Feedburner adds Friendfeed: Should you care?

The first thing I do every morning is check our Google Analytics and Feedburner stats. I like to see what things are working for us and what things are not working. I am proud to say that our blog has been doing quite well and gaining subscribers at a steady pace.

Then, one mid week day last week… CABLAMO! Our Feedburners subscribers TRIPLED in one day.

What happened? Did the Jonas Brothers say they read our blog? Did an influential blogger link to our blog for something witty and amazing that I had written?

I searched the Interwebs and no one else was chatting about it so I chalked it up to a glitch. Later that afternoon there was finally some chatter and Friendfeed made a statement about it.

What does it mean?

If you’re already using Feedburner, you’re familiar with how it tracks the number of your RSS subscribers.  In the past, Feedburner counted a subscriber as someone who subscribed to your blog through iTunes, Google Feedcatcher (like Google Reader), Windows RSS, Firefox Bookmarks, RSS to email (Outlook, Thunderbird), etc.  Now they’ve added FriendFeed.

What is FriendFeed? Friendfeed is a social networking aggregator that shows you in real time all entries, tweets, status updates and more of the people you choose to ‘subscribe to’. It is a super handy way to stay up to date on all updates from the people you want to hear the most from on all the social networks they participate in. You can even create separate feeds for professional, personal, favorites and home feed. It’s handy but I have to admit I don’t use it that often.

Friendfeed makes Feedburner look like Ms Pac ManWhat does it do to my blog subscribers? Well with most people I have talked to it blows your numbers through the roof. Your subscriber chart now looks like Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man. With FriendFeed being the largest slice of the pie.

So is this good?

This is good if:

  • You personally and your company blog are one – People subscribe to people on Friendfeed. Real live people. You subscribe to everything Amanda puts on the internet, everything Matt puts on Facebook, everytime Kyle updates his Twitter status etc. If your blog is personal to you then this could be good for you.
  • Big numbers make your life easier – Your form of validation is bigger numbers to show the guys in the corner office.  So tripling your blog subscribers without tripling engagement is A-OK with you!
  • There is an opportunity for growth – When your content is on Friendfeed someone who is subscribed to you can ‘Like” your post and then the post will show up in that person’s stream so anyone who is subscribed to them will now see your post.

I know FriendFeed can drive some good traffic to the blog, but returning a subscriber count for the blog does not seem quite right. FriendFeed is an aggregator, so my subscribers are really subscribing to me, not my blog. – Rob Diana

So is this bad?

It could be bad, or it could be inaccurate, or it could be senseless padding or you could just need to find a new tool other than Feedburner…

Some issues I have:

  • You write for a company blog with multiple authors – Like Rob Diana’s quote above says, people subscribe to YOU. You could be one of multiple contributors to a blog. I personally have over 200 people subscribed to my Friendfeed. Of this two hundred people… sure, a few of them read our blog.  But some are my Facebook friends who want to see photos and status updates, some are Twitter followers, some are LinkedIn connections. The point is they subscribed to me, not our company blog. If they wanted to subscribe to our company blog, they probably would have by now.
  • Not a captive audience – When someone sees our blog in Google reader they see the whole blog entry and pictures. When they see a blog entry in FriendFeed they only see the title.  So yes, the feed was pulled, but did any of those people actually click to open the blog and read it? We don’t know.
  • It could get worse – Where do we go from here? Do we start counting aggregators as subscribers?  Are all Twitter followers and Facebook friends next to be counted? Louis Grey has more concerns about this.

So now what?

To give the age old answer – It depends. It depends on your audience, your personal branding, your company branding and many other factors. Do you need to pay more attention to Friendfeed and get more subscribers? Maybe. Do you need to rethink how you measure your blog subscribers? Maybe. It is up to you.

Audience versus Subscribers

This whole thing has sparked an interesting conversation on the blogoshere. Is ‘subscriber’ a washed up term? Have we moved passed that? Perhaps we should be measuring our Audience instead.

If so, then the Feedburner/Friendfeed combo is perfect. Maybe we should be measuring each person our messages touches even if it is just a brief encounter. Before, subscribers were easy to measure – it was the amount of people that actively chose to subscribe to your blog. Now with Twitter, Facebook, Social aggregators (like Feedburner) things get a bit more complicated.  People are not stopping the use of RSS but they do seem to be adopting other methods to view the content that is important to them.

I am curious to see what you think of the change.  Has it helped you? Frustrated you? Does it not even matter? I know what it has done to my little world. What has it done to yours?