Full feeds or partial feeds?

There is a debate happening in some quarters of the Blogosphere right now on whether it is better to have full or partial feeds on your blog. There are reasoned arguments on both sides.

Chris Davis
reckons that

the idea that you can separate content and design without detriment to the content is artificial, and potentially damaging to the face of the web

and he goes on to say he is going to

Give them a taste of the goods, but make them come to the candy store to get the rest

In a seperate discussion of the same topic Duncan Riley of the Blog Herald points out that

most bloggers don’t get paid to blog by a third party … and therefore rely on advertising on their blogs to sustain their activities

Robert Scoble, on the other hand, says he’s

unsubscribing from Chris Pirillo’s and any other feed that isn’t full text. I’m tired of reading feeds that treat me badly. I have more than 1,300 full text feeds.

To be honest, I can kinda sympathise with him. Not that I have 1,300 full text feeds (or anything like it!) but I do find partial feeds annoying – sometimes I will click through to read the full story, but more often than not, I only go for full feeds and I click through to those sites when I want to leave a comment.

Having said all that, I think Chris Pirillo said it best when he said

I still believe that 90% of the galaxy still doesn’t understand the argument – and they don’t care

11 thoughts on “Full feeds or partial feeds?”

  1. It might be good to point out that I was not advocating the use of excerpts to help drive ad impressions, the way you have constructed your article it reads as though the Dunca Riley quote is related to my quote, when it is not.

    Interesting article, and good to know this conversation is going on other places that my site.

  2. Chris,

    I apologise if that impression came across to you – that was never my intention.

    I have modified the text of the post slightly to mitigate your concern.

    Hope it reads better for you now,


  3. Been reading about this a lot lately. Read somewhere (can’t recall where cos I read far too much stuff online!) that the people reading a website via rss are the regulars whereas the people that visit the site once or twice come via search engines but these are the folks that make up the majority of the traffic and as a result are the ones who click on the ads a lot more.

    The RSS readers to me are the ones who tune into you every day. They are probably the best advertiser for you by linking to your posts and thoughts via their own blogs and webforums and so will up your pagerank. In addition to this they are the also ones that will comment a lot more and inspire some constructive debates, adding to the quality of your site.

    Do we really need to slow these people down by only giving them DRMed feeds or else distract them by sticking in ads between posts? I’d much rather someone link to me than click on an ad but then my blog wasn’t created to make a living from it. Cory Doctorow did an interview with Chris Pirillo and Cory said how BoingBoing was him really sending interesting notes to himself more than posting stuff that anyone else would be interested in. That’s mostly the same for my blog, though it’s also me honing my writing skills if I ever want to get into journalism or even pr. If people get value out of that then I’m delighted.

    I can undertand however those that invest a lot of time and money into writing for their blogs and want to be compensated. Due to this I would much rather see ads in feeds than crippled feeds, it’s one less click and it allows me to see a whole lot of articles in my aggregator. I’m not sure are ads the best revenue model for regular readers as they’ll become immune to them pretty quickly. As a regular reader to quite a few blogs I’d even become a paying subscriber to keep the blog going.


  4. Do we really need to slow these people down by only giving them DRMed feeds or else distract them by sticking in ads between posts?

    Great, so will you be converting to full feeds shortly Damien? 🙂

    As a regular reader to quite a few blogs I’d even become a paying subscriber to keep the blog going

    Excellent – start sending the cheques in!!! 😉

  5. Hey Tom, I hope I didn’t come off belligerent in my comment, that was not my intent. I was just… concerned. I think this article is well written and balanced, which is a breath of fresh air really.

    Thanks again for your prompt action and humoring of an alarmist!

  6. Seems like an odd debate to me… full feeds will suit some and partial feeds will suit others. Do what you think is best. Why would everyone be forced into the same format?

    I too blog as ‘notes to myself’ – my blog serves as a nice knowledge base for myself. When I’m working on projects I often hit problems I had previously – with no memory of when I came across it before or how I solved it. That’s why I now often blog the solution to an irritating problem… also a nice way to record sites I stumble across and like. I used to have unmanageable bookmarks full of stuff I would never visit and never able to find what I wanted. Now I have the essentials in my bookmarks and everything else I might want to reference in future goes in the blog.

  7. Hmmm,

    Damien – you need a bit more tinkering – you are still on partial feeds!

    Chris – No, you didn’t come across as belligerent – I understood your concern (hence I made the edit!) – thanks for the kind words on the post!

    Frank – I agree to an extent. It depends on your constituency, really. If you are a stats whore (like me!), then full feeds are probably better for attracting and keeping a readership. On the other hand, if your blog is only for your own edification, then it doesn’t really matter whether you use full or partial feeds.

    At the end of the day, I think people should be educated on the benefits of full vs. partial feeds and they can make up their own minds.

  8. Well, I know I digressed into my own style of Blogging, but I didn’t mean my view was solely based on the types of blogs being discussed – what I really meant was there are endless variables at play and only each blog owner will be able to decide which type of feed is suitable for them.

    You may or may not feel it is important to bring people to your site rather than send them the posts in their entirety…

    I personally would lean in favour of full feeds but I have to acknowledge that their are those that may prefer that I visit the site… and as a reader I will always have the choice myself whether to visit or not.

    If one could write compelling enough content to draw people back to the site by only publishing partial feeds, and once there make a pitch to sell me merchandise – well, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. The choice remains mine. Certainly it poses more of a challenge, but all I’m saying is that it’s a viable option, and I’m sure there are many other hypothetical examples that could be put forward as reasons for partial feeds…

    What about a theoretical organisation something like Amnesty International – they could have a blog and only publish partial feeds. The content would appeal to a certain audience and that audience would probably also feel ok about being led back to the site in order to explore further information and possibly donate or become a member. The partial feeds are, potentially, more likely to bring more people clicking through – especially if the content is not commercial as such… full feeds will keep the org in the eye of the reader and may help build relationship but less likely to bring regular click throughs…

    I know what you mean about publishing full feeds and in a way respecting your audience by doing so and thus building a trust relationship, but I just think it will depend on too many variables to come down on one side or the other for *all* sites…

    Anyway, I’ve been blabbing on for too long now!

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