How many people use RSS anyway?

One of the slams I saw yesterday after we started posting Google Reader’s feed numbers is that “nobody reads RSS.”

Today, Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch, gave us some more numbers so we can extrapolate out just how many people actually are using RSS.

First, let’s start with the BBC. That’s the #1 most subscribed to feed on Google Reader that I can find.

Google Reader is reporting that 1,387,559 are subscribed to the News Front Page and another 824784 are subscribed to the UK Edition.

Let’s just call that two million people. Yeah, I know that many people are probably subscribed to both feeds, but let’s just go with it to make the math simple.

Now let’s make an assumption. Let’s say that half of all Google Readers are subscribed to the BBC. That means about four million people are using Google Reader.

Using the data from TechCrunch we see that Google counts for about 38% of all people using a feed reader. Let’s just round that to 40%. That means about 10 million people use RSS. Or probably less if my assumptions above prove to be too liberal.

So, why so small? And why does the world care about the behaviors of only 10 million people (out of six billion).

A few reasons.

First, getting 10 million users isn’t too shabby.

Second, I never expected RSS to get as popular as Paris Hilton.

Third, what’s the real power of RSS? The news influencers use it. So, if you want to reach the Paris Hilton crowd you’ve probably gotta go through someone who uses an RSS aggregator. Most of the journalists and almost all of the bloggers I know use RSS.

But, anyway, is 10 million a good or bad number? Why?

UPDATE: Alex Barrera says he asked FeedBurner reported to him that they have 65.6 million subscribers.

94 thoughts on “How many people use RSS anyway?

  1. I’ve done something very silly! I’ve made available an (almost) complete list of the RSS feeds to which I subscribe in my main Google Reader account. It’s not a huge number, just a couple of hundred, but Sciencebase regulars might like to check it out here

    http://www.sciencebase.com/david-bradley-rss-subscriptions.html

    I deleted a few of the more embarrassing ones that were in there, like Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand, Rush is a Band etc, so you’re left with the ubergeek stuff.

    db

  2. I’ve done something very silly! I’ve made available an (almost) complete list of the RSS feeds to which I subscribe in my main Google Reader account. It’s not a huge number, just a couple of hundred, but Sciencebase regulars might like to check it out here

    http://www.sciencebase.com/david-bradley-rss-subscriptions.html

    I deleted a few of the more embarrassing ones that were in there, like Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand, Rush is a Band etc, so you’re left with the ubergeek stuff.

    db

  3. Btw, my mother doesn’t know what RSS is, neither my brother, my neighbor, my wife, my boss, I am the only one in my social circle (except geeks) that now what RSS is.

    Calling planet earth…

  4. Btw, my mother doesn’t know what RSS is, neither my brother, my neighbor, my wife, my boss, I am the only one in my social circle (except geeks) that now what RSS is.

    Calling planet earth…

  5. Hey Rob, just one question:

    If your son doesn’t use RSS, nobody uses RSS!

    No kidding here.

    RSS is just for hard-core techies not for ordinary people.

    10M is a good census of the geek community.

  6. Hey Rob, just one question:

    If your son doesn’t use RSS, nobody uses RSS!

    No kidding here.

    RSS is just for hard-core techies not for ordinary people.

    10M is a good census of the geek community.

  7. Surely the fact that this is being talked about as RSS hilights the problem. Most people out there don’t know or care what that means. Sounds a bit techy! What is wrong with “subscriptions” a word that many people understand.

    I have been using feeds for a long time now, but it is only more recently that it has started feeling integrated.

    I like my email client ( outlook ) and I like my web browser IE7. With the combination of thes two I can discover and subscribe to feeds easily while I browse and then read them in my feeds section of my email client. This feels like the norm to me, it feels right.

    I use feeds for reading news, blogs, photo sites, checking for updates on development issue trackers, wikis, picking up new contracting jobs as they are announced from job sites, and automatic searches… all from the safety of my email client. I don’t want to use another reader like google to do that. In fact, I do use google reader but only to share good feeds I have read onto facebook – how arse about face is that?!

