August 11, 2010

Google Reader Shows If You Are a Skimmer or a Clicker

With most RSS feeds providing the entire contents of a blog post, for many people, the RSS reader is not just the place where news is discovered, but also where it is consumed. This means that if one's RSS subscribers triple, downstream traffic may not increase at a similar rate, as even if readers enjoy one's content, it is likely that many don't click through to the original story. On Tuesday, Google Reader introduced a metric that shows how often you are clicking on feeds within the service, and for somebody like me, who uses the service to read and share downstream, it's no surprise I only log a few clicks a day - with many of the sites I click to being different than the most active sources.

As a power consumer and human filter for what I portray as quality content, I recognize the numbers I am dealing with in Reader are large. In the last 30 days, I read more than 22,000 items from just over 850 disparate sources. Of those, Reader says I shared about 11 to 12 a day (down from my previous pace), but that I only clicked through 112 times in total, just under 4 clicks a day, or a click rate of just over one half of one percent. That means for every 200 stories that flow into my Reader, I click through once, and share three, picking the best 1 to 2 percent of the tech Web.

My Monthly Stats Show I Share More than I Click

Google Reader's latest addition to its array of statistics is found in the Trends section of the service, and given the array of options that you have to interact with the feeds, you can now see your 30 day trends for Reading, Starring, Sharing, E-mailing, Mobile Access, and finally, total clicks.

I Click On Gizmodo and Daring Fireball More Than Other Sites

The Most Frequently Updated Sites Don't Dominate My Clicks

So what drives a click, rather than reading within the site? For me, it can be as simple as a truncated feed that forces one to click and find the full story. In other instances, the article may be interesting enough to comment on immediately, or there may be rich media, such as embedded videos, that just don't work perfectly in Reader. When I go to Reader, my goal is to read all items in the service, and venturing out of the site to a specific story simply gets in the way, often. When I do open up a story, I do so in a new tab, so I can finish the task of getting my unread count to zero, and then marching left to right through the individual stories that have action.

Reader's data shows I am a skimmer. I have to be a skimmer who analyzes fast and acts fast to choose the next step for each new piece of content. Others may show much different percentages - and I bet even if I spend less time staring at a Twitter stream than I do on Reader, I do more clicking in Twitter URLs, given they don't ever include the full text. So I wouldn't chalk up my numbers as saying that RSS decreases engagement, but it does show it's likely a massive majority of readers are the strong silent type who read within Google Reader and don't go to the downstream blog.

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You can find my shares here:

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