10 Ways To Lose RSS Subscribers

I have just been trying to get the new Attensa update working (yes, it has stopped working for me again, it is great when it works though) and have taken the opportunity to trim down my OPML. As I worked through my list of feeds I realised there were certain things that were guaranteed to make me drop a subscription, I thought I would share my reasons here.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, and the examples have been changed to protect the guilty, each point is based on one or more real blogs. I trimmed over twenty blogs from my feeds just this morning, I am sure there will be more when I go back over them.

Here are the top ten reasons why I will drop your feed:

  1. Hardly post and when you do it is to apologise for not posting – I don’t mind an irregular posting frequency providing when you do post it is something worthwhile and valuable. We all know people have other priorities in their lives, and an apology is obviously well meant, but please include the apology as a PS. on the end of a worthwhile post. And do not post three apologies in a row.
  2. Re-post boingboing or some other popular blog, or copy and paste press releases – This one really gets on my nerves. Original material is what we want, or at least your own opinions on other peoples stories. If I wanted to read BoingBoing I would subscribe to it (I do), if I wanted press releases I would look on the PR sites, tell me why I should care, pull out the juicy bits, link to more than one site.
  3. Only ever write when in a bad mood, drunk or have nothing to say – It startles me how many people seem to post in a bad mood. We have discussed recently the “trollish” behaviour of some bloggers and comments so I won’t rehash it here. I guess this is no different to shock-jock DJs who go on air just to rant. Someone must like it, not my cup of tea I am afraid. Hmm .. is this post making me look hypocritical? heh
  4. Constant unrelenting negativity – This is related to the point above but is wider in that it includes people who have a blog just to moan. I don’t mind blogs as therapy but when it is advertised as a “photography blog” or a “gadget blog” and it is full of depression and moaning I think I am justified in dropping the subscription.
  5. Bang on about the same old gripe day after day – OK, you feel like the a-list, Microsoft or Google have something against you personally, we heard you the first thousand times, move on already!
  6. Talk down to your audience like they are idiots – Thankfully this doesn’t happen all too often but I guess that is one of the things that makes it so surprising when it does happen. Obvious lies also stand out as incredibly insulting.
  7. Be incomprehensible – Fill your feed with cryptic post titles and snippets that don’t give any indication of what the post is about. Have navigation that is designed to cause your audience pain. Yup, that would work.
  8. Be elitist – Exclude a large part of your audience with in-jokes you never explain and only reply to clique members comments
  9. Be needy – Constantly suck up to the A-List, name dropping people you have never met as if you know them. Again, once in a while yeah this is ok, but on an ongoing basis it soon gets old if your every post contains “names”.
  10. Constant irrelevance – Remember Nicks 8020 rule – don’t spend two weeks posting about your cats flea problem on a technology-oriented blog

Ok, that is my list, what things do bloggers do that get right up your nose and cause you to drop their feed? Let us know what we might be doing wrong!

8 thoughts on “10 Ways To Lose RSS Subscribers

  1. Great post, Chris. Sorry it’s been a while since I last posted here. How’s the Harley, by the way? You other readers might not understand this, but as I’ve been saying for a while that nofollow tag is a real problem for the web. Turn on the CSS one-liner, if you don’t know what I mean.

  2. “what the hell were you doing when you subscribed to that feed in the first place” – the feeds I dropped were on two topics, but after reading them for a bit they were on the whole not about what they were meant to be about.

    Yeah posts reappearing on RSS is a pain and it is not always down to the blogger, or at least the blog owner. When we put posts on the homepage here we sometimes forget to ask that they don’t edit which causes republishing.

  3. I disagree with that “#11” comment, and I find this list useful. But I have one item to add, from my own experience:

    Constantly re-edit posts after they’ve been published (say, for typos rather than relevant updates to the info), so your feeds update continually, causing old content to look new in your subscribers’ feed readers.


    Be unaware of what causes your RSS feeds to update and re-publish.

    Either way, people get annoyed and think you don’t know what you’re doing.

    (I’ve had this happen on group blogs I write for but don’t webmaster. I can’t confirm whether or not readership went down, but the comments sure were nasty.)

  4. Warning:
    This comment might contain explanations which are indirect admissions of my own guilt. Why? Simply because, I have been guilty of the blogging practicies that you have mentioned, at some point or the other.

    Not everyone can post regularly. But when one does, it must not be an apology, it must indicate the growth that the person achieved during the absenteeism. At least through the quality of the post, if not anything else. Reposts, after a long absence are a definite no-no, but I tend to think about it from the author’s perspective. Niche audiences may not even know the existence of Boing-Boing or Slashdot. So why not? That we are subscribed to a plethora of services doesn’t essentially mean everyone is! The same applies for point 6. An IT audience may not know anything about Paleontosaurs. Simply because you do, does not give you the automatic right to flame the author!

    Trollish Blogging is something that none of us can control as it is subjective. Example: I think this post is trollish, you don’t. Don’t be offended, but why should I bother about what you do to your feeds?

    Same old gripe? Sorry, I do not agree to that. To each his own. If someone feels like griping about the A-list, Google, or Microsoft all day, what the hell were you doing when you subscribed to that feed in the first place? Ditto for point 7…

    8 and 9 are direct contradictions! How the hell do you refer to the source without dropping names? I don’t want to take credit for a scoop that is so obviously not mine! Or am I supposed to say something like: “The popular A-list Blogger who loves to fly Citabrias points to…”

    Point #10 is the only point I tend to agree with. Cat-fleas are not something I would post on a Tech blog unless I am talking about strange bugs in my PC.

    To sum up, A blog post is a reflection of you and your personality. What you write reflects what you are. To me, this post sounded quite like a rant. My only suggestion to you would be: Relax. Now that you have let off some of that steam inside, why not come back to sanity and let sanity prevail?


  5. 11. Post yet another “10 Ways to… whatever buzzword” as a linkbait for del.icio.us, Digg, etc.

  6. Time wasting, got to agree with you there, it’s a cardinal sin. Hmmm .. cardinal sins of blogging, maybe a post or two in that idea …

  7. Be incomprehensible – Fill your feed with cryptic post titles and snippets that don’t give any indication of what the post is about. Have navigation that is designed to cause your audience pain. Yup, that would work

    To date, Seth Godin is the only person I allow to do this in my feeds, he’s the exception to a very stern rule: If I dont get a damn good indication of what im going to find when i click the title, from the title itself, I’m out.

    Above all things while online, TIME is the most precious, don’t waste mine.

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