Partial Freakonomics feed = bad idea


I’m a huge fan of the Freakonomics guys, and a subscriber to their RSS feed, but I didn’t realize until I saw a MediaPost item on Techmeme that they had been “acquired” by the New York Times. I also didn’t realize until I read through the item that they have switched to partial RSS feeds, which I absolutely loathe.

That loathing appears to be shared by dozens of commenters and formerly faithful readers who left their thoughts on Stephen Dubner’s post about the move to the Times. Many have said they will be unsubscribing from the blog, which will hopefully make the NYT smarten up.

I realize that — as Tish Grier points out on the MediaPost item — the Times is looking to make their content pay, especially if they decide to lose the Times Select pay wall (as has been rumoured), and getting readers to click through to the website is probably one way of doing that. But I still think it sucks.

Some of the reasons are enumerated in this comment on the Freakonomics post. The bottom line is this: if I wanted to click through to the website, then I would just go to the damn website in the first place. Partial feeds defeat almost the entire purpose of reading RSS feeds in the first place. Bad idea, guys.


Mike Masnick at Techdirt has a post on the topic, in which he describes how full-text feeds can actually lead to more page views. And the Freakonomics guys have posted an update on the RSS issue that is somewhat less than reassuring.

Comments (10)

  1. Tom Fakes wrote::

    I’m using NewsGator online, and their feed isn’t updating at all. Until I went looking, I didn’t know they’d moved. At that point, I realized that I didn’t really care about reading them everyday.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 12:11 am #
  2. Andrew wrote::

    Ugh.. what a stupid idea. It is one of my fav. blogs, and I probably won’t read any of it now.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 10:53 am #
  3. Ed Lee wrote::

    doesn’t the globe and mail offer partial feeds though?

    Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 12:06 pm #
  4. Sam wrote::

    Why would they care whether you read their blog or not if you aren’t going back to their site? You are not entitled to their content for nothing.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 12:42 pm #
  5. Mathew wrote::

    Yes, we do Ed — and I don’t like it when we do it either :-)

    Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 11:37 pm #
  6. Tom Fakes wrote::

    Sam: In the brave new world of media, you should actually be giving some things away to keep people interested so you have a better chance of selling them something that you may not have done otherwise.

    I see their blog as a way for them to keep readers interested between books, and the money to be made when they sell more books because people are hooked on their blog.

    Now that I don’t read their blog, I am less likely to buy their books, so they should care that they lost me.

    Right now, they are getting paid for their blog as well, and it’s so painful to read that they are losing readers, and losing the attention of their book buying public.

    The wholistic approach is important, cover as many bases as possible to mazimize revenue over all outlets.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007 at 1:45 am #
  7. Sam wrote::

    Advertising is far more lucrative than selling books. So they can either count on some future return where their blog readers eventually buy books or they can advertise today and make money and sell books later. My guess is that they are increasing their holistic revenue by serving partials. Its not like there is no utility to being told when a new entry is available and what it is about. This being said, they could just advertise within their feed but my guess is that you would throw up on that as well.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007 at 12:17 pm #
  8. May C wrote::

    I agree and also dislike partial feeds. It’s annoying to have to make that extra click to view something so I instead just have Bloglines show the titles instead since it’s a waste of time for me to have partial feeds. I don’t understand, okay, I do know why they’re there but certainly dislike them.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007 at 12:45 pm #
  9. thadk wrote::

    More support for your theory of “making content pay”: You cannot view any of the * within an iframe–it breaks out. I note that this makes using Google Reader Preview ( with Google Reader impossible. When you open a Freakonomics entry it tears down your whole Google Reader.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007 at 9:28 pm #
  10. Tom wrote::

    Anyone who hates partial feeds might be interested in the tool I wrote to solve this particular problem:

    Works well for the Freakonomics feed.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007 at 5:18 pm #