Is RSS dead? Newspaper subscriber numbers now and 18 months ago compared
There have been a couple of articles recently (see below) proclaiming the slow death of RSS as a way for users to subscribe to websites. So how do the number of subscribers to newspaper RSS feeds compare?
Back in June 2009, I somewhat rashly suggested that newspapers should turn off their RSS feeds as no one was using them (I then recanted slightly). Fortunately this means I have the data for back then on the number of people using Google Reader to subscribe to the three most popular RSS feeds for each UK newspaper.
So here's a table that compares the number of subscribers in Google Reader to each paper's most popular RSS feed 18 months ago and today - the overall fall is 68%.
|Newspaper||June 2009 subscribers||January 2011 subscribers|
The papers with large numbers of subscribers have seen significant drop offs. A couple have seen an increase (but from a very low base).
- The search function in Google Reader can be a bit flaky sometimes, but I think I've found the top feeds in each case (although the feed with the most subscribers isn't always the same now as it was then).
- The number of people using Google Reader will have changed in the intervening 18 months - but I'm not aware of any figures which show that its market share has drastically fallen.
- The Times's numbers have obviously been affected by it going behind a paywall.
If you want to explore the data from June 2009, feel free. If you have any time, maybe you could work out the top three feeds now and compare them?
The debate was started by this post on whether RSS is dying (with a lively debate on Hacker News). TechCrunch reached the same conclusion separately. The truth is probably closest to this thoughtful follow up which distinguishes RSS as a mainstream browser-based user-facing service from a behind-the-scenes format. < Update I think that. I'm not saying RSS is dead. Don't flame me!