Archive for March, 2007

March 25th, 2007

Feed Readers A-Plenty

For some time now, Interesting Thing of the Day has used FeedBurner for its free, public RSS feeds. (Since we authenticate paid subscribers individually with usernames and passwords, they use a different URL that we serve directly.) Among its many excellent features, FeedBurner helpfully reports how many readers your feed has, but I never paid close attention to those figures because they always seemed to hover around 1,000–1,200. Then one day, about a month ago, the number suddenly jumped to over 83,000! That was the day FeedBurner began reporting how many people were reading feeds via Google Reader and the Google Personalized Homepage; previously Google hadn’t made those statistics available.

I assumed the new Google Reader stats would indicate some small increase, but I was completely unprepared for the jump of nearly two orders of magnitude. (Of course, it wasn’t really an immediate jump, it was simply an immediate clarification in the reporting of people who were already readers.) And in the last month, that number has continued to grow steadily. As I write this, the figure is 98,053 99,007, and I’m sure it’ll cross the 100k mark in a day or two.

A full 99% of those 98,000+ readers are coming through Google Reader, while other subscribers have barely increased at all. I have no explanation for the site’s seemingly over-the-top popularity for Google Reader users. I am utterly astonished that Interesting Thing of the Day could be among the top 10 most popular RSS feeds, if this post at franticindustries is correct (they currently have us at #4—wow).

Being a good capitalist, one of my first thoughts on learning this news was that I should figure out how I can leverage all those extra pairs of eyes to make more money. On average, the Web version of ITotD has been getting just shy of 7,000 visits per day recently. A certain percentage of those visitors click on ads, and that’s what generates the majority of the site’s income. Although the RSS feed contains ads too, they produce far less income than those on the site. So I thought: I should stop including the full text of each article in the feeds, because that gives readers no reason at all to click through to the site, where the higher-value ads are.

Thus, a couple of weeks ago, I changed the free feeds from full text to excerpts, and also removed the podcasts. Full text and podcasts are still available in the paid feeds, for which there’s an ad in the free feeds. I assumed this move would have one or more of the following effects:

  • More people would click through from the excerpts to read the full articles
  • We’d lose some subscribers from the free feeds because they were irritated at having to click through
  • We’d get more paid subscribers to the full feeds

In fact, none of that happened. Since the change, the average number of page views on the site has remained steady. The numbers of subscribers to the free feeds has continued its climb. Exactly one person complained about the change, and his complaint was essentially that the free feeds contained too long of an excerpt! And we’ve had only two new paid subscribers, which I can’t attribute to the change.

I truly don’t know how it is that nearly 100,000 people are seemingly very interested in reading the first two paragraphs of every ITotD article, but not at all interested in the rest. Not that I mind the exposure, but it’s weird. So I’m thinking about decreasing the excerpt to one paragraph and seeing what happens. If I get no results, I’ll scale it back further to just the synopsis—which is what it used to be, way back when. And if even that neither increases the number of click-throughs nor decreases the number of feed subscribers, I’ll be completely baffled.

But perhaps I’m missing something obvious. It wouldn’t be the first time! If you have any theories or wisdom to share, please do so in the comments.

March 13th, 2007

Review of the second edition of Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac

New review: Review of the second edition of Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac by David Cohen at, with a 4.5 out of 5 rating (March 13, 2007)

March 12th, 2007

Stop Today’s Spam

New Macworld article: Stop Today’s Spam (March 12, 2007; April 2007 issue, pp. 72–74)

March 2nd, 2007

Parallels Desktop 2.0 Ships

New TidBITS article: Parallels Desktop 2.0 Ships (2007-03-02)