Top 100 BBC RSS feeds in Google Reader

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 21 November 2007

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:

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.

Top 100 BBC RSS feeds in Google Reader
Pos.Feed nameSubscribersRSS feed
1.BBC logo  BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition304,589RSS icon
2.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Sport Homepage | World Edition84,713RSS icon
3.BBC logo  BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition16,328RSS icon
4.BBC logo  BBC News | Technology | UK Edition8,703RSS icon
5.BBC logo  BBC News | World | UK Edition7,729RSS icon
6.BBC logo  BBC News | News Front Page | World Edition4,543RSS icon
7.BBC logo  BBC News | Science/Nature | UK Edition3,495RSS icon
8.BBC logo  BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition3,280RSS icon
9.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | UK Edition3,191RSS icon
10.BBC logo  BBC News | Technology | World Edition3,120RSS icon
11.BBC logo  BBC News | UK | UK Edition2,805RSS icon
12.BBC logo  BBC News | Business | UK Edition2,697RSS icon
13.BBC logo  BBC News | Science/Nature | World Edition2,574RSS icon
14.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Sport Homepage | UK Edition2,555RSS icon
15.BBC logo  BBCPersian.com | Persian News index2,434RSS icon
16.BBC logo  BBC Learning English1,924RSS icon
17.BBC logo  BBCChinese.com | News1,847RSS icon
18.BBC logo  BBC News | Entertainment | UK Edition1,639RSS icon
19.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | Premier League | UK Edition1,416RSS icon
20.BBC logo  BBCBrasil.com | News | Front Page1,376RSS icon
21.BBC logo  BBC News | Health | UK Edition1,322RSS icon
22.BBC logo  BBC News | Americas | World Edition1,316RSS icon
23.BBC logo  BBCMundo.com | Portada | News1,306RSS icon
24.BBC logo  BBC News | Asia-Pacific | World Edition1,157RSS icon
25.BBC logo  BBC News | Education | UK Edition1,077RSS icon
26.BBC logo  BBC News | Middle East | World Edition1,063RSS icon
27.BBC logo  BBC News | Europe | World Edition1,034RSS icon
28.BBC logo  BBC News | South Asia | World Edition907RSS icon
29.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Cricket | UK Edition894RSS icon
30.BBC logo  BBCRussian.com | News864RSS icon
31.BBC logo  BBC Radio 1836RSS icon
32.BBC logo  BBC News | Business | World Edition775RSS icon
33.BBC logo  BBC Arabic News751RSS icon
34.BBC logo  BBCChinese.com | China News680RSS icon
35.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Rugby Union | UK Edition667RSS icon
36.BBC logo  BBC NEWS | Magazine Monitor660RSS icon
37.BBC logo  BBC - Weather Centre - Forecast for London, United Kingdom649RSS icon
38.BBC logo  BBC China | Learning English602RSS icon
39.BBC logo  BBC News | England | London | UK Edition565RSS icon
40.BBC logo  BBC News | Entertainment | World Edition564RSS icon
41.BBC logo  BBC News | England | UK Edition557RSS icon
42.BBC logo  BBC News | Scotland | UK Edition510RSS icon
43.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | World Edition503RSS icon
44.BBC logo  BBCMundo.com | Science and Technology502RSS icon
45.BBC logo  BBCChinese.com | World490RSS icon
46.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | Teams | Liverpool | UK Edition489RSS icon
47.BBC logo  BBC NEWS | The Editors488RSS icon
48.BBC logo  BBC News: Evanomics480RSS icon
49.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Motorsport | Formula One | World Edition478RSS icon
50.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Motorsport | Formula One | UK Edition467RSS icon
51.BBC logo  BBC News | Programmes | Click | UK Edition461RSS icon
52.BBC logo  BBC News | In Pictures | World Edition457RSS icon
53.BBC logo  BBC News | Video and Audio | UK Edition454RSS icon
54.BBC logo  BBC China | BBC China Home Index425RSS icon
55.BBC logo  BBCChinese.com | Business422RSS icon
56.BBC logo  BBC NEWS | Nick Robinson's Newslog417RSS icon
57.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Tennis | World Edition406RSS icon
58.BBC logo  BBC News | Health | World Edition378RSS icon
=59.BBC logo  BBC China | Take Away English366RSS icon
=59.BBC logo  BBCPersian.com | Persian Iran index366RSS icon
61.BBC logo  BBC On This Day | Front Page360RSS icon
62.BBC logo  backstage.bbc.co.uk :: Backstage.bbc.co.uk357RSS icon
63.BBC logo  BBC News | UK | World Edition350RSS icon
64.BBC logo  BBCTurkish.com | Homepage336RSS icon
65.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | Teams | Arsenal | UK Edition332RSS icon
66.BBC logo  bbc.co.uk/music CD Reviews328RSS icon
67.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Motorsport | UK Edition324RSS icon
68.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Tennis | UK Edition319RSS icon
69.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Asia-Pacific | Country profiles | UK Edition316RSS icon
70.BBC logo  BBC News | Northern Ireland | UK Edition311RSS icon
71.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | Teams | Man Utd | UK Edition310RSS icon
=72.BBC logo  BBC News | World | South Asia | UK Edition308RSS icon
=72.BBC logo  BBCMundo.com | Latin America308RSS icon
74.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Africa | UK Edition307RSS icon
75.BBC logo  BBCUrdu.com | Urdu News index293RSS icon
76.BBC logo  BBC - Radio Homepage - International Edition290RSS icon
77.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Cricket | World Edition273RSS icon
78.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Middle East | UK Edition265RSS icon
79.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Americas | UK Edition262RSS icon
80.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Europe | Country profiles | UK Edition256RSS icon
81.BBC logo  BBC News | Wales | UK Edition254RSS icon
82.BBC logo  BBC - bbc.co.uk homepage - Home of the BBC on the Internet253RSS icon
83.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Americas | Country profiles | UK Edition248RSS icon
84.BBC logo  BBC NEWS | Peston's Picks246RSS icon
85.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Other Sports | Cycling | UK Edition245RSS icon
86.BBC logo  BBCHindi.com | Homepage233RSS icon
87.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Asia-Pacific | UK Edition232RSS icon
88.BBC logo  BBCMundo.com | Business223RSS icon
=89.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | Teams | Tottenham Hotspur | UK Edition213RSS icon
=89.BBC logo  BBCVietnamese.com | Homepage213RSS icon
91.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Golf | UK Edition206RSS icon
92.BBC logo  BBC News Player | Business205RSS icon
93.BBC logo  BBC News | Help | RSS | UK Edition191RSS icon
94.BBC logo  BBC News | World | Africa | Country profiles | UK Edition185RSS icon
95.BBC logo  BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Mark Mardell183RSS icon
96.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | Teams | Chelsea | UK Edition178RSS icon
97.BBC logo  BBCBrasil.com | Culture & Entertainment176RSS icon
98.BBC logo  BBC Sport | Football | World Cup 2006 | World Edition171RSS icon
99.BBC logo  BBCBrasil.com | Ciência & Saúde | Ciência & Saúde169RSS icon
100.BBC logo  BBC News | In Pictures | UK Edition164RSS icon

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!

3 Comments

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...

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