It’s time to wrap up the month-long trial of truncated RSS feeds on Above the Law. I had somewhat put the conclusion cart before the research horse, in that I marked the last day of this experiment in my calendar with the phrase “eat humble pie re. RSS.” And if you wait just a minute I will feed myself at least a small slice, but first let me share our findings.
One of my key concerns about the full RSS feed is that it is used by web scrapers to steal our content, which not only means they derive entirely unjustified benefit from our editors’ efforts but also leads to duplicate content that can hurt SEO efforts. On this front, the anecdotal evidence suggests that truncating the feed helped. In the earlier months of this year we had identified anywhere from 2-6 scrapers stealing all our content, but during May when we were truncating the feed we found no new examples. One of the perpetrators we’d already identified continued scraping the content, but was now getting just the abbreviated stories.
Of course the most common complaint from publishers about full RSS feeds is that subscribers get all the content in their readers, don’t click through to the site, and therefore aren’t monetized in any meaningful way. In the case of ATL, truncating the feed definitely increased the number of people clicking through to the site. Visits from our full feed were about 4% of our total traffic before we truncated it, but jumped to about 7% of total traffic in the month of the truncation trial. In our case this translated to something in the region of an additional 100,000 impressions, which isn’t going to make us rich, but would be worth more dollars and cents than we could make running ads in the RSS feed.