Do You Prefer Full Or Partial Feeds?

Since the day I began posting on my blog I’ve always published partial feeds of my content. I’ll be honest in that I don’t remember why I made the decision originally, though I suspect it had something to do with not wanting all my content scraped and republished. Until an hour ago I had always thought the partial feed decision was the best way to go. Then I read a single post and did a little research and I now think I may have been wrong all this time.

The post in question was Don’t Make Me Click! 5 Reasons You Should Publish Full RSS Feeds and it appeared on YOUmoz, the new user generated blog for SEOmoz members. (By the way if you haven’t checked out version 3 of the SEOmoz site yet, you’re missing something special.) The post as you can tell from the title is arguing in favor of publishing full feeds.

You can see by the first two comments I left that I wasn’t sure if it was that important to publish the full feed, though I wasn’t so in favor of partial feeds that I was locked into them. After my second comment I began to think a little more about the question and decided to do some research.

The Pros and Cons

Both full and partial feeds have their pros and in the end the decision of one over the other comes down to which pros you think are more important. The main points of concern are:

  • Full feeds are the likely preference of those readers who are also bloggers or journalists. These are the readers who will link to your blog and providing them with full feeds makes it more likely they will read your post and consequently link to you.
  • Full feeds allow your posts to be read off your site so there’s less taxing of your bandwidth and your posts can still be ready even if if there’s a temporary problem with your server.
  • Partial feeds require people to come to your site meaning they see your ads, which theoretically means you make more money.
  • Partial feeds protect you from content theft since scrapers are less likely to republish only a summary of your post.

For me the two main issues are the first and last above. I don’t have so many readers at the moment where bandwidth is an issue and while I have been running AdSense for most of this blog’s existence it’s not my primary means of revenue. Until today I had considered the potential content theft to be the biggest issue, but now I’m not so sure.

Digging Deeper

As I said above I dug a little deeper into things and found others discussing the issue and in general they all seemed to favor publishing full feeds. Here are a few of the articles I came across.

The Robert Scoble article, Blog Herald doesn’t understand why full-text feeds work, makes the strongest arguments in favor of full feeds and even offers the obvious that if you add links to other posts on your blogs you’ll still get click throughs to your site. If you’re undecided about which type of feed to publish I’d suggest at least skimming all of the posts I linked to above.

Some observations

As I noted in my comments on the YOUmoz post I suspect people will be split in general on which type of feed they prefer when subscribing. I’ve been using Sage for my RSS reading, which provides a list of post titles in Firefox’s sidebar. It really makes no difference to me how the blogs I subscribe to are published since I’m really just looking at a title and then deciding whether or not to read.

But not everyone is me and so I took a look at some feeds that I have added to Google Reader to see how partial and full feeds looked. I can easily see the difference and understand how having the full feed published would make it quicker to make it through the days posts if you subscribe to a lot of feeds. In fact I may switch from Sage to something like Google Reader as a test to see if I can make save some time while still making it through all the blogs I subscribe to.

From reading the comments of the above posts I also think that more people do seem to prefer the full feed. I didn’t take a count, but my general sense was full feeders outnumbered partial feeders. The full feeders were certainly the more passionate group when it came to their preference. I suspect that publishing partial feeds could cost you readers, though I don’t think the reverse would be true.

One thing I did notice while looking at the feeds in Google Reader and the thing that might in the end be what tips the scales for me is that most of my favorite blogs are publishing full feeds. Normally I’m not one to automatically go with the crowd, but in this case I think it’s telling that the most widely read seo blogs are typically going with the full over the partial feed.

And to bring the issue full circle here’s a post Rand made on the SEOmoz main blog a few months ago. Switching to Partial Text RSS Feed – Vote Your Opinion. If you read down to the comments you can see the majority prefer the full feed and when I look at the SEOmoz feed today it is being published in full.

I switched this blog to publish in full before sitting down to write this post and I’m going to give the full feed a try and see what happens. I like the idea of being able to offer both types of feeds so you can choose the subscription you prefer and I’ll look into finding a way to do that.

So what’s your preference? Do you prefer full or partial feeds? In the end I want to publish the feed you prefer to read.

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7 comments

  1. I usually post partial feeds, Like you steve i was worried about people scraping my content, But i guess we should be provideing for our visitors before trying to prevent sblogs ripping us off.

  2. I reached the conclusion that new screen scrapers were going to make RSS scraping obsolete and the protection gained from partial feeds would be short-lived at best. I keep my feeds full but think everyone should decide the role they want their RSS feeds to play in their site.

    If partial feeds work best, fine, if full feeds work better, that’s fine too. It’s about the goals of the site.

    Personally, I subscribe to sites that use both and don’t seem to have much preference as long as the summary is long enough for me to know what the post is about.

  3. Thanks for letting me know your preferences.

    When I thought about it the scraping issue isn’t really a big concern for me. My blog is picked up by the iEntry network with my permission so it appears in full on sites like WebProNews. When I’ve come across a site scraping my content it’s been scraped from WPN so it made no difference which kind of feed I posted.

    I’m with both of you in that it doesn’t matter to me as an end user which feed is used. If I like the content I’ll subscribe and I don’t mind clicking through if I have to.

    The people who prefer full feeds do seem more passionate about the issue. I get the feeling that by publishing full feeds I won’t lose subscribers who prefer partial, but I would lose people who insist on full feeds if I publish only the partial.

    The feeds are set to publish in full now and I’ll see over the next few weeks and months if I notice any difference.

  4. You see, Steven, the whole reason I’m a little less “Rss-hippy” is because of the sh*tty partial RSS feeds. I hate RSS for that. If I get only partial reading why can’t I just go to the site to read ?

    And, I’ve deleted every partial feed in my feed reader that instant except your feed, Steven (I’ve my own reasons ;) ). And, I myself publish full feeds. I think, just because you have the risk of getting into scraper sites, doesn’t mean you should let your readers down.

    Especially for readers through Mobile platforms, RSS is a boon. I’ve put a “Creative Common” license and a Copyscape DONOT COPY logo(not in feed) in my site and feed and I think its enough protection. Moreover, I always go to copyscape to search for copied content.

  5. I hadn’t realized how passionate some people are about feeds. Sreejith I’m finding more people like you who refuse to subscribe to partial feeds (I’m glad you made an exception for me). I have switched to full feeds and think I’ll keep the full feeds on.

  6. For me the decision has always been about KISS: to remove one click a reader has to make to read the feed. I am particularly annoyed by partial feeds that you have to click through and open a new window. The blogs that have such feeds don’t have me reading their less interesting posts from me.

  7. Thanks Yuri and good to know. I hadn’t realized how much of an issue this was for some people, but I do now and the more I think about it the more I’m glad I made the switch to full feeds.

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