Full-content RSS feeds harm page views, but not viewership

Merlin Mann calls for websites to offer free, full-text RSS feeds. Jason Snell agrees, but wonders if offering them harms web traffic. As Boing Boing's had a full-content feed since the dawn of time, we can't really tell, but John Gruber switched only recently. He says that in his experience, a dip in traffic did result–but that in the long run, his RSS feed became the primary source of income for Daring Fireball:

"What is "traffic"? I suspect Snell is talking about page views. … When I switched DF's free public RSS feed to full-content in August 2007, DF's web page views had been growing steadily month-to-month. After the switch, web page views were stagnant, with no growth, for about a year. (If anything, they went down in the first few months.) But readership clearly continued to grow: subscribers to the feed skyrocketed. And, about a year ago, even web page views started growing significantly once again — going from a little over one million per month to a little over two million per month.

Perhaps the singular focus of Gruber's subject matter allows him to charge selected sponsors a premium for feed advertising, whereas more diverse sites aren't likely to get good deals (see Snell's follow-up). But his point is a doozy: while subscribers to a full-content RSS feed offer the most attention, they generate the least page views.