Email vs. RSS (continued)

Almost two years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote a post saying that RSS was not mainstream and explaining why I wanted and needed a subscribe by email field at the top of my blog.

Well, two years later, not much has really changed.  First, we have a survey out that says only 11% of blog readers use RSS to monitor blogs.  Comscore says 50mm people read blogs, so that says about 5.5mm of them use RSS.  That sounds about right to me.

The Gotham Gal, who has been blogging for almost two years, who reads at least ten blogs per day, has no idea what RSS is or how to use it.  I have set up some RSS feeds for her on MyYahoo, but for the most part, RSS is a mystery to her.  And she’s a blogger.

Here are my blog stats:

Web Page Views in August:  ~90,000
Web Visits in August: ~60,000
Web Unique Visitors in August: No Idea, but I’d guess around 10,000
Email Subscribers: 1055
RSS Subscribers: ~5500

Now of course there is overlap in all of these numbers because people who read my feed will also visit the web, people who get my feed via email will also visit the web.  But this isn’t supposed to be exact. 

The fact is that of the approximately 17,000 people who make up my audience, only a third of them use RSS.  And my readers are probably more technical than the average reader (only half use Internet Explorer for example and almost 40% use Firefox).

That’s why I was so upset with the "death of Bloglet" which is the email subscription service I had used since that first email vs RSS post.  I recently replaced Bloglet with Feedblitz and the experience has been an interesting one.

I had dinner the other night with a bunch of friends.  Two of them are regular readers of my blog via email.  They asked me what I had done to my emails.  They recently got something that looked really different and had basically ignored it as spam.  I told them that was the Feedblitz emails and they were the new email delivery for my blog.

This points out a couple things about email.

First, email users have been trained to filter out spam.  Anything that looks new and different and vaguely commercial is quickly dismissed as spam. Bloglet’s emails were very plain vanilla.  Feedblitz’ emails have a big orange banner at the top.  That’s not great.  Apparently it tricked a few of my readers into ignoring the email.

Second, my readers like getting my blog via email.  They look forward to it, like a favorite email newsletter.  These two women are pretty tech savvy.  One of them started a web design and marketing business in the mid 90s.  And they both prefer to get my blog via email.  I suspect they wouldn’t go through the hassle of using RSS.

I’ll finish with a confession.  I basically don’t use RSS to read blogs either.  I use it for podcasts and can’t deal with any podcasts that don’t support RSS.  I use it to get my very favorite must read blogs into MyYahoo.  I use it to "database" the blogs I want to remember in Bloglines and Newsgator.

But I don’t read blogs in an RSS reader.  I read them on the web.  I basically use my blogroll to read blogs.  If a blog isn’t on my blogroll, the chances are pretty good that I don’t read it every day.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who would be on most everyone’s top blogs/RSS movers and shakers list.  He was complaining how hard it is to use RSS well.  He uses Safari to read RSS but like every other RSS reader, he struggles mightily with it.

I am not saying RSS sucks.  I am just saying its not a mainstream experience for anyone right now.  It may take building it into the operating system for that to happen.  I think that’s where I ended up on my last post on this subject.  Seems that’s where Bill Burnham ended up too.  Hmm.