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Your RSS feed sucks

pusherbotpusherbot Registered User regular
edited November 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
First of all, I want to say that I'm a big PA fan. I've been reading since it was hosted on loonygames, and I think the comic is only getting better. Not to mention all the other incredible things the guys do under the PA brand.

I'm making my first post on the forum because I've got a bone to pick. The RSS feed is crap. Yes, it lets me know when there are new posts, but other than that it's useless. All the posts are truncated, there are no images (comics or otherwise), and the links to the comics often don't work or go to the wrong thing.

Either it's simply not viewed as very important and is just a child of neglect, or it's viewed as competitive to the site and is intentionally crippled. When I say competitive to the site, I mean that if people could get their full PA fix from the feed, they would not use the site, and therefor not engage in the community and view the advertisements that are the lifeblood of the business. Either way, I think the situation is fixable and the fix will be better for everyone.

Here's PA's feed, for reference: Now, here's two examples of excellent RSS feeds:
PA's feed amounts to a bunch of status updates. The DF & Subtraction feeds have full articles, images, videos, great formatting (considering the constraints of RSS), and offer a much richer experience.

The feeds I chose as examples are not by chance. Both are from sites that are sponsored by The Deck. The Deck is an ad network that works with a small number of advertisers and clients and tries to serve fewer ads in better ways. I think they have a great service and a great philosophy on ads. A philosophy that PA would find similar to their own. As part of their agreement with the Deck, authors make two ad-related posts per week, one written by the author which appears on the site and in the feed, and one written by the advertiser which appears only in the feed. While I almost never pay attention to ads, I do read these ads because they usually say something meaningful about the product. It's basically the same thing Tycho already does when he talks about sponsors in his posts.

I bring up The Deck not because I think PA should use them for advertising, but just as an example to show how they've figured out how to support full RSS feeds in a way that makes business sense, and in a way that is closely aligned with how PA already operates.

In the past year, I've started consuming my news primarily through Google Reader and the Reeder app on my iPhone. It's awesome. Instead of visiting 20 sites every other day to see what new things have been updated, I just load up Google Reader whenever I have time and catch up on everything in one place. I think the whole internet is moving in the direction of bringing things to people rather than making them retrieve it themselves, and for good reason, it's better. And I'm a web designer, so I appreciate beautiful websites (like the current PA design!), but once I've committed to reading a site regularly, I just want the content. Especially on my phone, where the PA site is pretty painful. (All those little buttons?)

I think that the PA feed could be fixed with no change in editorial policy and only minimal work required. The things I see standing in the way seem overcome-able. Robert would have to adjust the advertising policy to account for RSS viewership, and maybe have some negotiations with advertisers. (Perhaps the RSS feed is an opportunity for new advertisers?) Tycho would need to commit to talking about sponsors on a regular schedule (if he doesn't already). And someone would have to spend a day tweaking the CMS. There's a lot of other implementation details that would take consideration and effort, but I think it would be energy well spent.

A full RSS feed could increase readership by keeping people engaged who might otherwise forget to look at the site. It'd make viewing the site easier for people on mobile devices. And there's the potential for a financial upside. Most importantly, it'd make people like me happy.

Thanks for your time,
Chad von Nau

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