Home The State of the Web-based RSS Reader Market – Feedburner, Pheedo Release Stats

The State of the Web-based RSS Reader Market – Feedburner, Pheedo Release Stats

Feedburner has released
an interesting new report
on web-based RSS Readers, prompted by the recent
introduction of Google Reader into its stats (incidentally, for some reason R/WW only
increased by around 20% after Google Reader was added to Feedburner; whereas most other
tech sites increased by 40+%).

RSS Analytics plagued by unreliable stats

Feedburner is putting a lot of effort into enhancing the way it measures RSS feeds. I
was talking to someone the other day about how RSS analytics is still very much a nascent
industry – i.e. it’s even more difficult to get reliable feed reader stats than it is to
get reliable webpage stats (and I’ve written before about how easy it is to manipulateboth). Feedburner
itself points out one of my particular bugbears at the moment – how being a default
in an RSS Reader like Netvibes or Pageflakes artificially increases your RSS
subscriber number (in some cases by a large amount). R/WW has benefited from this behavior too, as
we are a default feed in the bundles that Rojo provides. But alas, we’re not a default
feed on the other popular RSS Readers and startpages 🙁 Anyway, all of these things mean
that a blog’s RSS subscriber number should be taken with more than a few grains of

Feedburner focuses on Audience Engagement

Despite all these issues with RSS analytics, Feedburner is leading the way in feed
management for consumers and in this new report they discuss some new measurements –
focused on how people are reading feeds and interacting (i.e. clicking or ‘viewing’) with
them. They call this “Audience engagement” and it seems to be a priority now for
Feedburner, in order to counter the issues with straight subscriber counts (e.g. the
default feed issue discussed above). For the record, I think this new focus on audience
engagement makes perfect sense for Feedburner – as it will help move RSS analytics
forward and remove some of the stigma attached to it, due to the current unreliability over RSS
subscriber counts.

Feedburner has an aggregate db of 604,533 feeds and from that, they’ve come up with
the following chart of audience engagement by ‘views’, for web-based RSS Readers:

It shows that Google Reader is now the number 1 web-based RSS Reader with 59%, well
ahead of former king Bloglines (which has been cruising along with no major re-designs,
living off its reputation, for too long now). Netvibes has shown amazing growth over the
past year and is now in an enviable position amongst the start pages. Newsgator is
probably more of a niche enterprise and high end consumer play these days, which may suit
it just fine. In reality, it’s a battle between Google and Bloglines (owned by Ask.com)
for web-based RSS Readership.

Note that MyYahoo, one of the top 3 RSS Readers overall in Feedburner, does not figure
in ‘views’, as it only displays content summaries – so users need to click through to the
site to view the full content. This is reflected in Feedburner’s graph of audience
engagement by clicks:

A similar thing could be said about Netvibes and the other start pages, where users
generally click through to view content. Interestingly, both of these charts suggest that
Netvibes is 3 times larger than live.com, Microsoft’s start page. Although I’m sure even
Microsoft would admit that at this stage, Netvibes is a much more sophisticated product.
Microsoft (and Google) both probably figure they have plenty of time to catch up, as
start pages are still a niche early adopter thing. In fact, there’s a very good chance
Netvibes or Pageflakes will be acquired by one of the big 3 (Google, MS, Yahoo) by end of
this year. My money’s on Yahoo acquiring Netvibes.

Pheedo’s Stats

Pheedo has also come out with some stats for web-based RSS Readers. Their chart for
market share indicates that Newsgator Online leads in subscriber numbers (in Pheedo):

Note however that Pheedo’s
stats for Spring 2006
(PDF) showed that Bloglines was leading with 30% share then,
against just 10% for Newsgator:

So what has changed since Spring 2006, to make Newsgator Online
the leader amongst Pheedo publishers? I think that needs more explanation, if anyone from
Pheedo is reading this.


It’s clear that Google, Yahoo, Ask.com (Bloglines) are leading the way with web-based
RSS Readers. Google and Yahoo have different approaches for now and Microsoft isn’t
bothered with a general web-based Reader – they will focus on email (Outlook), the
browser (IE) and start page (live.com). Netvibes is showing impressive numbers and so
must now be a prime acquisition target for one of the big 3 – and my guess is that Yahoo
needs a strong ‘start page’ type technology moreso than the other two, who are doing it
themselves (live.com and Google Personalized Homepage).

Disclaimer: I am an advisor to Nooked, which is
an RSS marketing company.

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