Top 100 British newspaper feeds in Google Reader

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 2 November 2007

Six months ago when I was doing a series of articles about how Web 2.0 British newspaper websites are, I produced a couple of charts illustrating which newspaper and newspaper blog RSS feeds were popular according to their Bloglines subscriber numbers.

It was rather a flawed study, since it only looked at one source of subscription figures, and would obviously be skewed by the demographic make-up of the Bloglines user base. At the time, though, I made the point that it was the best I could do until newspapers published fully audited RSS distribution figures.

Well, that hasn't yet happened. However, there has been one development - Google Reader has also started publishing subscriber numbers against the name of a feed in their search results.

Searching for feeds in Google Reader

I've therefore had a good search around Google Reader for the titles, domain names, and leading bloggers of British newspapers, and produced this list of the 100 most popular British newspaper RSS feeds - according to their Google Reader subscription numbers at least.

Top 100 British newspaper feeds in Google Reader
Pos.   Newspaper and Feed Subscribers  
1.The Guardian iconGuardian - UK Latest49,448RSS feed icon
2.The Guardian iconGuardian - Home24,619RSS feed icon
3.Financial Times iconFT - US Homepage14,111RSS feed icon
4.Financial Times iconFT - UK Homepage13,655RSS feed icon
5.The Times iconTimes - UK News13,065RSS feed icon
6.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - UK News12,873RSS feed icon
7.The Sun iconThe Sun - News12,031RSS feed icon
8.Financial Times iconFT - International Economy8,963RSS feed icon
9.Financial Times iconFT - Market News7,120RSS feed icon
10.Financial Times iconFT - World5,740RSS feed icon
11.The Guardian iconGuardian - World5,666RSS feed icon
12.The Times iconTimes - Business News5,125RSS feed icon
13.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Sport5,062RSS feed icon
14.The Guardian iconGuardian - Books4,770RSS feed icon
15.Metro iconMetro - Weird4,683RSS feed icon
16.The Guardian iconGuardian - Football4,453RSS feed icon
17.The Guardian iconGuardian - Technology3,261RSS feed icon
18.The Guardian iconGuardian - Media Guardian3,198RSS feed icon
19.The Guardian iconGuardian - Film News3,027RSS feed icon
20.Financial Times iconFT - UK News2,825RSS feed icon
21.The Times iconTimes - World News2,761RSS feed icon
22.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Breaking News2,469RSS feed icon
23.The Independent iconIndependent - News2,257RSS feed icon
24.Financial Times iconFT - China2,058RSS feed icon
25.Financial Times iconFT - Currency Markets News and Data1,850RSS feed icon
26.The Independent iconIndependent - World News1,716RSS feed icon
27.Financial Times iconFT - Europe1,625RSS feed icon
28.Financial Times iconFT - Asia Homepage1,522RSS feed icon
29.The Guardian iconGuardian - Technology Blog1,439RSS feed icon
30.Financial Times iconFT - Technology1,401RSS feed icon
31.The Times iconTimes - Law News1,339RSS feed icon
32.Financial Times iconFT - Commodities News and Market Data1,282RSS feed icon
33.The Guardian iconGuardian - Education1,139RSS feed icon
34.The Guardian iconGuardian - Science1,120RSS feed icon
35.The Guardian iconGuardian - Observer1,093RSS feed icon
36.The Guardian iconGuardian Comment Is Free - Homepage1,002RSS feed icon
37.The Independent iconIndependent - UK News844RSS feed icon
38.The Scotsman iconThe Scotsman - News794RSS feed icon
39.The Guardian iconGuardian - Arts764RSS feed icon
40.Financial Times iconFT - Companies755RSS feed icon
41.The Guardian iconGuardian - Sport749RSS feed icon
42.The Sun iconThe Sun - Sport728RSS feed icon
43.The Scotsman iconThe Scotsman - Main727RSS feed icon
44.The Guardian iconGuardian - Music707RSS feed icon
45.The Guardian iconGuardian - Comment694RSS feed icon
46.The Guardian iconGuardian Comment Is Free - Charlie Brooker657RSS feed icon
