Top 100 BBC RSS feeds in Google Reader
Adrian Monck recently described this kind of thing as the production of "list porn", but I still find it all rather fascinating. When I was making my list of the most popular British newspaper feeds in Google Reader, I couldn't help wondering what the comparative figures would be for BBC RSS feeds.
The usual caveats apply:
- Google Reader is only a fraction of the market for online RSS feed readers.
- Online feed reading is only a proportion of the way that RSS feeds are used.
- Google Reader talks about absolute subscription numbers, with no measure of whether those subscribers are active by ever logging into their accounts.
- In its numbers, Google Reader also reflects some default feed-reading settings for Google properties.
As well as all of that, despite the reputation of Google being built upon search, searching Google Reader for feeds isn't an exact science. Searching for "bbc.co" turns up lots of BBC feeds, but not the Nick Robinson blog, whilst searching for "Nick Robinson" does, despite the fact that it should be a match for "bbc.co" as well.
So, in compiling the table I've looked across the results of a lot of searches for variations on the BBC brands and domain names, used lists of all the UK's football teams and all of the blogs on the BBC's Blog Network, and ended up with a spreadsheet of 330+ feeds, and half a million Google Reader subscriptions to BBC content. Here are the top 100.
I have excluded a couple of feed types from the table. For one thing, Google Reader can also handle podcast feeds, and so there were quite a few subscriptions to feeds from downloads.bbc.co.uk. Since they are a totally different type of content, I've broken them out into a separate chart which I will publish tomorrow.
Secondly, with the exception of the London feed, I have discounted from the table any subscriptions to five-day weather forecasts. This was not because I didn't regard them as valid subscriptions, but purely a practical reaction to the fact that I was spotting the odd feed (Manchester and Inverness for example) which was attracting 5 or 8 subscribers. However, I didn't have the will to try and search for all of the thousands of possible feed locations in order to gather the numbers. I've left London in as an exception, not because of having a traditional BBC London-centric viewpoint - in fact I did once try and shift the BBC's default weather display away from Central London - but simply because as the 37th most popular feed, I didn't feel I could ignore it.
I also didn't opt to amalgamate UK and World edition feeds on the same topic, as they carry different content.
So, what to make of the table?
Well, it is no surprise to see the total domination of content from the News and Sport areas of the BBC site - this is the kind of content that is ideal for RSS delivery and the BBC have offered this content as XML for some considerable time now. It also isn't a surprise to see the topics of science and technology prominent in the most popular feeds.
In terms of languages other than English, the Persian news feed is the most popular, followed by BBC News in Chinese, Brazillian Portugeuse, Latin American Spanish, Russian and Arabic. There are also subscribers on Google Reader to BBC content in Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, Vietnamese, Tamil, Romanian, African French and Indonesian
Of the BBC's blogs, the interesting BBC Internet and Radio Lab blogs are too new to have attracted a significant audience. Evanomics pips Nick Robinson to most popular correspondent crown by this metric, and it is amusing to see the light-hearted fluff of the Magazine Monitor earning more Google Reader subscriptions than the rather more weighty Editors Blog.
Evidence of one of the drawbacks of using subscriber numbers as a measure of popularity creeps in at the foot of the chart. Google Reader registers the BBC's World Cup 2006 feed as having 171 subscribers, although no new content has been added to the feed since July 25th 2006. Meanwhile, although generally regarded as a good industry standard in explaining RSS, it hasn't prevented 191 subscriptions to the BBC's RSS Help index, which surely isn't the intention!
Excellent list porn. Thank you.
A small note of caution: number 76 in the list, the BBC Radio feed, appears to be rather empty (and I can't for the life of me understand what it's there for).
I can't quite work out whether Google Desktop, which automatically subscribes you to any RSS feed you come across, is included in these figures; but it would make sense, wouldn't it? That would then explain why it's there at all, given there's no call to action to subscribe to that RSS feed.
So, perhaps these figures also show "how popular these sites are with Google Desktop users" as well...
Yes, that RSS feed only appears if you are looking at the international edition of the Radio homepage. That page also lists an OMPL file as well in the head of the HTML - http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/i/rssnewsfeed.opml
which also appears to be blank. Maybe an unintended feature due to the CMS used?
I don't to be honest think these are a very good metric at all - but I do like counting things and making lists :-)
I've changed the icon to World Service and specified it is the international edition at #76. Still doesn't explain why Google credits an empty feed with subscribers of course...