Why With RSS Bigger is NOT Always Better

Filed as Features, Guides on October 17, 2007 10:09 am

Yesterday on the Codswallop blog I wrote about the Google Reader RSS Revolt. In the article I mention that with RSS feed counts, bigger is not always better.

Crazy talk! We all want more RSS subscribers, right?

Actually, no. There is a good reason why you might not want a bigger RSS subscriber count …

Why do you want people to subscribe to your blog?

That is the number one reason you need to ask yourself right now. If you can not answer this question right away then you need to think hard and long about why you are blogging.

My blog is there to build a loyal audience, to generate an industry profile. I am a blogging and new media consultant. That’s what I do. The more credibility and respect I have, the more blog consulting work I get and the bigger and better business opportunities come my way. I know from my analytics and questioning customers that I rarely get a blog writing or consultancy lead from a first visit. My number one mission for the blog is to get people to subscribe so over time they can see what a nice and brilliant person I am :)

When you focus on who your most wanted readers are you are less upset when people leave. Like when I lost a bunch of readers through Blog Action Day. I have to think those people were the least likely to pass on great word of mouth about my blog if one post was enough to drive them away!

Having Google Reader stuff and inflate my RSS subscriber count would not help me one bit. 

I once had a client who worked in an industry where he had met in person every single one of his potential prospects and knew them all by name. There were so few companies that needed his type of product that he could fly or drive to meet each and try to make a sale. Would a subscriber count of 10k help this guy? Probably not! An extreme example admittedly but you understand my point.

You will have your own reasons but it always comes down to getting more of the right people to subscribe. 

Have you ever considered why you need RSS subscribers? Are you happy with your current readership? Share your thoughts in the comments …

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  1. By Robert Irizarry posted on October 17, 2007 at 11:32 am
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    Thank you, Chris for challenging us to think about the constant drive toward increased RSS subscribers! I fear that many of us spend so much effort on this that we forget about “getting more of the right people to subscribe”.

    Unfortunately, it’s the message we get every time we read blogs on “SEO” or “making money online”. Many of these sites don’t consider the niches that many of us inhabit – having nothing to do with either of these subjects. Many times it seems they’re talking to each other and not to the rest of us. Thanks for the wakeup call.

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  2. By Randa Clay posted on October 17, 2007 at 11:55 am
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    Good points all Chris. I could probably have a higher subscriber count if I really pushed on it, and posted every day, but I’d rather have the kind of subscribers who want to read what I write, no matter the frequency. Those are the people I’m interested in providing great content for. The number grows slowly and steadily, and that’s fine with me.

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  3. By Chris Garrett posted on October 17, 2007 at 1:26 pm
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    @Robert – Exactly, blogs are a tool for all of us, and as such each person can use the tool their own way without having to play the “who is bigger” games :)

    @Randa – Slowly and steadily is perfect :) They key is that it attracts and provides value for the people you want to attract.

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  4. By Guillermo posted on October 17, 2007 at 2:05 pm
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    I’m very happy with my RSS subscribers! I’ve reached 100 yesterday and accomplished my first goal!

    I want subscribers because that ensures me a base amount of people that will read what I publish and, hopefully, give me some pageviews, pageloads, clicks, and so on.

    but WTF!! I’ve reached 100 today!! Yesssssssssssssss!!!!!!

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  5. By Anne Helmond posted on October 17, 2007 at 2:46 pm
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    I had not logged into Feedburner for a while and discovered my subscriber number had almost trippled (meaning it went from 25 to 70). I used to check my stats regularly but it made me think about the fluctuations too much. As you described it made me wonder too much about “why did I lose five subscribers, was it because of my previous post?”

    I like your point about “getting more of the right people to subscribe” because I think at one point I had a lot of subscribers when I wrote an article series on WordPress, photos and photoblogs. While this gave me a lot of new readers it is not a topic I blog about weekly so a lot of these subscribers probably left.

    I think that a slow and steady growing number of RSS subscribers is indeed very healthy. It is not about the numbers, it is about your readers that actually read and contribute to your blog. I rather have 10 loyal readers that frequently comment on my blog (which is probably the case right now) than a 1000 subscribers who don’t.

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  6. By Chris Garrett posted on October 18, 2007 at 8:25 am
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    Exactly. I would much rather have readers who are engaged even if it means having 1/10 the total

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