    Now I can’t imagine my life without feeds… but the office I am currently sat in with 20 other technical people, only 1 other person uses feeds – let alone my parents and general family! Why – because they have no idea what they are let alone how useful they are.

  8. Surely the fact that this is being talked about as RSS hilights the problem. Most people out there don’t know or care what that means. Sounds a bit techy! What is wrong with “subscriptions” a word that many people understand.

    I have been using feeds for a long time now, but it is only more recently that it has started feeling integrated.

    I like my email client ( outlook ) and I like my web browser IE7. With the combination of thes two I can discover and subscribe to feeds easily while I browse and then read them in my feeds section of my email client. This feels like the norm to me, it feels right.

    I use feeds for reading news, blogs, photo sites, checking for updates on development issue trackers, wikis, picking up new contracting jobs as they are announced from job sites, and automatic searches… all from the safety of my email client. I don’t want to use another reader like google to do that. In fact, I do use google reader but only to share good feeds I have read onto facebook – how arse about face is that?!

    Now I can’t imagine my life without feeds… but the office I am currently sat in with 20 other technical people, only 1 other person uses feeds – let alone my parents and general family! Why – because they have no idea what they are let alone how useful they are.

  9. Robert,

    You and I had this discussion over a year ago. Yes, it is still my hot button. Early this year I spoke to several groups of CIS/MIS/IT instructors. My first question was, “How many of you are using RSS and know it?” I had to include the “and know it” because people using google widgets are, of course, using RSS in many cases.

    In every case – remember, CIS/MIS/IT instructors – the numbers were amazingly low. In no group – all with 50+ people, I usually had 1 person. 1 Group of 75 people had three respond that they did, in fact, use RSS.

    My presentation revolved around giving them an example – using content they were interested in – and showing how my reader of choice – Feedreader – took care of things for them. The response has been overwhelming.

    The fun part is I send a follow up email with instructions on how to subscribe to my blog – keeping them in practice and adding subscribers. ;-)

  10. Robert,

    You and I had this discussion over a year ago. Yes, it is still my hot button. Early this year I spoke to several groups of CIS/MIS/IT instructors. My first question was, “How many of you are using RSS and know it?” I had to include the “and know it” because people using google widgets are, of course, using RSS in many cases.

    In every case – remember, CIS/MIS/IT instructors – the numbers were amazingly low. In no group – all with 50+ people, I usually had 1 person. 1 Group of 75 people had three respond that they did, in fact, use RSS.

    My presentation revolved around giving them an example – using content they were interested in – and showing how my reader of choice – Feedreader – took care of things for them. The response has been overwhelming.

    The fun part is I send a follow up email with instructions on how to subscribe to my blog – keeping them in practice and adding subscribers. ;-)

  11. Probably don’t know how simple it is. I use a free pc-based RSS reader called SHARPREADER. I find the RSS addresses and copy them to my RSS reader and I am updated every 15 minutes on all my feeds.

    I track almost anything. Anything that has a feed.

    I use it for my favorite blogs (around 50) my JOB Searches in INDEED.com( I have arpund 1000 entries, every search returns around 70), comments I make on blogs… and NEWS The good thing about feeds is that ist is NOT used exclusively for news feeds. Isn’t that cool??? I just love it. I have everyhtign at my fingertips. I find the RSS reader in IX very clumsy so I don’t use it. Besides, it started to reject my feeds as unknown data (?).

  12. Probably don’t know how simple it is. I use a free pc-based RSS reader called SHARPREADER. I find the RSS addresses and copy them to my RSS reader and I am updated every 15 minutes on all my feeds.

    I track almost anything. Anything that has a feed.

    I use it for my favorite blogs (around 50) my JOB Searches in INDEED.com( I have arpund 1000 entries, every search returns around 70), comments I make on blogs… and NEWS The good thing about feeds is that ist is NOT used exclusively for news feeds. Isn’t that cool??? I just love it. I have everyhtign at my fingertips. I find the RSS reader in IX very clumsy so I don’t use it. Besides, it started to reject my feeds as unknown data (?).

