RSS is an anonymous technology that allows people to subscribe to updates to any information you publish in a structured format. This means that you get a lot less data about your subscribers than if they are on an email list. But it is another technology that gives customers control over how they consume information (just like caller ID and TiVo) and the use of RSS is growing quite quickly.
But, you can get some basic RSS subscriber data. They way that most tools track and measure RSS subscribers is to count the number of unique "pings" they get from each user per day, and then show you an aggregate number of the total subscribers to your RSS feed daily. The problem with this information is that it can be scary if you don't completely understand it. For instance, look at this recent data for the HubSpot Marketing Blog.
You can clearly see that we used to have over 2,000 subscribers, but now we have 1,851. Oh no!!! What happened? The answer is simple, and you should not be worried if you see this for your blog. Because most tools measure RSS subscribers by the number of people per day that request updated information from the feed, subscribers are only counted if their RSS reader actually requests new information that day. If a subscriber does not open their RSS feed reader (because their computer is not turned on, for instance) they are not counted.
When does this happen frequently? Well, during holidays and vacations. Guess what? We just passed through a period where lots of people tended to be taking time off. That explains our 7% drop in RSS Subscribers.
Don't Worry if RSS Subscribers Fell During the Holidays
I am sure starting next week you will see it grow back to the level you were at before. We publicly publish our RSS Subscriber number on the top right side of this blog, so check it out today, or even after January 8 once everyone is back at work. And do the same with your own subscriber data.
Originally published Jan 3, 2008 2:32:00 PM, updated October 18 2015