Like most online publishers, SitePoint has feeds (RSS and other formats) for most of its content. Also like most online publishers, SitePoint has struggled with the choice of how much content to put into its feeds: headlines only, summaries, snippets or the full content of each item. At the end of the day, we have chosen to strike a compromise, with our blog feeds offering full content while our other feeds (articles, forums, etc.) offer more limited content.
Robert Scoble today spelled out the advantages of full-content feeds. His argument goes like this:
For the moment, and for the foreseeable future, the users of RSS aggregators are the power users, journalists and other information addicts of the world. These people don’t generally click on ads unless they are very, very targetted. So if your revenue comes from advertising, you’re not actually missing out on any significant revenue by providing full content feeds that allow these readers to bypass the advertising on your site. Putting ads in your feeds doesn’t generally work for the same reason.
Taking the cynical view, if these readers aren’t clicking on ads, why should you even want to cater for them? Because they generate traffic for you, that’s why. The same power users who use RSS aggregators also make use of social bookmarking services like del.icio.us, post links on sites like digg, or even editorialize on their own blogs. All of these activities put links to your site in front of the masses of people who do respond to advertising.
In short, make it easy for the information-addicted power users of the world to access your content through their feed readers, and you’ll be buying yourself lots of targetted, click-happy traffic.
The utopian view is that feed readers are moving towards mainstream adoption, and the day that happens this argument will no longer stand up. But Scoble thinks–and I agree–that day is still several years away.