  13. This is quite on spot considering that RSS is the most widely used XML implementation around today. Abundance of platforms that support RSS, browsers starting to support RSS out-of-the-box and various other platforms having the ability to integrate RSS feeds I feel that the usage of RSS will only accelerate at a rapid rate.

  14. This is quite on spot considering that RSS is the most widely used XML implementation around today. Abundance of platforms that support RSS, browsers starting to support RSS out-of-the-box and various other platforms having the ability to integrate RSS feeds I feel that the usage of RSS will only accelerate at a rapid rate.

  15. Scoble, I stopped reading when you started making a bunch of assumptions that have no basis in fact.

    Oh, and I’m subscribed to dozens and dozens of feeds, but I only read a handful of them per week.

  16. Scoble, I stopped reading when you started making a bunch of assumptions that have no basis in fact.

    Oh, and I’m subscribed to dozens and dozens of feeds, but I only read a handful of them per week.

  17. Sorry, but maybe I’m looking at the whole issue from the wrong direction, but why in the world do we care about how many people use RSS? So what? It’s like trying to get excited about how many people use TCP/IP.

    Or do you mean xml-syndicated content as a whole, as opposed to RSS specifically? Because how many people are making use of xml-syndicated content is something that one might be able to get excited about. But unless you’re Dave Winer, getting excited about how many people are using RSS is, well, not exciting.

  18. Sorry, but maybe I’m looking at the whole issue from the wrong direction, but why in the world do we care about how many people use RSS? So what? It’s like trying to get excited about how many people use TCP/IP.

    Or do you mean xml-syndicated content as a whole, as opposed to RSS specifically? Because how many people are making use of xml-syndicated content is something that one might be able to get excited about. But unless you’re Dave Winer, getting excited about how many people are using RSS is, well, not exciting.

  19. RSS was integral to the design of our new music licensing website, Burst Labs.

    Of course, using a niche technology in a micro-niche business field is probably not the most efficient use of our time and money, but we wanted to do something really forward thinking. Mission accomplished (for those who Get It, anyway).

    And, personally, RSS changed everything about how I get my daily info. I don’t understand how more people aren’t on board yet. But that’s okay… being a leader in a micro-niche is a good place to be for our biz.

  20. RSS was integral to the design of our new music licensing website, Burst Labs.

    Of course, using a niche technology in a micro-niche business field is probably not the most efficient use of our time and money, but we wanted to do something really forward thinking. Mission accomplished (for those who Get It, anyway).

    And, personally, RSS changed everything about how I get my daily info. I don’t understand how more people aren’t on board yet. But that’s okay… being a leader in a micro-niche is a good place to be for our biz.

  21. Recently I have been giving talks to local business networking groups on the subject of RSS. I have broken it down into two talks. 1.) How to use it to GET the most recent info and 2.) How to distribute your content. I do tell them the “term” RSS is not my favorite but it’s important they know about the technology for business purposes.

  22. Recently I have been giving talks to local business networking groups on the subject of RSS. I have broken it down into two talks. 1.) How to use it to GET the most recent info and 2.) How to distribute your content. I do tell them the “term” RSS is not my favorite but it’s important they know about the technology for business purposes.

  23. Robert,

    While most of the journalists and bloggers in your world are power RSS users, I think that the majority of journalists are not using RSS… Sadly, the overall number is probably less than 30%.

  24. I think the best part of RSS is beyond the End-User (the ones that read the content in a reader). It is now so simple to pipeline content from one site to another. I can for example integrate new features to an older CMS without throuwing out everything. It’s so nice to publish content once and let other services (email, sms, …) publish it for you without the need of further interaction.

    IMHO CMS was the first revolution (separating content from form) for websites and RSS is the second (joining data from different sources easily)

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