RSS isn’t going away, I hope. It places established and brand-new publishers on an equal playing field. If someone subscribes to me and Mashable, for instance, we both appear on their reading list. As bloggers, we should think about how to support RSS and gain more subscribers in the process.
It’s not easy. Current RSS clients – with one notable exception – are not giving publishers the tools they need.
For instance, I’d like you to subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed. How can I help you do that?
If I link to this RSS file, here’s what you see:
If I send you to Feedburner, you can choose to subscribe via Google Reader (a sign that Feedburner is not being updated), some broken image, or My Yahoo. The Feedburner subscription landing page, in most cases, adds no value for the user.
(Hang in there – there’s an answer at the end of this post, promise.)
Three of the top web-based readers are Feedly, Digg Reader, and AOL Reader. (Feedly is likely the top.)
From what I can see, there is no way to provide you with a Subscribe via Digg Reader or Subscribe via AOL Reader link. How is either reader supposed to create an ecosystem without providing tools for publishers?
Alas, Feedly saves the day! I can give you this link:
Whether or not you have a Feedly account, the link provides you with a description of the feed and the latest articles. If you click Add to My Feedly, Feedly asks you to login or register, and then helps you subscribe to this blog. This integrated experience serves publishers and consumers alike.
Why don’t Feedly’s competitors provide such a smooth subscription experience?
I’m creating a new WordPress theme for this site that will include a Subscribe via RSS button. It will feature two options – Subscribe via Feedly or Other. I hope to add Feedly’s competitors, once they provide the most basic of features for web publishers, a Subscribe button.
Feedly’s integrated experience reminds me of It’s the Little Things from 52 Weeks of UX. Feedly seems to recognize that every interaction matters. You see it in other areas, too. Feedly is the only service of the three to show the number of readers for a feed, a helpful stat for publishers.
In fairness, I should note that AOL Reader has an API, but it is geared toward third-party app developers.
Update: Feedly even offers a tool that helps you make the subscription link pretty.