47.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Fashion652RSS feed icon
48.The Guardian iconGuardian - Environment623RSS feed icon
49.The Guardian iconGuardian - Business621RSS feed icon
50.The Guardian iconGuardian - Gamesblog605RSS feed icon
51.The Times iconTimes - Top Stories571RSS feed icon
52.Evening Standard (This Is London) iconEvening Standard (This Is London)566RSS feed icon
53.Financial Times iconFT - India560RSS feed icon
54.Daily Mail iconDaily Mail - This Is Money Companies & Markets511RSS feed icon
55.Daily Mail iconDaily Mail Front Page484RSS feed icon
56.The Guardian iconGuardian - Politics479RSS feed icon
57.The Guardian iconGuardian - Art472RSS feed icon
58.Financial Times iconFT - IT424RSS feed icon
59.Financial Times iconFT - Telecoms413RSS feed icon
60.Financial Times iconFT - Media and Internet398RSS feed icon
61.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Opinion382RSS feed icon
62.Financial Times iconFT - Alphaville378RSS feed icon
=63.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Top News354RSS feed icon
=63.The Scotsman iconThe Scotsman - Scotland354RSS feed icon
65.The Times iconTimes - Sport News345RSS feed icon
66.Daily Mirror iconDaily Mirror - Top Stories344RSS feed icon
67.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Business News322RSS feed icon
68.The Times iconTimes - Comment300RSS feed icon
69.The Guardian iconGuardian - Society291RSS feed icon
70.The Independent iconIndependent - Business288RSS feed icon
71.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Business281RSS feed icon
72.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Arts276RSS feed icon
73.The Guardian iconGuardian - Organ Grinder265RSS feed icon
74.The Guardian iconGuardian - Online263RSS feed icon
75.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Gardening260RSS feed icon
76.The Sun iconThe Sun - Bizarre237RSS feed icon
77.The Independent iconIndependent - News: Environment218RSS feed icon
78.The Independent iconIndependent - Football211RSS feed icon
79.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Top News198RSS feed icon
80.The Guardian iconGuardian - Roy Greenslade Blog191RSS feed icon
81.The Independent iconIndependent - News: Robert Fisk174RSS feed icon
82.The Guardian iconGuardian - Sport Blog170RSS feed icon
83.The Independent iconIndependent - News: Media168RSS feed icon
84.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Blogs : Foreign : Richard Spencer157RSS feed icon
85.Metro iconMetro - Home152RSS feed icon
86.The Times iconTimes - Blog: Ruth Gledhill139RSS feed icon
87.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Blogs135RSS feed icon
88.Daily Mail iconDaily Mail - This Is Money Frontpage129RSS feed icon
89.Daily Mirror iconDaily Mirror - Homepage120RSS feed icon
90.The Telegraph iconTelegraph - Blogs : Technology : Shane Richmond117RSS feed icon
91.The Times iconTimes - Blog - Comment Central110RSS feed icon
92.Daily Mail iconDaily Mail - Peter Hitchens Blog104RSS feed icon
93.The Times iconTimes - Blog: Charles Bremner94RSS feed icon
94.The Times iconTimes - Blog: Eco Worrier83RSS feed icon
95.The Times iconTimes - News Blog82RSS feed icon
96.The Times iconTimes - Blog: Money Central81RSS feed icon
97.The Times iconTimes - Blog: A Don's Life73RSS feed icon
98.The Independent iconIndependent - Education72RSS feed icon
99.The Times iconTimes - Blog: Peter Stodhart71RSS feed icon
100.Daily Mail iconDaily Mail News69RSS feed icon

It is important I think to note the dominance of both the most serious newspapers, and the most serious subjects. Business, law and technology news, for example, do disproportionately well via RSS, compared to the amount of coverage that football or golf get in print and HTML. The FT also seems to score high with their tech feeds - IT, Telecoms and the Internet feeds all feature, whilst some of the more established areas of the marketplace do not. It seems to pay to make lots of feeds - the best performing papers are on the whole ones with the widest selection of feeds.

