Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Why I hate RSS readers

What’s more important? The process of blogging or the blog?

I’m a publishing guy. For me, it’s not just about the content. It’s about the end-result. The published entity or in the context of this discussion, the blog. The combination of layout, design and voice that all come together to create something that is far greater than the sum of its content.

That’s why I hate RSS readers. In a previous post I called RSS readers a sterile environment. Caitlin disagreed with me, I’m sure a bunch of you would, but I stick by it. You don’t create communities in RSS readers. You can’t really engage with readers. You really can’t do anything except consume raw content.

To use an old-media analogy, it’s the difference between writing for a wire service or writing for a newspaper. On a wire service, you’re story can pop up anywhere and likely will. On a newspaper, you’re a part of something. Something that hopefully stands for something and means something.

It’s probably the biggest thing I struggle with in regard to blogging. My limited ability to build something over and above the words I write. The fact that it’s difficult to create something, because of the limitations of templates, the limitations of my time and so on, to really build something.
As far as I’m concerned in the blogosphere there are only a few genuine blogs who have succeeded in becoming more than the sum of their content. TechCrunch, Scripting News, Scobleizer, etc. They all have communities. They all stand for something.  Half the time the comments on those sites are more interesting than the original posts. (Which is why I find Scoble’s obsessive rants against partial feed ironic. Scoble has gained the stature he has not because he blogs but because of his blog).
Which is why it’s been so very cool, to watch the comments sprout on here over the last couple of days. If you’ve been reading this on an RSS reader, chances are you missed the real conversation, which is everything that appeared on Squash that I didn’t write.


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26 Responses

  1. alan jones says:

    But Phil, you can focus on publishing your blog and still deliver it to people, with

    Developed by a Pom and a Seth Efrican, sure, but done so in our very own St Leonards, less than a hurled middy from IDG and MediaConnect (if MediaConnect is still in Crowie.) You owe it to your dinosaur publisher’s brain to go try it out. The free-ness of it will also be right up your alley.

  2. Caitlin says:

    Aah but if what YOU write is interesting enough, then I will click through to the comments anyway. When you’re busy it’s nice to be able to skim all your blogs from the one spot and then go deeper when something piques your interest. It’s also handy because all the web addresses are stored in one placeon the web and I can access it even from strange mac hines.

    I have a LOT of blogs on RSS feed (though I like checking the ones that are by people I know the most). It’s unlikely that I would go and look at all of those blogs daily and have the deep immersive experience you are after on a daily basis if I didn’t have an RSS feeder. Instead I would check them once a week or so – when I remember – and all the ‘conversations’ would be old anyway. Since I check Bloglines several times a day, I read the posts when they are current and probably click through to your website more often than I did before.

    If you really believed this was important wouldn’t you disable the RSS scan so that you only got the first paragraph and had to click through to read the rest? Please don’t do that but it’s the logical extension of your argument.

  3. Just enable an RSS feed for comments – it’s not rocket science.

    If you turn off the RSS feed, I won’t read you – RSS is the most convenient method for me to read lots of interesting prose and commentary. Just start up a comments feed, and your ‘concern’ goes away.

  4. Caitlin says:

    That’s true. Although I have to admit I don’t subscribe to any RSS comment feeds even though I know they’re out there. Not sure why but probably because my RSS feeder is already quite cluttered so I prefer to keep that to the website.

  5. I agree with what has been said thus far. I also subscribe to Squash via a news reader, FeedDemon. I actually enjoy what goes on so much that I even subscribe to the comments feed.
    If this info were not available via RSS I don’t know that I’d bother coming back to the site to stay caught up, or by the time I remembered to visit the site there would be too many posts for me to want to peruse and I’d just say forget it.

    For me the news reader is about saving time.

  6. Steven Frein says:

    RSS readers bring value to people that want to read many feeds. With services like co.mments or cocomment that can track the conversations you care about, RSS becomes even more important. I hate partial feeds and only click through when needed. At the end of the day people are looking for tools that make reading blogs easier and better. RSS is here to stay.

  7. blaze says:

    I was actually just thinking about this yesterday. RSS is convenient but you are bringing the readers out of the environment you set up specifically for them to read the article. It actually is much nicer to look at a nice blog than to read a sterile RSS feed.

  8. I sort of agree that RSS feeds can take away from the whole web experience but if the topic is interesting enough (like this one was for me) then I’ll click through and join the conversation.

    It’s interesting but RSS feeds are a bit like like the old web. Remember back when the web was really just text with very few graphics and animations. That’s part of the RSS attraction for me. I can see lots of sites that are of interest to me without all of the other stuff.

    Adding comments to feeds is OK but it won’t make me any more or less likely to participate in a conversation.

    BTW – I posted on this at However, since then I’ve changed my tune as, like Roland, I find that RSS is the only way i can keep up with the large number of blogs and news sites I need and want to keep up with.

  9. leisa says:

    what Caitlin said.

