Last week, I installed a WordPress plug-in, Open Web Analytics (aka OWA), that provides a pretty good snapshot of how much traffic a blog receives and how it gets there.
OWA isn’t significantly different from Clicky, Mint, Google Analytics, etc. but, for whatever reason, it hammered home the message that the number of people visiting my blog is fairly insignificant. Rather than be disappointed, this reality is interesting because, I think, there are lots of people are reading my blog judging by the 1,600 or so FeedBurner subscribers.
What’s happening is most people who take the time to check out MET – and I thank them for investing some of their time to do it – are doing so through an RSS reader. And I think you could make the same argument for many tech blog readers. Of course, the widespread use of RSS readers should not be a surprise given tech blogs attract tech-savvy readers who should know all about the benefits of RSS.
The upside is you have lots of readers even if only a handful of them actually visit your blog. The downside is many people never see your comments, the plug-ins you’ve diligently hunted down, your cool blog design or any advertising. For those of us not trying to make money from blogging, this is alright. But for people looking to make money from blog advertising, this is far from ideal.
Here’s an interesting scenario: what if RSS readers become more ubiquitous?
What if people who read political, gossip, entertainment, automotive, health, sports and science blogs start doing so through RSS readers as opposed to visiting a blog. How would that affect blog-vertising if, at best, all a reader sees is a small ad in your RSS feed? Would these ads generate enough revenue to make blogs viable economically? The answer, I think, is no.
The question that begs to be asked is whether RSS is a bad thing for blog-vertising? If people stop visiting blogs, do advertisers think twice about allocating some of their dollars into blogs? Maybe.
Let’s look at the counter-argument to the evilness of RSS.
While RSS is an efficient way to read blogs, it doesn’t give you the full experience. If you believe that comments are as interesting and valuable as a blog post, an RSS feed is going to be unsatisfying. If you want to see a blogger’s personality and things like their blogroll and interesting widgets, RSS ain’t going to do the trick. If you’re into fashion or celebrity blogs that feature large photos, RSS might not fit the bill.
Still, I do believe RSS is moving into the mainstream at a rapid clip as services such as Google Reader make it easier than ever to read and subscribe to a variety of content. At the same time, content producers are embracing RSS as a distribution vehicle.
This means blogs and advertisers using blogs will need to quickly adapt because the landscape is changing as we speak – and read.
More: For some thought-provoking perspective on blog traffic, check out Rob Hyndman’s post looking at quality vs. quantity.