Here, let’s rank RSS feeds from worst (least useful for readers) to best.
- Worst: headline only feeds with ads.
- Almost worst: partial text feeds with ads.
- Barely passable: partial text feeds without ads.
- Better: Full text feeds with ads.
- Best: Full text feeds with no ads.
I’ll only subscribe to the bottom three kinds of feeds and if your content isn’t really “must read” (the New York Times, for instance) then you better stick with the bottom two.
Again, when I subscribe to an RSS feed that means I want a long-term relationship. Think about what that means. How abusive of me do you want to be? On the readership side we get to decide how much abuse we’ll put up with. You might find that your readers won’t put up with much. In which case you’ll have to decide if a few extra bucks is worth a decreased readership.
Dead-on, I’d say.
The first two — ‘worst’ and ‘almost worst’ — would guarantee that I would stop reading that site if that were all they offered. At that point, I’d feel that I’m being treated as a consumer, rather than a reader.
I’ve got a few ‘barely passable’ feeds in my newsreader, but I try to make them as rare as possible. If I try to subscribe to a site and the default feed is partial-text, the first thing I’ll do is peek into the source code to see if I can find a full-text feed. Even if I do subscribe to a partial-text feed, those sites get far less readership from me than others do, as it’s rare that the provided summaries catch my interest enough to bring me to the site.
(And a quick aside here — if you’re determined to do a partial-text feed, would you at least take a moment to actually write summaries for your posts that the feed can use? The default “first 20 words” snippet is virtually pointless. Give me a reason to read everything you write, don’t just assume that I’ll automatically stop by anytime something new pops up…with 300+ feeds in my newsreader, I just don’t have time for that.)
Once we get up into the two ‘best’ options — full-text feeds, either with or without ads — the ads don’t bother me quite as much, for two reasons. Firstly, the text of the post is generally longer than the ad and the ad can be easily ignored if I’m so inclined; and secondly, with Google’s targeting technology that picks which ads to run based on content, it’s more likely that an ad will be topic-appropriate (and, therefore, more likely to potentially catch my eye) with a full-text feed.
Me, I’m still going to stay ad-less in my feed. Advertising just isn’t that big of a deal to me — I signed up for Google AdSense out of curiosity, and so far, there’s no reason to get rid of it. I limit the ads to a single spot (below the first post on my index page, and between the post and the comments on my individual pages) so they’re visible but not intrusive (at least, that’s the intent), and every few months I get a little bit of money from Google. Not much — about $300 a year — but these days, every little penny helps.
I do also participate in the Amazon Associates program and the iTunes Affiliates program, but neither of those has netted me much of anything. I think I’ve gotten about $10-$15 from Amazon in the past few years, and I haven’t seen squat from iTunes yet. I just don’t have the readership numbers for these programs to be really profitable…but then, that’s not exactly something I worry about this. If I’d gotten into this whole blogging thing for the money, I’d have gotten out of it years ago.
(That said…would it kill you to go shopping every so often? “)