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This article was published on May 20, 2008

How RSS is both under- and overrated

How RSS is both under- and overrated
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and pr.co. Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Feed growth at TheNextWeb.org
Growth of RSS subscribers on TheNextWeb.org

My personal blog attracts between 150 and 250 visitors a day but has more than 800 Feedburner subscribers. This is a fact that I discovered today and it might have some impact on how I blog. Most bloggers spend a lot of time optimizing for search engine and making sure their websites look good.

Here at the Next Web Blog we always look for nice illustrations to go with our posts because we know people like to look at nicely formatted posts. In general I write my posts with a preview window open next to it so I can see how the text flows around the images and what goes below and above ‘the fold’.  

What I don’t do is optimize for RSS. As I have written before in a post title RSS Awareness Day: “According to some research (Pew Internet & Yahoo) only 12% of all people are aware of RSS and less than 4% have knowingly used it”. So why bother spending too much time on it?

Free RSS!Well, if it turns out that most of your readers don’t actually visit the site but just read your posts in their RSS reader than it might be time to start optimizing for that. One example are the images. The image I used here is scaled down a bit in html and placed on the right with a CSS class. All of that is ignored in RSS. That means that if you read this post via your RSS reader the image is huge and displayed right on top of the article.

See how what post looks like in NetNewsWire on Mac OS XWith more and more traffic going straight to RSS it makes sense to start optimizing for it. I want a WordPress plugin that adds a ‘preview this post’ button so I can preview it in both the browser AND in RSS readers.

Then we get to the issue of cross platform compatibility. You might have your HTML and CSS working fine in Explorer and Firefox on Window and Macintosh and Linux but how does it look in Google Reader? Or My Yahoo? And have you checked NetNewsWire on a Mac VS NewsGator on Windows?

As RSS becomes more popular this becomes an aspect of webdesign we can no longer ignore…

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