RSS subscribers include the reader, the addict, and the pack-rat
As more people start creating blogs and more web sites that distribute new content provide RSS (and Atom) feeds, there is more and more opportunity to subscribe to content using some type of feed reader. I've been using the NewsGator add-in for Outlook since soon after it was released. I now subscribe to 252 feeds total. Most are blogs, some are news/content update items from sites like msdn.com, msnbc.com, CNet, PC World, eWeek, etc. Generally when I find a new blog or web site that provides an RSS or Atom feed, I review the overall content provided and determine if it is something that I may want to keep up with when new items are posted. Or I may decide to subscribe it is something I may want to reference later via a local offline content search.
What I have found is that there are three basic types of feed subscription behavior patterns: reader, addict, and pack-rat.
The reader: Someone who subscribes to a blog or site feed and actually reads the content. It could include just skimming the title and skipping through the content, browsing it quickly, or reading it carefully. Generally a manual delete is done for each feed item.
The addict: Someone who sees interesting information on a blog or page and subscribes to not miss out on future content posted there, but... never ends up finding the time or interest to actually read the content. Generally the result in this case is going to a folder of offline feeds and deciding that none of them will ever get read or they are just too outdated.. then a 'select all' and [DELETE] is performed removing the downloaded feed content without ever reading it.
The pack-rat: Someone who subscribes to a feed and doesn't read it right away or even ever... but keeps it archived in their offline reader folder for possible future reading or reference - basically an offline archive.
I exhibit the behavior of all the of the types above. Of the 252 feeds I subscribe to as of today, a rough estimate for me is that I read or quickly browse through about 50%, archive about 30%, and end up deleting without reading about 20%. The ones I delete without reading is generally news or article type content from a news or publication site rather than a blog. We often see statistics on how many web views and how many feeds a particular blog or site receives. What data we don't see is how many feeds are actually read after content feed is downloaded.
It appears that the number of blogs being created is increasing far faster than the overall quality of blogs available. RSS feeds available today somewhat remind me about how cable and satellite TV systems now have hundreds of channels available as compared to only around 12 channels available 30 years ago. When I grew up, channel surfing involved clicking the channel changer remote control up or down and scanning through each channel one at a time. Today, channel surfing is usually more like menu surfing by scrolling through a menu before selecting a channel to change to. The benefit of more channels available means there is a bigger selection to choose from to watch. The downside is that it is much harder to find what is on at a given time and easier to miss something you would have liked to have watched.
I know many executives have administrative assistants who read throw their inbox and filter the content for the executive to read, delegating and deleting other content. Maybe in the future there will be administrative assistants who simply scroll through feeds and save and delete subscription content for executives to read. So to those developers out there who have created a feed reader program, if you see a post saying "Wanted: Feed Reader with at least 2 years experience", they may be looking for a person and not a program.
I think I was subscribing to under 100 feeds a year ago. And I'm thinking that for most people, subscribing to over 100 feeds is too many (at least for a type reader above). Now I've become interested in the growth of new blogs started and more interested in finding the highest quality blogs (based on my personal and work related interests) that exist. Now if only there was a feed that I could subscribe to that would provide me with all the new blogs that I'm interested in subscribing to.