Rick Klau pinged me this morning about his post on Burning Questions this morning. Given that I think Rick is a sharp guy, I love FeedBurner, and I’m a metrics junky, it was an immediate click. Obviously the genesis of the post was GoogleReader finally including subscriber data back to publishers. Overnight feed subscriptions lept (on my personal blog it was 107 subscribers overnight). This vaulted GoogleReader over Bloglines (as many of us suspected was what was going on). As Rick points out, however, the number of subs you have doesn’t equate to market share:
Total Feed Subscriptions â‰ Market Share
With the feedometer now at 604,533 feeds on behalf of 347,000 bloggers, podcasters and commercial publishers, we’ve got a great sample size to gauge the impact of an aggregator’s participation in the market. On any given day, FeedBurner sees more than 3,000 clients capable of reading all kinds of feeds, including podcasts and video feeds. Each of these feed readers reports data differently, so comparing subscriber market share alone can lead to several challenges:
- Not all subscribers are alike. Yahoo reports active subscribers over a rolling 30-day period. Most other web-based readers report the total number of individuals who’ve subscribed, regardless of whether they have actually logged in recently.
- Default feeds are popular. (Yes, this is an early frontrunner in 2007 “Painfully Obvious Bullet” balloting.) Said differently: many aggregators offer a set of default feeds for every new account, or provide “bundles” of feeds by category. These feeds will get disproportionately high subscriber numbers at specific aggregators.
This prelude sets up what we think is a better statistic for measuring market share: Engagement. Audience engagement, which is to say, people reading feeds and people clicking on feeds – is how we’ve increasingly been interpreting feed subscription numbers to better understand market penetration.
Source: Burning Questions â€¢ FeedBurner’s View of the Feed Market
I think the “default feeds” point most interesting. I wonder how many “uber-blogs” have a large portion of their “readers” in this category. I wonder how many of them really read the posts or, to use the word of the moment, engage.
Regardless, Rick is right, it is engagement that counts. Now, how do we make (and agree upon) a metric that we can track? Is it an average of views to clicks? Do you factor in recentcy of feed access (say your average subscriber checks the feed 3 times a week or something)?
Marketers, web geeks, online publishers, we all like to have a metric. A number we can track to see how things are evolving over time. That’s what we’re all waiting for. Maybe Rick still has that still up his sleeve.