RSS Is Dying and Lying with Statistics

This entry is in response to an article I saw recently online title The Death of RSS in a Single Graph.   The author’s contends that RSS is dying based on the declining trend shown in the graph.  However, the graph is an example of “Lying with Statistics” in my opinion.  Adding in the trends for newsletters shows it to be less popular than RSS in all cases over time.

RSS-vs-newsletter-trends

RSS Is Not Dying

I have to admit, I’m biased on this one.  I get nearly all of my news using RSS.  This includes everything from local news to global publications.  I find it to be the single most effective way to scan through hundreds of headlines on a subject to determine the most relevant and interesting news.  And yes, it’s true, Google Reader is going away.  However, Feedly.com was quick to step right in and pick up where Google Reader will leave off.

Furthermore, just because searches for a technical term decline doesn’t mean that the usage does so as well.  Perhaps people now know what the term means and have less need to search for it.  It may not be the case, but it’s a possibility.

RSS Can Prompt Public Discussions

While it’s true that RSS itself is a publication mechanism with no ability for replies.  The reality is that many of the RSS subscriptions are publishing blog posts – with the ability to comment!  Thus, when a reader clicks a link from within an RSS feed they are then able to comment back to the author and the public at large.  This enables the conversation to be beneficial to more than just the two people involved.  Future visitors will be able to learn from the engagement, and perhaps even contribute back themselves – something that wouldn’t have been possible in a two person email communication.

Context is Everything

I think the most important factor to consider though, is that this graph is shown out of context.  Looking at the RSS trend alone does seem to show a rapid death.  However, despite the author’s contention that email newsletters are better – they have consistently shown lower trends than RSS.  Thus, even though RSS has declined dramatically in searches, it still tops searches for newsletters.  Does this mean that I think RSS should be chosen over email newsletters?  Absolutely not.  I actually don’t see why the two need to be mutually exclusive.  It’s the Pat Flynn “Be Everywhere Strategy.”  While I think it’s important to evaluate the return on your effort in “being everywhere,”  I just don’t see how RSS is going to hold you back… afterall in the end RSS is really just the means of distributing your content to a wider audience.  Are you really going to stop publishing content, thereby quiting RSS?  I think not.  Afterall, content is still king!

About Joshua Belliveau

Josh is the President and Founder of Bell Web Works. He has actively worked on developing and enhancing websites since 1997. He has helped customers in a variety of industries: State and Federal Government, Healthcare, Sports, Construction, Real Estate, Photography, and Non-Profits, to name a few. He holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA), along with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. After achieving his MBA degree Josh was inducted into Appalachian State University’s Cratis D. Williams Society as well as the International Honor Society Beta Gamma Sigma for his academic achievements in the study of business. Josh also serves as a member of the Executive Board for the North Carolina Association for Institutional Research. He also has worked for several years within a Higher Education setting serving as a Business Intelligence Technical Lead. He consults with, and aids, small businesses with their internet marketing ventures through his company, Bell Web Works. You may also reach him via Google+.

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