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Feed Fatigue

Seth Godin writes about RSS Fatigue the loss of interest blog fans are suffering as their favorite blogs work overtime posting multiple posts daily, making the task of keeping up with the bloggers a full-time job.

Blogs are different than most other forms of media in one key respect: they stretch.

TV and radio confront the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day. They can’t put on more content, because there’s no down time.

Magazines and newspapers have to pay for paper, and that means ads, but there are only a finite number of people willing to pay. So the length finds a natural limit.

Billboards confront zoning realities.

Junk mail is gated by response rates.

But blogs… you can easily post 100 times a day. With a team, it might be a thousand.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that in many cases, volume leads to traffic. Take a look at the top 10 blogs and you’ll notice that many of them post dozens of times a day.

Just like the marketers of Oreo (now in 19 flavors of cookies) we’re dealing with clutter by making more clutter.

RSS fatigue is already setting in. While multiple posts get you more traffic, they also make it easy to lose loyal readers.

…as blogs reach the mass market, the number of new readers coming in is going to go down, and the percentage of loyal readers will increase. The loyal readers are going to matter more.

Godin makes a good point, I believe the issue of RSS Fatigue, or “Feed Fatigue”, is worth considering.

Without a doubt, focusing on building a loyal return readership is the key. Look at the Rolling Stones and even the Beatles. I haven’t heard anything new out of the Rolling Stones in a long time, and the Beatles have been out of the picture for even longer, yet their music is still popular today and they continue to build a audience over the years without new input. Quality over quantity does matter.

Have you been feeling Feed Fatigue lately? Overwhelmed with the task of “keeping up with the bloggers”? For the blogs you monitor through your feeds, how often do they post? Do you have trouble keeping up with their frequent posting productions?

How many times a day do you post to your blog? Or how many times a week?

How many is too many? How many is too few? What do you think?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

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20 Comments

  1. Posted November 17, 2006 at 3:19 am | Permalink

    Check out this link as well for info on getting more subscribers: http://www.copyblogger.com/10-effective-ways-to-get-more-blog-subscribers/

  2. Posted November 17, 2006 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    My goal is to post 5 times a week on my two primary blogs and 3 times a week on my 2 secondary blogs.

    I think that it is hard to keep up with blogs that are posting 2+ times a day – I always feel like I may have missed a really good post as it shuffles its way down the page.

  3. Posted November 17, 2006 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Yes I surely relate to that, I’ve just since recently started using a feedreader, and keeping up with all the posts is almost as overwhelming as saturday’s newspaper…
    For most feeds I think a digest option would be a good idea.

  4. Posted November 17, 2006 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    agreed — i find i’m skipping blogs altogether if i see there’s too many posts. in fact, i’d rather see fewer, high quality posts, then huge tirade of rushed posts, even if they are by a variety of authors. i try and post 3-4 times a week, but each post i treat like a mini-article, and generally has a fairly long length. i suppose it depends on the goals of the blogger, and the intent of the blog format.

  5. Posted November 17, 2006 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Barry, what would a “feed digest” look like?

  6. Posted November 17, 2006 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    It all depends on the blog and it’s content. On one of my blogs (http://microbiologybytes.wordpress.com/), I post one original article and sometimes a few additional newsy snippets a week. On another one (http://scienceoftheinvisible.blogspot.com/), I post lots of short pointers daily to keep up with the news in the area I’m covering. In the third (http://frogroom-podcast.blogspot.com/), I post very irregularly, whenever I have some new material. So it’s horses for courses.

  7. Posted November 17, 2006 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Barry, what would a “feed digest” look like?

    A feed digest could look like this: http://beatsentropy.com/tag/tech-talk/

    Kind of interesting, I’ve been doing the digest on my non-tech site, I really should do it on both.

    Then you could have a watered down feed for people who just want the summaries. (by using blog.wordpress.com/tag/digest/feed)

  8. Posted November 17, 2006 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Engtech, I don’t “see” it. You pointed to a category, and it is easy to get category feeds, which would restrict the incoming feed to only topics in that category rather than the whole site. Is that what you mean?

    Or setting up a category/feed that acts like a summary, summing up what you’ve been doing once a week, and letting people subscribe to that? That sounds like an idea, but hard work. If it could be done automatically…hint hint!

  9. Posted November 17, 2006 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    It could be done automatically… but at some point you have to hand-create the summary. At best what you could do is automatically generate off of excerpts, but even then the excerpts have to be hand-written.

    But I really like the idea of having a feed that is only updated once every 1-2 weeks for people who don’t check sites very often.

    I updated my subscription page to show a digest option: http://engtech.wordpress.com/rss-subscription-options-for-engtech/

  10. Posted November 17, 2006 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    I think this is both an expectation set by the publisher as well as a personal taste by the subscriber. I remember subscribing to Instapundit and within days I tossed the subscription… the guy posts every hour! I hated it… but he’s got a HUGE following.

    It’s important to meet the expectation of your subscribers. My subscribers expect me to post at least once daily and it must be a topic that has been thought out. If I slap something up or skip a couple days, I can absolutely see my stats drop.

    Thanks! Great topic. In the end, it’s simple. Listen to your customers!

  11. Posted November 18, 2006 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Well, digest may be the wrong term, but I remember seeing the term in a subscription plugin for wordpress that offered the option of not receiving every single post but a weekly overview of posted articles. Kind of a clutter-management-tool : )
    For most feeds I follow I don’t need to be updated twice (or even in e.g. Mashable!’s frequency) a day. Once every so days, preferrably on a day of my choosing, to just keep up with what’s going on would be more than sufficient.

