lose their value just like visit counters did?

    The good thing about current feed counters, though, is the fact that Feedburner provides them all, giving some uniformity and reliability to those numbers. Stat counters, on the other hand, were provided by several online services, and most people could easily fake them.

  • Ian Delaney

    Daniel:

    Agreed, though it favours tech sites (more likely to use RSS) over mainstream sites (not so likely).

  • Irish Church Lady

    I find I’m the opposite. I like to subscribe to sites I enjoy only if they don’t have a high number of subscribers. I’m more into the quaint and quirky less popular blog gems. In fact, some I still subscribe too have become really popular, and I don’t even read them as frequently anymore.

    I think it’s because if you have a high readership, it’s difficult to read and get into meaningful comments with your bloggers, because you have so many people to visit. I guess I look at blogging more as a two way dialogue than a one way communication to readers. To each his own!

  • Ajay

    A good idea is to display the RSS button in the early days, once you’re more than 50 or so, the feedcount is a good idea to display.

  • Mike Panic

    I run two blogs, one of them has over 400 subscribers, I display the feedburner stats on that one. I started that blog nearly a year and a half ago and was very green to blogging and threw the counter up with about 27 subscribers. It was fun to watch it barely break through 100. In the last 4 months it has doubled from 200 to 400 and is growing at a steady pace now.

    My newest blog (the one I link to here) is still less then 3 months old and has nearly 40 subscribers to it. I won’t be displaying the counter till it breaks over 100, perhaps 250, I’m still unsure. I did however create as much information on what an RSS feed was and how to use / subscribe to them, even creating a WP page dedicated to the feed. To get my blog to at least 100 subscribers, I am currently running a contest, giving away a 1GB USB flash drive to anyone who signs up for the email newsletter (powered by feedburner). Not only will that get my feed count up, it will get people to hopefully read the blog on a daily basis as it grows and until we hit 100. By the time it hits 100 (should be less then two weeks from now I’m hoping), I’m going to run another similar contest. The first group of 100 subscribers will already be entered in, so long as they don’t unsubscribe they can continue to be eligible to win prizes.

    I’m still trying to figure out another way to run a contest to give a prize to someone who subscribes to a traditional RSS feed, that seems much harder.

    I’m not really worried about getting the initial hit to the site, I want the repeat traffic – that is more important to me.

  • Daniel

    Offering prizes in exchange for subscription is definitely a good idea Mike. Keep us updated on the content and how it motivated people to subscribe.

  • Bes Z

    Daniel, I was thinking about the stats counter from the late 90’s also:

    “Could RSS feed counters will lose their value just like visit counters did?”

    Back then and even now, listing stats right on the home page in the form of “Number of people who visited this site since 1999: xxxx” where xxxx is the number of people who visited the site. Looking at that number, I guess people can simply look at the stats and decide.

    I think we can really look at the issue in the most basic questions: do we want our readers to know how popular our feeds are? Do we know how our users will react to the stats?

    It is the same as going to a local business in our area. If I walk into McDonald’s and read a sign “Billions of burgers served”, and later that day I walk into a restaurant run by a small family which proudly shows a sign on the door “35 customers served since November 2006”, I think I will wonder about two question, the 2nd one being more important:

    1 : Why have there only been only 35 customers since November, when it is March now?
    2 : Why did the family choose to show such a number even though it is low?

    Of course, my first question is being heavily influenced because of comparing that family run restaurant to a giant like McDonald’s.

    I personally think the decision comes down to the most basic question of all: Why do we think putting feed stats is a good idea? We are not obligated to put the stats, so maybe putting up stats can work as a marketing tool if we have a lot of subscriber, or it can work as something else, even a bad thing maybe, if the feed subscriber numbers are too low.

    If we can come up with a good reason to put up feed stats, I think we should go ahead and do it. It might not work on other sites, but it might work on ours.

  • inspirationbit

    My blog is just three months old and I started displaying my RSS feeds when I had only 19 subscribers. Now I have 60, and I keep my RSS feed count up on my blog. Some of my loyal readers feel very happy for me when my RSS numbers go up and congratulate me with the increase.

    I prefer to have subscribers who find my blog’s content valuable rather than joining for the sake of subscribing to a popular blog or getting a prize from me. Although, I do support blog promotion – the more people come to my blog, the more potential readers I will have.

    I myself subscribe to blogs whose content is interesting and valuable to me, and the RSS numbers don’t affect my decision at all. Although, I do admit that I like when blogs display their RSS count – that number just shows me how many people have discovered them. There are a few blogs in my RSS reader that have less than 20 RSS subscribers, and I feel very proud for recognizing and uncovering these gems.

  • SEO Genius

    Not as of yet, i dont feel it is a good look for a website to display their feed count until its at least at 500 or 1,000 it may make your website look ametaurish and unprofessional

  • Bang Kritikus

    Yes, I do

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