Over the last month, I’ve been surveying CONTENTIOUS readers about whether and how they use my RSS feed. Here are the final results, updated Nov. 28, 2003.
I received 101 responses that’s the mazimum accepted by the SurveyMonkey service demo I used.
Based on the results so far, it seems that RSS feeds are popular among CONTENTIOUS readers. More than a third of respondents prefer to receive news and alerts by RSS, and nearly another fifth use RSS but do not always prefer it. Many CONTENTIOUS readers, represented by nearly a third of respndents, have only recently begun to explore the world of RSS feeds.
Only two respondents have tried RSS and did not like it, which I think demonstrates the true strength of this new publishing channel: People who try RSS tend to like it. Many even come to prefer it.
Here are the hard numbers from the survey…
Not all respondents answered every question, so the percentages listed below apply to the total number of respondents for that question.
1. Do you subscribe to the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed? (97 responses)
71.1% Yes, I subscribe to it and read it.
20.6% No, I don’t get your RSS feed.
6.2% I subscribe, but I rarely or never read it.
2.1% I found your feed through an aggregator; I don’t subscribe to it directly.
OBSERVATION: Apparently many CONTENTIOUS readers like and use RSS, but definitely not all. But most people who do get the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed appear to read it, so I guess I’m doing something right with my feed.
2. Do you currently get CONTENTIOUS e-mail alerts? (99 responses)
53.5% Yes, I get your e-mail alerts, and I often read them.
27.3% No, I never received your e-mail alerts.
12.1% Not anymore; I unsubscribed because I prefer your RSS feed.
7.1% Yes, I get your e-mail alerts, but I rarely or never read them.
OBSERVATION: Looking at the results of questions 1 and 2 together, I was surprised that it appears likely that many people both subscribe to and regularly read my RSS feed and my e-mail alerts. Basically the same information is transmitted through both channels, so apparently some people desire redundancy of channels in order to be sure they’ll get the information they want. This probably has something to do with the fact that RSS is a new medium for so many people.
I did expect to see about 10% of respondents who unsubscribed from my e-mail alerts because they prefer my RSS feed, and indeed over 12% have done so. I expect that percentage to increase over time. RSS is much less intrusive to the subscriber, and more organized, than e-mail alerts. (Note: Switching to my RSS feed is a particularly good option for people who would prefer not to receive e-mail alerts as often as once or twice a week.)
Also, I’m surprised that more than one quarter of respondents have never received my e-mail alerts at all. This indicates that by branching out into RSS publishing, CONTENTIOUS is now reaching a significant new audience.
3. If you get the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed, do you: (96 responses)
49.0% Sometimes click to stories.
29.2% Often click to stories.
18.8% I don’t get your RSS feed.
3.1% Never click to stories (just read the feed).
OBSERVATION: Looks like my RSS feed is being used the way I’d hoped. I include brief summaries of articles in the feed. Feed subscribers must click links in a feed item to get the entire story. It looks like most subscribers do this at least some of the time which is great. I don’t expect my subscribers to read every, or even most, stories. I just hope to provide enough variety to offer value to most of my subscribers, and it appears I’m succeeding in that regard.
4. If you get the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed, do you like its format? (95 responses)
54.7% Yes, it’s just right as is.
18.9% I don’t get your RSS feed.
14.7% I’d prefer longer feed items.
9.5% I’d prefer shorter feed items.
2.1% No, I dislike the format for other reasons.
OBSERVATION: These results surprised me. Most RSS feeds offer headlines only, or headlines plus a short (10-30 word) blurb about the article. My feed items tend to run about 100-300 words each, which seems pretty long in comparison to most of the RSS feeds I’ve seen. Apparently, just over half of all subscribers to my feed are satisfied with what I’m offering through that channel.
Even more surprising, more respondents would prefer my feed items to be longer, rather than shorter! This might indicate a preference for me to publish the full content of CONTENTIOUS by RSS. At this point I don’t think that’s the best option for this weblog, but I’ll keep that in mind as an option for the future.
5. In general, do you use RSS feeds a lot? (97 responses)
36.1% Yes, I prefer getting news and alerts via RSS.
30.9% Not sure, I’ve only just gotten started using RSS.
19.6% Somewhat, I use RSS, but it’s not always my preference.
11.3% I don’t understand what RSS feeds are or how to use them.
2.1% No, I understand RSS but don’t like it.
OBSERVATION: This is really intriguing. It appears that the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed is particularly attractive to people who are new to using RSS. In fact, nearly the same number of RSS “newbies” subscribe to my feed than people who have an established preference for RSS. I suspect, given the way I’ve been “evangelizing” about RSS, that many of my RSS subscribers first learned of RSS feeds through CONTENTIOUS. I feel good about that!
Also, the percentage respondents who don’t understand this RSS stuff is just slightly less to the percentages listed, in responses to earlier questions, for people who do not subscribe to my feed. Also, only two people here reported understanding RSS but not liking it. Consequently, I suspect that many of the respondents who do not currently subscribe to the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed also do not yet understand what RSS is and how to use it.
To me, this pattern again emphasizes the overall attractiveness of RSS. These results seem to indicate that once people understand enough about RSS to try it, they tend to like it and use it. Most seem to end up preferring it.
…Again, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to this survey. I realize there are a number of ways these figures can be interpreted, and I’d welcome people with alternate interpretations or observations to post them as comments below.
I will be conducting other surveys in the future, and I’m pleased to report that I highly recommend the SurveyMonkey Web-based survey tool. I used the free demo here, but it’s very likely that I will be subscribing to this service to gather more detailed and extensive data in the future. If you need to do an online survey, SurveyMonkey is first-class and easy to use.