Newspapers 2.0: Bloglines newspaper RSS subscription figures

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 22 May 2007

I've been looking across a range of eight British newspapers to see the extent to which they have adopted so-called "Web 2.0" technologies like social bookmarking, blogging and the publication of RSS feeds. One thing that has been missing from this analysis so far is any attempt to gather any metrics about their usage.

Newspapers are rather precious about their web statistics, as illustrated by the spat between The Guardian and The Telegraph over who had the most visitors earlier this year. Several papers have now signed up to properly audited electronic ABC circulation figures, but this is still in its infancy.

From the outside, of course, it is impossible to get a true figure of how many referrals newspapers sites might be receiving from social bookmarking sites, and the electronic ABC figures don't include detailed breakdowns allowing us to see how popular newspaper blogs are.

We do, however, have one public source of figures to look at to give us an indication of the level of RSS subscriptions newspapers are generating - Bloglines.

I have to start with several caveats.

Bloglines only measures public subscriptions in one online RSS feed-reading service, which represent only one part of the RSS market. It doesn't measure reads or click-throughs. It also doesn't take into account any demographic skew between the user base of Bloglines and the readership of the newspapers concerned.

However, if you keep in mind that it might simply tell us more about the Bloglines audience than the whole of the newspaper market, a study of the number of subscriptions newspapers are attracting to their newsfeeds shows a marked difference in the performance of different newspapers.

And, rather like MPs, newspapers are always keen to be able to publish league tables reducing complex fields like education or healthcare provision into a popularity hit parade - so why not make a top forty of the most popular British newspaper RSS feeds according to Bloglines?

Top 40 British newspaper RSS feeds in Bloglines

In all I looked at the Bloglines subscription figures for 200 RSS feeds from eight newspapers.

Pos. Newspaper Feed Title Bloglines Subscribers
1GuardianGuardian Unlimited19,353
2GuardianWorld Latest643
3GuardianBooks494
4GuardianTechnology487
5GuardianMedia Guardian316
6GuardianFilm News293
7GuardianScience279
8GuardianUK Latest279
9GuardianFootball264
10GuardianThe Observer224
11IndependentNews: World224
12GuardianEducation Guardian165
13GuardianComment162
14GuardianPolitics154
15IndependentNews: UK143
16TelegraphConnected140
17IndependentEnjoyment: Books124
18GuardianSport108
19GuardianBusiness - Top Stories105
20IndependentNews: Media99
21TelegraphBreaking News94
22IndependentNews: Environment92
23TelegraphHealth91
24The SunNews90
25GuardianEnvironment87
26IndependentNews: Europe78
27Daily MailMail Online - main74
28IndependentNews: Business71
29GuardianSociety Guardian70
30IndependentSport: Football69
31IndependentEnjoyment: Music67
32TelegraphMotoring67
33The SunBizarre66
34IndependentComment: leader63
35TelegraphEducation62
36MirrorNews - Top Stories56
37TelegraphInternational News55
38Daily MailMail Online - news54
39TelegraphTelegraph News53
40TelegraphWine53

The Top 40 charts makes great reading for The Guardian, who have been publishing RSS feeds for a long time now, and who occupy the top ten slots in the chart. The Independent and The Telegraph are the next papers with popular feeds, and The Sun has one feed creeping into the top twenty-five.

Whilst the Daily Mail and The Mirror have feeds listed in the top forty, neither The Times nor the Daily Express can muster a feed with over 50 subscribers in Bloglines.

These trends broadly continue if we look at the aggregate number of subscribers across each newspaper's RSS offering.

British newspaper aggregate RSS subscriptions in Bloglines

Pos. Newspaper Total Bloglines Subscribers
1 The Guardian23,602
2 Independent1,527
3 Telegraph1,015
4 Daily Mail367
5 The Sun253
6 The Times168
7 The Mirror90
8 Daily Express1

There does appear to be some advantage in providing a range of feeds. Although none of the feeds provided by the Daily Mail attract a large number of subscribers individually, collectively they perform better than some papers who only offer a more limited set of RSS feeds.

The Daily Express total of one subscriber in Bloglines for all of their news-based RSS output looks pretty poor compared to the rest. However I believe they only started publishing any RSS feeds at all in the last couple of months since the site was re-designed, which gives all the other newspapers in the table a head-start over them.

The Telegraph Fashion feed mystery

In all of the tables above I have excluded one piece of data. When I compiled the figures I had two numbers that were vastly in excess of all of the other numbers.

The 19,000+ subscribers for The Guardian's main feed seems high compared to the rest of the figures, but I can just about believe it. It is the only paper to have several feeds with more than 200 subscribers, has invested heavily over the years in online coverage, and was an early adopter of RSS technology. In the context of other popular feeds on Bloglines it has about a fifth of the subscribers of an out-and-out geeky feed like Slashdot, and is around their 60th most popular feed overall.

However there is one piece of data I can't believe.

I have checked the figure again and again over a period of a couple of weeks now, but whenever I look, Bloglines insists that The Telegraph's Fashion RSS feed has in the region of 8,000+ subscribers.

20070522_telegraph-fashion.gif

I could be wrong - but I find myself unable to accept that, however good it may be, The Telegraph's coverage of fashion is 86 times more popular amongst Bloglines users than their top stories news feed.

Next...

The figures I've been looking at in this post only cover the non-blog RSS feeds from British newspapers. Tomorrow I'll be looking at the twenty newspaper blogs that are most subscribed to in Bloglines, and seeing which newspaper has the most blog subscriptions overall.

2 Comments

I think you're figures are skewed by the collapse in Bloglines market share over the last couple of years from perhaps 60% to perhaps 10-20%.

See FeedBurner's View of the Feed Market

The Groaniad were early - so many of their readers came in on bloglines.

All the others were later - so most of their readers come in on Google and perhaps Yahoo.

You would need to cut it off to "subscribers joining in the last 12 months" or simply (say) multiply all the others except the Groaniad by 5 or 10 to get a better representation in the figures. The latter approach is dodgy, but more accurate at this time imho.

Hi Julian, hopefully I made it clear enough with the caveats I put around the figures that I don't regard these as any kind of gospel. Clearly they only show the public data from one source and therefore do not represent the market as a whole. My principle point remains though, that unless the newspapers are willing to audit and publish their RSS usage, we can only make a guess at it using the only subscription figures available to us.

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