a long-overdue refresh today and now displays subscriber and reader interaction stats in real time. When will Google Analytics get real-time stats? That's the question many people are asking - but it's not entirely clear how useful that would be.Google's AdSense for Feeds, the RSS publishing service formerly known as FeedBurner, got
Feed subscriber numbers are generally good to know, and revenues from feeds are better than a poke in the eye. But ultimately pageviews are what matter most to publishers. People say that Feedburner has declined in importance because of the rise of Twitter, but no publishing middleware is as important as readers landing on your page itself. There is potential for these kinds of real-time analytics to be leveraged for automated optimization of editorial decision making, but that's a relatively nascent field.
Are real-time analytics really useful? Not everyone agrees that they are.
"95% of the time it's simply a fun way to look at who's on your site and where they're browsing," Joel Lewenstein, a Product Designer at Quora says, on Quora.
"Though it's entertaining to watch this happen moment-by-moment, the realtime analytics are never as actionable as more robust systems, like Google Analytics.
"Beyond fun, though, we've found it incredibly useful for site diagnostics. When we get alerts that load balancers or servers are down, Chartbeat provides a nice check-and-balance: is the site really down (for actual, real users) or is it a false alarm?"
Heavy publishers of news-oriented content may not feel the same, however. HP is working with the Huffington Post, for example, to integrate the technology company's modeling of the growth and decay of audience attention into an automated editorial process that moves stories up and down the HuffPo page. Real-time analytics may help any number of publishers optimize highly flexible site layouts to capture maximum reader interest.
Could a real-time FeedBurner enable that kind of strategic move on the part of publishers? It certainly seems possible.