Full vs. Partial Feeds

I see that the whole full vs. partial feed content debate has risen from the ashes again, and while I’m probably in the minority here, speaking as an end user I actually prefer partial content.

I like to scan the headlines of my feeds looking for items of interest, and in the absence of descriptive titles, partial content gives me an idea of what each item is about. Showing full-text for every item gets in my way, since I don’t want to see the full content until I’ve decided whether an item is interesting to me.

This is a big reason why I created the surfer style in FeedDemon 1.6. It enables viewing partial content as an option even for full content feeds, which means I can quickly scan for interesting items without a ton of text slowing me down. When I find something that looks interesting, I click on it to view the entire content. I find it’s much faster reading my feeds this way, since I scroll a whole lot less and don’t have to waste time on articles I don’t care about.

16 thoughts on “Full vs. Partial Feeds

  1. I don’t understand why, as a blogger, would I have to choose between partial or whole content in my feeds. Why not just offer both? So every subscriber can choose which one prefers. It should not be much work, since both feed files would be automatically generated by the blogging system.
    Now, when I subscribe to a blog, I usually have to choose between “RSS2.0”, “RSS1.0” and “Atom”. And I never know which one is the best, so I choose RSS2 since the “2.0” sounds like newer/better. That would be just only one choice more.

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  2. I agree with Unodemero. Nevertheless, I think this is a user interface problem. Even when I subscribe to a full feed, I should be able to fold away the full content and be able to reveal it with a click. This way I have the best of both worlds.
    I prefer the full feeds though because they are easier to read for me. What I mean by this is that it is a bigger mental leap for me to jump from one layout to another (every blog has its own layout) than to just have everything in one layout. Just imagine you read a newspaper and *every* article has its complete own layout!

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  3. I’m with Nick. I’m rather tired of this whole argument really. Some of the full feed arguments I’ve read seem to want to replace going to webpages and viewing the HTML entirely. That seems a bit off and extreme to me. I don’t think this is a black and white issue anyways. For some sites it makes sense (read has value) to have full feeds and some it does not.
    Still I can see the value in both and agree it is a user interface issue more then anything.
    I’m a proponent of Atom because you can include both in one feed in a clear and concise manner. Atom also provides the aggregator better meta data for interfaces that work consistently. My expectation in subscribing to Atom feeds is that the aggregator won’t have to make guesses and make me suffer from issues like these:
    http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/safari_rss_posts_leave_me_hanging.php
    This entry illustrates an interface issue that is created by the ambiguities found in RSS feeds.
    Just my view as a user and a developer.

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  4. Notice that NIck publishes full-text feeds. That way the user has the choice.
    I typically only click through to a site if I want to comment (like now), and I am more likely to do that if I can read the full feed.
    I think it is cool that you added the user choice in FeedDemon. Though it is a worthless feature without full-text feeds ;)

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  5. I completely agree with Nick on this one. It also deals with the ads/no ads issue well.
    Offer partial feeds with good headlines and no ads which will drive me to the site to read the full story and see the ads.

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  6. Flexibility is the key. I love Nick’s new Surfer style in Feeddemon 1.6 – it makes it easy for me to switch between full feed and partial feed (or even just headlines only) … BUT if the feed I’m viewing doesn’t offer full feeds, I don’t get a choice.
    I say serve full feeds and let the user choose what they want to see. If the user doesn’t have a good feed reading interface that offers an easy choice, that’s their problem and one that is easily fixed. I can’t do anything about a partial feed, but I can customise a full feed to what suits me.

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  7. Summary:
    There are multiple PoVs on this issue:
    1. High volume subscriber PoV
    2. Low volume subscribe PoV
    3. News provider PoV (advertising revenue etc.)
    4. Blog provider PoV
    With different types of subscribers and different types of providers all having different views on this why not just offer both?
    I can see how blog providers may want to only provide full feed text and that probably makes sense. With news articles I’d prefer to have a summary to review quickly.
    So… I like BOTH. I want some one way and some another way… So partial vs full is a feed preference setting for me.
    Cheers,
    Kevin.

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  8. The only time it’s an issue is when:
    1. Bandwidth is involved. At which point providing both partial and summary becomes a big burden.
    2. Ads are involved. If the producer provides full-text they don’t get ad revenue.
    Feeds in ads aren’t going to replace ads in HTML I think because the CTR is low.
    That just might be an audience thing. I’m not sure actually…
    There’s an SEO thing here too. If you don’t have full-text feeds you’re not going to show up in blog search, feedster, tailrank, et al.
    Kevin

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  9. For me it’s very annoying when authors put only first few lines of their original post into feeds. I find it (a) inconvenient and (b) too wise not to understand that they are trying to attract your attention to the site and make their Google ads roll.
    Also, BlogBridge has title-only, brief and full modes as well to allow you to scan quickly and go deeper only where you want.

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  10. I use the “expando” style to quickly view headlines, click to expand anything looks interesting and drag the link into a “to review” news bin. Clear out all unread mail and review just what is in the “to review” news bin. It seems to be the best for me.

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  11. To elaborate on the workflow: On my PC I’ll hit control + G to change channels, control + shift + P to read group newpaper, drag any items into the “to review” news bin, hit control + R to mark read and “Y” to accept as read. Start over again with control + G for the next channel group. This sounds confusing although I have found it is very quick to review a large number of items.

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  12. The answer is *not* offer both.
    The answer is: provide full feeds and let the client software determine how and what to display!!

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