Home More Thoughts on RSS Aggregator Market Share

More Thoughts on RSS Aggregator Market Share

Internertnews.com quoted me in their
article entitled Benchmark For RSS Client
Market Share?
, a news story covering Feedburner’s RSS
Aggregator stats
. It’s the first time I’ve been used in the media as a source, so I’m
quite chuffed. They didn’t contact me, just quoted from my blog – which is fine by me.
It’s a good write-up and it summarizes some of the caveats involved
in trying to measure RSS share. I’ve been surprised there hasn’t been more comment in the
blogosphere about Feedburner’s stats, but I think that’s mainly because people don’t know
what to make of it. So in this post I’ll review a few of the caveats and in future posts
I’ll address some of the others.

Default Subscriptions

One of the more controversial caveats from the Feedburner post was that some of the
Aggregators “ship with one or more of our top 10 feeds as a default” and that this may be
skewing the data. Bloglines CEO Mark Fletcher emphasizes this issue in the
Internetnews.com piece. He is quoted as saying “…there’s a red herring created by
default subscriptions (built into desktop software) that can skew results in ways that
don’t reflect the real user base.”

Now, I’m not so sure that default subs is as big an issue as the some of the
browser-based aggregator caveats (more on that in a minute). Brent Simmons of NetNewsWire, which was second in Feedburner’s
list, left this
on my blog yesterday about the default subs query:

“In the current release version, NetNewsWire 1.0.8, there are 15 default feeds. Of
those 15, there are just two FeedBurner feeds — MacMerc and MacMegasite, same as in 2.0

He also notes that users can of course unsubscribe from the default feeds at any

We don’t know how many people do unsubscribe, but given that NetNewsWire is an
aggregator exclusively for the Apple Mac OS X then I’d say a lot of users would
not unsubscribe from those two Mac feeds. But the real question, perhaps, is how many of Feedburner’s big customers are Mac publications? Brent’s mentioned two
that may be, but how many others are signed up to Feedburner’s service? Mac publications
are known to have large and devoted readerships, so it’s quite possible Feedburner’s data
is skewed to a degree towards the most popular Mac aggregators – if there
are a number of popular Mac feeds in their data.

Mac users big RSS users?

Another thing. If Mac publications are over-represented in Feedburner’s data, then
this would account for the interesting fact that the second-place getter in Feedburner’s
stats is an aggregator that is exclusively for people on the Mac OS platform. The
vast majority of computer users are Windows users and NetNewsWire is, as far as I know,
not an option for them. So it’s quite amazing that an aggregator that only a relatively
small percentage of people can use, turns out to be the number 2 aggregator for the whole
market – and by a healthy margin too! I suspect it’s got something to do with Macs being
very popular amongst the sort of geek likely to read RSS feeds. Is NetNewsWire the iPod
of RSS Aggregators? 🙂

Yahoo and the mainstream users

Quick note on MyYahoo, which may be best positioned among
the current crop of aggregators to get mainstream users to subscribe to RSS feeds (simply
because that’s their user base). It’s interesting that Firefox Live Bookmarks places
third in the Feedburner stats – and my stats for that matter. Firefox users are generally
of the geek persuasion. And Yahoo is a fair way back in 9th place, which seems to me another
indication that geeks dominate these stats – i.e. Mac users come second, Firefox third! I
mean come on, Macs and Firefox are minority products still and it’s mostly geeks who use
them. I use them 🙂

Bloglines Caveats

Lest I be seen as picking on the desktop aggregators, I should point out what I think
are two pretty big caveats for browser-based aggregators (and let’s face it, we’re mostly
talking about Bloglines!). One issue is that the Feedburner count of Bloglines subscribers doesn’t take into
account abandoned accounts, another is that a lot of desktop aggregator users do not poll
for feeds daily (24 hours is the timespan of Feedburner’s study). In the first case,
Bloglines stats are probably being overstated. In the second case, desktop stats (like
NetNewsWire’s) are likely being understated. Those are two pretty big caveats in my

Measuring Value

We’ve opened up a whole can of worms in this business of analyzing RSS Aggregator
market share. But that’s a good thing! The RSS world has long needed a way to measure
hits and readers. If blogging is to be monetized with advertising and writers getting paid for
niche content, then we need ways to measure the stats. How else will advertisers and
media companies, and investors for that matter (IPO anyone?) know how to value
RSS-based companies and RSS producers?

So that’s why I’m so enamoured of Feedburner
I think they’ve opened up the market for RSS measurement and are leading the way
for us all. Interestingly, Feedburner threw out a broad hint that they’re about to
release a service that will solve some of these stats caveats:

“Clearly, there’s a need to dive deeper on stats tracking to start to get a better
sense for how widely viewed an item is, how many registered subscribers are actually
viewing the content as opposed to just retrieving it, etc. Since we wouldn’t mention this
unless we were doing something about it, look for a premium offering on this front in the
near future.”


I’ve only scratched the surface of the many issues surrounding the RSS
aggregator market share data that has been released by Feedburner. But that’s OK,
because it means I get to keep digging into and analyzing the data! Now, Feedburner:
about those stats minus the top 10 feeds… how about giving those to us? 😉

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.