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The End of the Attention Free Ride?

The End of the Attention Free Ride?

More and more I am finding RSS less useful. This is quite surprising to me, I am sure it will have confused some of you.

The thing is, while I still have some essential feeds that I check every day, it seems a feed reader does not factor as much into my productivity as it once did.

Take the tech niche for one example. At one time I would subscribe to Techcrunch, Scoble, Dave Winer, etc etc. No need any more. Check Techmeme once a day and you are golden. Even better, follow a few folks on Twitter and you will see what people are really talking about.

Just for one niche, that is a lot of redundant feeds right there.

Consider for a moment how many blogs duplicate the same old stories over and over. I must have seen twenty or more blogs cover the “Scoble Facebook Account Debacle” in one day, that has to mean many more actually mentioned it. One or two points of view is sufficient for even the most gnarly of topics, the blogosphere never leaves it there though and almost always goes into overkill out of fear of losing place in “the conversation”.

When your feed reader is filled with far fewer stories than blogs then you feel less drawn to check it every day. The news to blah ratio is getting worse all the time. Only a few blogs actually share something new and interesting.

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Do you see what I mean? Is a feed reader becoming obsolete for all but a few important feeds?

What this means for bloggers is if you want to be subscribed to then you have to be compelling. Pull out all the stops. Provide information that can not be found anywhere else.

If you can not achieve this every day, you might be better concentrating on building a fantastic following on Twitter and other social networks and pull traffic that way.

View Comments (14)
  • I surf the WordPress tags a lot looking for ideas.
    I wish Google RSS had a language filter.
    (did I mention this hear before? I’ve been complaining everywhere hoping.)

  • Having a relatively few feeds from several different niches, I still see some of this. I’m still fairly new to using feeds in a reader, but if I see the same thing over and over, I’d just skim over the repeats. I’ve yet to delete any feeds, but I’m sure that’s coming.

  • Important tip, Chris.

    I’ve been reading for some time now that you can’t simply regurgitate what others are saying in your own articles.

    If you’re going to report on the news, you at least have to put your own spin on it.

    Andy Beard does this well.

  • Hi Chris,

    I’ve deleted a couple feeds recently due to this very thing. What surprised me most was that the writer didn’t even take the time to mention anything from their own point of view, perhaps even challenging the status quo.

    I want to get to know the writer, not just read and/or comment and move on. I want to know the what, why, where and How the post is (or should be) important and informative to ME, and why I should care about the topic. Too many bloggers are writing just for the sake of putting out one post per day, without really developing their articles.

  • I find it good that the facebook/scoble story got blogged so extensively.
    It shows the awareness and support of the blogosphere.
    Some news should get blogged a lot. Its the best way to get the message out. Not only to other bloggers, but out in general.

  • I could write a whole post on how being listed on Techmeme is a double edged sword. There is the ever present temptation to simply fire off a half-baked article with a link to the Techmeme headline, knowing you’ll get a link in the discussion area just beneath. You get a nice adrenaline shot of traffic each time.

    So what you point out is just another way of reiterating that old rule – bloggers should focus on the content and how to make it unique and different from comparable blogs.

  • Perhaps this also means the maturing of blogs, which I’ve wanted for so long. Keep in mind that Techmeme only serves that vertical, I can’t think of many aggregators for other big verticals, and sites such as Digg are still mainly tech based.

  • Chris,
    I’ve noticed this for quite awhile as well. It’s more than just that bloggers needing to focus on unique and compelling content. It’s that RSS allows us to aggregate so many information sources than was previously possible that it’s become too much to handle. There really are only two major surfaces to every coin and getting those perspectives are important – but not to read 12 versions of the same thing.

    Twitter (and other services) are also becoming my main information source. I’ve found out things on twitter that took hours to find out about in other mediums – RSS included. Also, I can talk one-on-one in a conversation with the people making the news, not just read about it 3rd hand.

    How many times have questions I pose to Scoble, Owyang, Malik been included in their question list for interviews and articles? I remember a few. RSS feeds of news just isn’t the same it was a year ago.

    The point on compelling content is more true then ever – I’ve gone back to actually visiting the blogs of my favorite bloggers instead of digesting their feeds in a reader. Brings back the context of their work that is sometimes missed in a reader.


  • I have been doing the same Rick. Some blogs have a better experience using a web browser. Of course there are horrors that only work in RSS too :)

  • I don’t think it’s a problem with the feed reader. I think it’s a problem with the blogosphere. Who was it who coined the phrase two years ago about the “Blog Echo Chamber”.

    Too many bloggers are regurgitating the hottest news, even using the same post titles to spread the redundancy and echoes.

    My biggest while is the lack of “filters” on categories and tags with feeds from social bookmarking and site submission services. I can’t tell you how many real estate, mortgages, drugs, sex, and yuk post titles I have to plow through in my WordPress keyword feed from these sites. That’s the biggest time-waster with feeds. The redundancy factor is the blogger’s fault, not the feeds.

  • Chris,

    Part of the problem is it’s easier to jump on the bandwagon than create original, compelling content. Often, original content gets lost when you’ve got a Scoble complaining how he was kicked off Facebook. That said, writing original content is far more satisfying so it’s a bit of a vicious circle.

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