Reader poll: full-text or summary feeds

This blog's RSS feed is switching from publishing just a short 'teaser'-style summary of the blog content to a partial full-text feed. To let me know which option you prefer, please vote in this poll.
Written by Phil Wainewright, Contributor on

Starting Tuesday, this blog's RSS feed will switch from publishing just a short 'teaser'-style summary of the blog content to a partial full-text feed that will contain all the content down to the first page break — typically four to five paragraphs comprising around 500 words. This is an experiment, and because I genuinely don't know what readers prefer, I'm publishing a poll here so that you can tell me what you think. I'll keep this poll open for at least a week so that I can gather a good cross-section of views. If I get a clear majority by the end of the week in favor of a summary feed then I'll ask ZDNet to switch it back.

We've been having an internal debate here at ZDNet for some time over the case for and against full-text feeds. Personally, I've always previously gone with a summary feed, right back to 2001 when I first started blogging on Loosely Coupled. But I've listened to many points of view over the years that full-text feeds yield more readers and thus more traffic over the long term, even though there may be an initial dip in page views to start with. I've noticed also in my own use of Google Reader that if I want to link to or comment on a blog post, I still visit the original page. So my most engaged readers will still come and visit even if they can read the full text in their feed reader — and the theory is that I'll have more readers because some people simply refuse outright to subscribe to blogs that only publish summary feeds.

My only reservation about this move is that the full-text option ZDNet is able to offer isn't the literal full text. The feed will publish all the contents that appear on my blog's home page, but the text will stop after the first four or five paragraphs, at wherever I choose to put the 'Read the rest of this entry' link (known to insiders as the 'more' tag). So short entries will appear in the feed in their entirety, but longer pieces (and most of my blog entries fall into this category) will stop short, forcing the reader to click through to read the rest of the item anyway — in exactly the same way readers of the home page have to click through to finish reading any posting that catches their interest.

This is not entirely in the spirit of the full-text feed, although I have also seen some people say they prefer summary feeds rather than having a single blog post occupy screeds and screeds of real estate in their RSS reader. So perhaps this hybrid solution may please some of them.

So let's go to the poll, which to reflect the choice I'm facing has just two options. If you want to put the case for some other option, please use TalkBack. And to ensure I capture all possible voters, I won't be using that 'more' tag on this post.

[poll id=7]

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