    If it wasn’t for RSS I probably wouldn’t have read this post. RSS enables me to graze a lot of content fairly quickly. If there are particular posts/discussions going on, then you’ll find me at the blog proper.

    I really liked the idea of CoComment at first, which was that little service that allowed you to track comments on a thread you’d posted to.. but unfortunately it only tracked other CoCommenters, so it didn’t really serve the purpose.

    I find the number of Comments Feeds that you’d have to keep track of unweildy, so I avoid them. Sometimes, when I’m offered, I quite like getting an email to tell me a comment has been added to a thread I’ve contributed to.

  10. Phil Sim says:

    I’m not saying that I’m about to drop RSS feeds. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in publishing its not to impose your will on your reader. What I’m saying is that the challenge for the blogosphere is to create a site that’s compelling enough so that you can deliver more than just the raw content.

  11. I have basically given up on the practise of going to a site’s front page and checking out what’s new there.
    Instead, I create a Firefox Live Bookmark of sites that interest me and click through a list of a dozen or so sites each morning.
    All I have to go by to determine whether or not to read the story is about six or eight words of headline.
    This is, of course, very stupid behaviour. But it sure is fast for me!
    And it makes a good headline more important than ever.
    Hey bloggers: find a veteran sub to learn that art!

  12. So basically what you are saying is that you don’t like RSS Readers cause you can only read the posts and not comments? Fair enough, you’ve got a point here my friend.

    Maybe Matt of WordPress should look at this:p

    However, without RSS Readers people like me who follow more than 20 blogs will be nowhere. Only and only if I like I topic, I’m gonna view the comments right? And RSS Readers show me all the topics so that I can pick my pick!

    ~ CC

  13. Mark Jones says:

    Hey Phil. My 2 cents: It just doesn’t matter. You’re asking the wrong question. What matters – always has, always will – is the brand. That is, the Phil Sim brand, in all it’s flavours. 🙂 And if people want the comments, they’ll get them via email or RSS feeds, or go looking, cos they’re following the brand.

  14. Kenneth Hood says:

    The obvious solution is a feed-reader that can fetch comments along with a blogpost 😉

    Still a loyal RSS reader and fan of the Phil Sim brand.

  15. […] Phil Sims tells us why he hates RSS Readers […]

  16. JosephCooney says:

    Don’t like RSS readers? Don’t expose your site via RSS.

  17. Brock says:

    What Caitlin said.

    Also, some sites (like Squash) are nice to look at and easy to read. Some are not. I use the Sage extension on Firefox as my RSS reader. It supports skins; and frankly, I’ve got it so it’s much easier to read than many of my favorite blogs’ front page.

    And I always click through to the comments for the interesting posts.

  18. John says:

    I for one, greatly appreciate RSS readers, both as a publisher and as a reader. As a publisher I appreciate being able to get the content out in as many ways as possible and to make it as easy as possible for busier people to follow the blog. As a reader I find that it helps me to follow a larger number of blogs than I could otherwise. As for commenting, a good post will draw clickthroughs from an RSS feed just so readers can comment. I don’t think this is an either/or question.

  19. Anne Walk says:

    Funny. I found this post through someone else’s feed. it was a link in their article. Now, here I am on your site. And I just might add it to my bloglines.

    I understand what you’re saying about a wire vs. a publication and I’m sure that you work really hard on the overall feel of your blog (as all good bloggers should) but RSS can add another dimension to that experience.

    I’m here because of someone else’s RSS feed. That counts for something.

  20. BillyG says:

    You just mentioned 3 blog(gers) in a row that I DON’T read because I got real sick real quick of their self-promoting ways. I hate sales! (To be fair, I do look at what TechCrunch has hyperlinked in his posts but that’s about it). What’s My agenda? My time, my choices… just another reader out of the norm I reckon but that’s fine with me lol.

  21. Sterile Syndication

    I agree with Phil when he says RSS readers are a sterile environment, but I don’t share his general contempt towards them. In the past month, for the first time ever, I’ve used an RSS aggregator consistently, usually several times a day.

  22. Rob Irwin says:

    Yep, Phil, you’re on the money, mate.

    RSS feeds ARE a sterile environment.

    They help people who want to read stacks and stacks of blogs each day, to be sure, but the way in which they do it is very sterile. Not ifs, buts or maybes there.

  23. An RSS Alternative to Bloglines

    As I’ve said many times before, I regularly visit 15 blogs, follow another 10 regularly, and view 10-20 other blog/sites continously. For a person like me RSS is a huuuuge boon. I mean first when I heard about RSS, I was quite skeptic and not rea…

  24. mrgoat says:

    You poor people that dont have a mac or Net News Wire

    I can read blogs like they are a website, and comments


  25. ron pruett says:

    Great posts and, yes, RSS feeds are largely sterile from a community standpoint. With Offertrax, we’re giving merchants and consumers the ability to connect and have conversations based around RSS feeds that can be shared with communities. We expect the communities to be built around products or specific offers. RSS allows folks to “pull” what interests them and, going forward as consumers gain more control, that is the way the Web is going.

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