The leading personality by far is Charlie Brooker. Again I think that tends to suggest something about the kind of audience that use RSS feeds. Other personalities scoring highly were Roy Greenslade, Robert Fisk, Richard Spencer, Ruth Gledhill, Shane Richmond and Peter Hitchens - all with over 100 subscribers to their individual feed.

A couple of other interesting things stood out.

Firstly, I couldn't find any evidence that a single person has used Google Reader to subscribe to any RSS content at all from the Daily Express. In fact, for one search, the top results Google Reader brings back is for my own Chipwrapper newspaper headline feeds - albeit with no Google Reader subscribers either!

A fruitless search for the Daily Express

Secondly, Metro's "Weird" feed performs astonishingly well, with over 4,000 subscribers. This an order of magnitude greater than the audience for their news and sport content delivered via RSS.

And then there are the newspapers that didn't make the 100 because they are just dipping their toe into the RSS waters. The Daily Record in Scotland has two RSS subscribers in Google Reader, putting it on a par with The Daily Star's Celebrity feed. Scotland on Sunday is just ahead of them - with 3 subscribers.

The Google Reader subscriber numbers are again, of course, only one section of the feed-reading market, but I still think it provides a useful snapshot of the kind of audiences that newspapers are (and aren't) attracting for their content.

5 Comments

Good analysis, Martin. However, Google Reader stats do have flaws as this analysis shows.

Most of that doesn't affect the feeds on your list but it's worth bearing in mind that no RSS service attempts to verify whether a subscriber is active or not.

For example, I'm probably counted as a Bloglines subscriber for any number of feeds but I haven't logged into Bloglines for well over a year.

Thanks for the findings but keep this in mind: Google Reader Stats are Bullshit (With Proof).

Here are the numbers for Danish Media: Så mange rss-abonnenter har de største danske websteder (I hope your Danish is not too rusty).

It seems that Danes are adopting RSS much faster than the British. You can't rely on the first four in the Danish list - they are defaults in iGoogle - but the rest have as many RSS subscribers as UK media. And we are just 5,000,000.

Any guesses why?

I certainly agree that it is flawed metric - although frankly what metric isn't on the web ;-)

The Google Reader Blog tried to clear up some of the mysteries in this post. Certainly the number of subscribers measured by both Google Reader and Bloglines in public do not agree with the stats I get from FeedBurner for the feed for this site, and clearly include distortions for all sorts of reasons.

What interests me is the kind of general trend the list illustrates - which is one of the reasons I put the newspaper favicons into the list so you could visually see who was performing well on this measure.

I think it shows that the papers that have invested heavily in providing multiple feeds are seeing a return on investment on those feeds in terms of subscriber numbers. The Guardian, Times and Telegraph, it seems to me, are reaping benefits in this area, that are leaving the middle-brow papers trailing behind.

And obviously there are some interesting things missing from the list - I can't believe that if The Sun's Sport feed has 700+ subscribers listed that their specific Football feed has none - but I couldn't find it listed. And I'm always puzzled why The Telegraph's Fashion coverage does so well in the lists I've made this year!

I've just noticed that the Sun recently changed all of their RSS feed addresses. The three of their feeds that you list (like all of their old feeds) now return 404s.

Not sure how Google Reader handles this but it appears that Bloglines responded by silently dropping the feeds from my subscriptions after a short time. I assume that the Sun could have avoided this by setting up the appropriate redirections.

Worth keeping in mind that we've just relaunched the Daily Record. Whereas the previous site did not have any feeds (!), the new site has feeds for each and every category, section and columnist. As the new site has only been live for a few weeks, it will take time for the subscriber count to build up.

Keep up to date on my new blog