Panasonic Youth

RSS - Full Content or Excerpts

The debate between full content in RSS feeds versus excerpts rages on. Michael Eisenberg at Benchmark Capital has one take, and Dion Almaer has another. Lately I’ve been thinking that this debate is framed all wrong. Its not an either/or thing, and there is not a clear “correct” choice that will apply to all blogs, CMS’es, and web publishers. Clearly there are countless factors that have to be weighed, and it gets very complicated as you go from running a hobby blog, to making some real money, to running a full fledged business on your content. There should be more nuance in this debate, as I see it very much a “right tool for the right job, in the right context” situation. Blanket statements like “Users first - Full Feeds always!” and “Full Feeds should come to an end” are oversimplifications, and we should move beyond that.

Its unfortunately that there is a lack of any hard numbers or research on how full feeds perform vs excerpts. If you google on this topic, you find a lot of anecodotal evidence from folks like Darren, Amit, and Scoble. All good stuff, but we lack reports from businesses that push RSS and it would also be great to have a statistical review of these reports instead of just individual data points. What would happen if The Motley Fool, for instance, starting pushing full content for its feed. Maybe they could offer it for registered users only, or maybe for a small yearly fee? (Yes, I realize there are significant implementation details for securing RSS feeds.)

The other issue is ad monetization. If there isn’t enough money, the good content will not be there, its that simple. Clearly there has to be a balance between doing what the users want and making money to produce good content. RSS monetization is still pretty poor, so there is a lot of room for improvement and growth there that should not be overlooked.