Partial Versus Full RSS Feeds

I think that RSS is one of the best things to happen to the Web. With so many sites in our bookmarks, it would take quite a bit of time to go through and check whether or not our favorite sites have been updated. RSS allows the site to tell us when it’s changed, which in my opinion is the ideal solution. What’s even greater is that the content is also provided with this notification, so we don’t even have to open our browser to read the update! Except on this site.

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I recently made the decision to only offer partial content in my RSS feeds. Unfortunately it takes away from one of the great benefits of RSS; being able to read the content in any way you please without missing out on anything. As it turns out, the best feature also turned into the worst feature for myself and many others.

Bad Use of Syndication

Soon enough, it was discovered that using RSS was a great way to obtain an abundance of constantly updated content for your new spam project. Import a number of feeds using a plugin or script and you’ll have quality content regularly updated on your site without doing a bit of work. Once you add your AdSense snippet, you’ll be raking in the cash for doing no work at all. Personally, I’m not a fan of such a technique.

This idea isn’t really all that new, and lots of authors deal with this every day. They’re constantly trying to contact site owners to get their content removed or a copyright line added. When that doesn’t work they spend time trying to track down the site host in hopes of getting the site pulled. That doesn’t sound like too much fun for me. The only solution I could come up with for the time being was to offer partial feeds. While it only offers some of the content, it’s enough to let any readers I might have know what the article is about. If they think they’re interested in the article, their feed reader should offer a direct link to the article so they can get the full story.

Duplicate Content Penalty: Myth or Reality?

Another reason I don’t want my content posted to any of these fly by night ‘feed farm’ spam sites is the negative SEO effect it might have. There has been a lot of talk regarding whether or not a duplicate content penalty even exists. From what I’ve read, it exists in certain circumstances, one of which would be a ‘feed farm’ spam site. Search engines won’t think that your content is simply being mirrored, because it’s sitting with content from a dozen other sites, verbatim. Your content is being matched word for word, and placed next to countless other articles reposted in the same fashion. I’m not positive as to whether or not this penalty exists, but I don’t want to play with fire.

What if SEO isn’t a Big Deal to Me

Some authors don’t really care all that much about SEO for their site, but they do care about receiving credit where it’s due. If their content is being syndicated somewhere else, they just want credit for it. I can definitely relate with this, but all the trouble trying to contact the site owner, or their host, or both, just doesn’t seem like a way I’d like to spend my time. I don’t know about anyone else, but the site upon which I read an article usually outweighs any small copyright line placed at the beginning or end as far as an author is concerned. To me it’s kind of like hearing a popular song on the radio, then riding in the car with your grandparents and hearing a very similar song come on their favorite oldies station. At first you think someone ripped off that song you heard the other day, when in reality it’s the other way around. Given, there wasn’t a copyright notice at the end of either song, I still see the effect personally.

What do You Think of Partial Feeds?

How do you feel about offering partial feeds? Is it giving your reader the short end of the stick? As an author should you suck it up and deal with spam campaigns? I like to think that my content is somewhat unique and I’d like to receive proper credit for what I write. Is that a terrible thing?


Paul Stamatiou has also opened the floor to a discussion on partial versus full RSS feeds and I’ve been following the comments. Just to clear a few things up that seem to be a bit cloudy. When I wrote about partial feeds, I didn’t mean truncated feeds. It makes a difference if a summary paragraph or two is written about an article as opposed to taking the first few sentences and chopping off the content mid-sentence. The latter would be much less useful in my opinion, whereas a well written summary paragraph could actually give your reader the opportunity to decide whether or not the article would be interesting. Lots of people have large numbers of feeds to keep track of, some even in the hundreds. Do you think a partial feed (not a truncated feed) would help them read what they wanted that much quicker?