  12. Katherine
    Posted November 18, 2006 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    What I want is the option to get a weekly feed from some blogs which I like to read in one sitting and where the information may be timely to (say) that month but it’s hardly necessary to read every day. Scan reading a blog is much more time efficient. But wouldn’t a weekly feed have an impact on blog visits, commenting and blog status?

    I post to my main blog about 6 times a week (but only post to my second blog in relation to specific trips). I’ve got a regular set of readers who’ll come by and read but who won’t all turn up every day. My guess is a lot of them would like the option of a weekly feed.

    What I’m absolutely furious about is that I’ve been forced to move to Google Reader as Google blocks all images from Blogger blogs to other feed readers such as Bloglines (and most of the blogs I read are image intensive). IMO Google Reader is very underdeveloped from the perspective of organising how to read blogs in a time efficient way. I’m hopping!!!

  13. Posted November 18, 2006 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    There are times when I’ll go through my feed reader and just click “mark all as read.” I just don’t have the energy to read them all. And some are posting 10+ times a day. Ack!

    As for my own blog, it’s once a day (and, rarely, twice a day) and I try to post at the same time. I post on my photoblogs and then write in my text blog. Then I’m done. Readers will see the newest entry each morning.

  14. Posted November 18, 2006 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, no one will get feed fatigue from my blog, that’s for sure. I barely post once a week, lately. But I do feel it myself. I monitor about 100 blogs, but when I’m really busy, I don’t have time to read them.
    But here’s two things I noticed:
    1. There’s obviously feed fatigue going around, because Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) started a “playlist” feature where you can list a subset of your favorite feeds. I have one for the feeds I would read as often as I can, before any others I merely want to monitor. (Your blog is one of them, btw.)
    2. Lifehacker, a blog that pours out posts from several prolific bloggers, has two feeds that are almost the “digest” that Barry talks about. They have a Daily “Top Stories” feed, and a weekly “highlights” feed. I found that info at the end of this post: http://lifehacker.com/software/highlights/tgif-this-weeks-best-posts-215708.php

  15. Posted November 18, 2006 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    @sabine: thanks for the lifehacker link. I really like that site, but they post too often.

    (direct link to hilights feed: http://lifehacker.com/software/highlights/index.xml)

  16. Posted November 19, 2006 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    This is a great point. At first I thought that I needed to keep daily posts in fear of losing people as soon as fresh content wasn’t available when they looked, but lately I’ve been letting a few posts sit and I’ve actually seen a lot more comments and interaction take place.

  17. justme
    Posted November 22, 2006 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    Ahem. See how late I’m commenting? It’s because this blog is one of my scan once in a while and try not to think about all the great stuff you missed.

    Definitely have feed fatigue. But I do keep up with more sites than before, just not the same ones. I’ve given up manually checking websites that don’t provide RSS. Handling the ones with RSS varies.

    I have 148 feeds in my news reader. I actually read every single post on about 4 of them; I have to refresh regularly because they post about 10 times to 20 times a day. I skim about 12-14 of the others daily.

    I bounce through the rest about once a week to biweekly. And rarely, oh so rarely, do I click through to sites, like this one, that only excerpt into the RSS. If the RSS only offers me a little bit of content, I don’t feel obliged to offer full attention (i.e. opening up multiple browser windows/tabs).

    I do wish the sites I read regularly wouldn’t post so much. For one thing, they keep adding “guest bloggers” who cross post from their own blog. If I wanted to read those other blogs regularly I’d subscribe to them. I also tend to abandon blogs with poorly formed html so that their site breaks when I do visit in my standards compliant browser.

  18. Posted November 23, 2006 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    “If the RSS only offers me a little bit of content, I don’t feel obliged to offer full attention”
    Have to agree on that one, feeds with a short reference to what’s on the site. I’m interested in ones content, subscribe, I’m the lazy kind, don’t add a third click, make me open another window. If you must, place an add in the feed. Lorelle on WordPress stays in though : )

  19. Posted November 23, 2006 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Full agreement on the “full feeds plz” band wagon. One of the sites I read is horrible for it. He’s had excerpts that were literally missing one sentence after the “read more for full post”.

  20. Posted February 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    What I hate is when the feed only gives you the last 10 posts, but the
    (local newspaper) author publishes 20 a day. In that case I had to
    install rss2email (with a frequent Unix cronjob) just to keep up without
    missing any “golden post”.


12 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Seth Godin brings up problem of keeping up with bloggers (via Lorelle). This is one of the reasons I do not subscribe to a lot of team blogs and even professional bloggers. I have subscribed for some, but it is because quality is what stands out, not quantity. I want to read blogs for information, not information overload. Somedays the posts are many more, but if they are of the interest then the fatigue does not interfere. Fatigue is not a function of only the number of posts, but also of the interest in the posts. I have realised that subscribing to individuals has been better than subscribing to blogs where multiple authors churn out posts. I might be missing out on some of the top blogs, but I hardly miss any news! In fact I get a chance to skip the hyped up stuff easily because of this. Dave Winer, Doc Searls, Robert Scoble and Lorelle are only some of the individuals who offer more value than many of the team blogs out there. As for the team blogs, they can probably provide customizable feeds so that the reader can choose to subscribe to a subset. [...]

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