If you use FeedBurner to measure RSS subscribers for your blog, you might have noticed it’s been on the fritz lately.
I’ve seen swings of 50% or more in the number of subscribers FeedBurner reports for this site from day-to-day. The problem has affected plenty of other sites around the web as well. Sites that use the FeedBurner subscriber count chiclet have been reporting wildly erratic subscriber numbers lately.
If you’re a blogger, this can be frustrating to say the least. At worst, it might cost you some repeat visitors when those visitors don’t think a blog with an incorrectly reported low number of subscribers is worth following.
Will FeedBurner fix the problem? It’s hard to say. Google seems to be aware of the problem, but they have notoriously not really cared about FeedBurner as a product. FeedBurner has been a flaky service at best for as long as I’ve used it.
A bigger question
Sure, there are alternatives out there (people seem to like FeedBlitz), but there is a bigger question to ask about RSS in general.
But the fact is, RSS does have competition. Many readers prefer to keep up with their favorite blogs over email, Twitter or Facebook. When you add up all the readers who follow your site through those other means, RSS might not even represent the majority.
What are the alternatives?
Again, I’m not suggesting RSS needs a replacement. RSS is a fine format, and some people really like to keep up with sites that way. RSS is also useful as a data feed. It serves its specific purposes well.
But by “alternative,” I mean is there something else we all could be using as a measure of social proof? Is there some way we can show prospective new readers that we’re worth following, besides using RSS feed counts?
Some sites have already chosen a different measure of social proof. I decided to follow Naomi Dunford‘s lead over at IttyBiz by using “monthly readers” (by my definition, it’s just the number of unique visitors here over the past month). I just noticed that Freelance Switch has done the same thing.
Beyond monthly readers, I’ve seen everything from Twitter followers to Facebook fans to email newsletter subscribers used. Some sites even use a few different counts or the sum of various counts.
In any case, the question is, which methods are most effective?
Maybe the answer for your site is whichever metric is most flattering. However, you have to wonder, which metrics carry the most weight in a reader’s mind?
The FeedBurner chiclet is nice because it is common enough to carry some authority. It also removes the trust issue of leaving readers wondering if a site might be padding a number.
I’ve made my decision for Think Traffic for now. FeedBurner is too unreliable for me, and monthly readers seems to make the most sense given the nature of this site.
Now I’ll throw it over to you. Is it time for a social proof alternative to the FeedBurner chiclet? If so, what do you think the best solution is?