[Pet Peeves] Gawker Cuts the Feed

Digging out of my feed yesterday, I noticed this:

Not obvious what’s disconcerting here? Alright, here’s the story:

In the last 48 hours, anyone watching their RSS feeds may have noticed a slight change in the content produced by the Gawker Network (which includes many sites beyond the Gawker blog itself, including Deadspin, Valleywag and Lifehacker, to name a few). Whereas in the past, Gawker has served it’s entire article content into the RSS feed, they have started cutting the cord on what goes through the pipe to just a stub of the piece. Now, with the change, RSS subscribers must now clickthrough the post in order to get the whole story.

The media business attitude is sound: advertisers care about pageviews, not subscribers. It’s leftover from the days of counting audience size or print subscription base. They haven’t shifted their thinking, and as long as advertisers carry the cash, media producers will succumb to those needs for dollars. Hence, in order to boost that page view number, a fractioned article in the feed makes complete sense.

However, it’s a giant pain to those who rely on RSS for news. The sliver of Internet users who use syndication and feed readers (a smaller population than many would think) are forced to leave their news sources for the whole story: a mild departure from the whole central firehose that they work with. RSS users are not universal, but they certainly are an engaged and invested audience. They offer incremental pageview increases by moving this tactic, but it may have a cost in other participation metrics (returning visitors and commenting numbers).

Felix Salmon, who shares the same disappointment I do, pointed out that there’s at least some evidence to support that full feeds generate more traffic than truncated ones, and a commenter on his post actually noted that the Wall Street Journal – that Murdoch property of paywalls and more – actually does publish the whole story via RSS for its blogs. This isn’t a counterintuitive belief: those who subscribe to RSS are pre-disposed to being highly active users, and changing their stream of efficient information gathering is probably more of a detriment.

At the end of the day, Gawker’s move is one of hierarchical media thinking, not source-agnostic, conversational media; that’s a shame. There are “VIP” feeds out there for Gawker and its sister sites; Lifehacker had the courtesy to post its full feed and explain the change, recognizing how that segment of their audience gets news.

I can tell you right now that my Gawker news consumption is about to get sliced dramatically: kind of like their feed.

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