Truncated RSS Feeds: The Syndicated Web’s Click-Bait

When reading articles, nothing annoys me more than truncated RSS feeds. I still use RSS, despite repeated claims over the years that RSS is dead. When I find an interesting blog or site, I add its RSS feed to Feedly. Now that Feedly has notes and article highlighting, along with their Knowledge Boards, I’ve come to use it more and more as a digital commonplace book. And I depend on RSS for making it easy.

It irks me to find an interesting article in Feedly, and start reading, only to discover that I have to jump back to the source site to read the full text. It is the blogging equivalent of a newspaper telling you the story is continued on Page 17, Col. 2. Newspaper editors know that writers lose many readers once they have to fiddle with the paper to get to Page 17, Col. 2. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve stopped reading where an RSS abstract ends, rather than jump back to the original site.

An RSS feed can be deployed in one of two ways: a feed which contains the entire text of each article in the feed; or a truncated feed, which contains a brief extract, usually the first few lines of the article in question. Truncated RSS feeds are useless to me. But I know why they exist. They are the syndicated web’s version of click-bait. A truncated RSS feed requires a reader to click back to the originating site in order to read the rest of the article. This helps ensure that the site itself gets those visits and ratchets up the traffic to the site.

The RSS feed for this blog contains the full text, not a truncated feed. It is more important to me that readers can read this blog in whatever form they feel most comfortable, than it is to boost the visits directly to the blog.

I used to have some articles set up with “Read More…” options so that the full post wasn’t displayed on the main page, but you had to click-through to read it. Even that was too much for me. I removed that years ago from posts, and now, the full post is dumped onto the main page of the blog, as well as in the RSS feed. I see it as removing roadblocks so that readers can focus on reading not clicking.

When a truncated RSS feed is used in place of a full text version, it seems to me that the blogger (or editor, or social media manager) is thinking less about their readers and more about themselves. I’m sure that helps with the site stats, but it is not very reader-friendly, and ultimately, it is the readers that matter. I wish that more sites would flip that around, and trade some clicks for some good will on the part of their readers.

We get enough click-bait as it is.

5 thoughts on “Truncated RSS Feeds: The Syndicated Web’s Click-Bait

  1. Oh boy, I am so with you on this. I experimented very briefly with truncated feeds on my blog many years ago and switched to full feeds after realising that I am just frustrating readers. Few things frustrate my feed experience than great content withheld through the use of truncated feeds.

    By the way, I also use Feedly for my feed fix. RSS may have died for many people but it is still the best way to get all the latest stuff from the writers who enrich my life with great work and insights.

  2. Right there with you, Jamie – full feeds all the way!

    Then again, I don’t have any ads on my blog, so I’m not trying to drive up revenues by having people click. Which is good, because I think I only have about a half dozen readers!

    All the best,
    G

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