Give an excerpt of your stories in a feed, get more clicks


You gotta give something to get something, man.

So, I’m tired of newspapers ignoring the details of an RSS feed. In a mobile world, I have to believe that choosing what Internet news, information, and blog updates come to you will be the future.

So why aren’t newspapers figuring out the details?

The above image shows three feed items in my Google Reader , among the more popular RSS catchers. One is from the Drudge Retort, the self-labeled answer to the Drudge Report, and it includes an excerpt of its post. If I like the bit I read, I click on it and find more.

Because you have to get your clicks. Newspapers have to understand that RSS catchers are content deliverers, like blogs, they are an opportunity at dissemination, not competition.

Providing an excerpt, just a sentence or three, very likely the nut graf, which even blog posts should have, can draw a reader in. A headline catches my eye, but only more details will actually get me to click through to your site.

In fact, I prefer an excerpt to the clutter of full text (posts from my feed for this site have an excerpt).

The second item in the above image is from Commonwealth Confidential, the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Harrisburg state capital bureau blog. Of late, their blog has included an occasional sentence or two that just might convince me to make the effort.

The third item is from Attytood, the national politics and color blog from Daily News columnist Will Bunch, among Philadelphia’s most popular blogs. His posts never have an excerpt. In the three weeks I’ve subscribed to his blog, I’ve clicked through twice – only one headline other than the one above was descriptive and interesting enough to get me to actually visit

In addition to clicks, there is the under-used opportunity to sell ads on a feed, as is done on The Drudge Report (to which I also subscribe).

These are lessons that everyone hoping to make money or increase clicks online needs to know, newspapers and bloggers alike.

I subscribe to more than 50 blogs and have friends who put that total to shame. Others are always looking for ways to take on more, to discover and learn and explore more of the Internet more quickly.

With greater speed, if something doesn’t stop a reader, you’ll lose him. As the competition get fiercer, newspapers need to attract readers through any means possible – like feed catchers – not bore them.

4 thoughts on “Give an excerpt of your stories in a feed, get more clicks”

  1. I can’t stand partial feeds since they completely miss the point of syndication. If you want clicks through for revenue purposes, figure out how to monetize your feeds by injecting advertising. Otherwise, foster conversation on your site. All of the tech blogs I read get views from me not because they deprive me of content via RSS but because I’m interested to see what others have to say about particular stories. The difference is in allowing your audience to assign value rather than arbitrarily forcing it upon them.

  2. Adam:
    I personally accept feeds with just an excerpt. As long as it gives me a chance to decide if it’s worth investing my time in clicking through. No excerpt, no go. And, actually, I prefer excerpts to the clutter of full-text posts in my feed reader of choice.

    But your point about tech blogs is well-taken. Most more advanced RSS feeds are full-text. That might be lesson I should better consider.

    Thanks for the comment.
    -Christopher Wink

  3. Christopher,

    I totally agree, and I also prefer excepts. (Because reading long posts in Bloglines isn’t a great experience — the layout, etc., is almost always better at the original source.) Newspaper RSS feeds, like many newspaper web sites in general, suck. Which is both mystifying and sad.

    Adam has a good point about newspaper web sites making it hard for users to interact, as well. Maybe that is because they are so used to controlling everything that gets printed, including letters to the editor?


  4. Hey Christopher,

    I have to disagree. I can’t stand partial feeds. I feel like it’s just an easy way to get an extra hit. I’m going to read a post in my reader if it interests me, regardless of length, and I’m going to click over and comment if I am interested enough. I just feel like there is something cheap about partial feeds.

    I see what you mean about the clutter, but that’s the reason I use Google Reader. To organize my blogs into categories, and I get through them at my own pace. Sometimes when I blog, the first paragraph isn’t the most exciting. I like to give the blogs I read the same benefit of the doubt, that something might interest me further down, and I like to skim the entire blog post before deciding if I’m going to click over to get the “full experience.”

    Love the blog, keep up the good work!

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