Using FeedBurner to gauge reader circulation

March 14, 2005

I've been playing around with FeedBurner for quite some time and just recently started redirecting my main content feed to my "burned" feed so that I could get a better handle on my [RSS] reader circulation (which, incidentally, FeedBurner handles wonderfully).

Circulation: An approximate measure of the number of individuals for whom your feed has been requested in the last 24 hours. Circulation is inferred from an analysis of the many different feed readers and aggregators that retrieve this feed daily. Circulation is not computed for browsers and bots that access your feed. Circulation is calculated by matching IP address and news reader combinations, and then using our detailed understanding of the multitude of readers and aggregators and bots on the market to make additional inferences.

You can obviously deduce this statistic yourself if you have access to the raw http server logs, but, uhh, why? Can you imagine trying to keep up with all of the new online aggregators out there?

If you've been thinking about moving to FeedBurner, but have some reservations, I'd be interested to hear what they might be as I can no longer come up with any. After all, you can transparently redirect your subscribers to FeedBurner — they'll never see the change (unless of course they access your feed in a regular web browser and pay attention to the redirected URI). What is more is that FeedBurner now allows you to specify the original source URI of your feed (in my case, /syndicate) which it will then use in any external presentation of your feed (e.g., on the sign-up chicklets that users see when they stumble across your feed through a web browser and are shown the XSLT-styled, human-readable XML file).

You never have to inform your old, already-subscribed readers (or your new readers) of your FeedBurner feed, yet you still get to take advantage of all of their wonderful services — win-win.

On a related note, sometime in the next couple of weeks I think I'll probably do a small write-up on the percentage breakdown of the different aggregators that are used to access this site as I think it's quite telling of where this space is headed (hint: it's away from the local client).

I'm still debating whether to use FeedBurner to splice my del.icio.us links into the main content feed (as I mentioned in Outsourcing This Website), but that decision will have to wait for another day.

You should follow me on Twitter here