Saturday, August 30, 2008

Techie Saturday - The new Subscriptions Links widget in Blogger

Feedeader options offered by the AddThis Subscriptions widget

Following the recent design revamp which has generated access to a lot of widgets for the side column (which I tend to think of as "Blogger goes Firefox"!) some of you may have been attracted by Blogger's new widget for subscribing to feeds and comments. If you have, or are thinking of doing so, there are two important points which need to be noted about the choice you're offering to readers of your blog.

First - the subscription widgets for feeds and comments only work for certain feedreaders.
Let your readers easily subscribe to your blog with popular feed readers
Blogger widget
In effect, the current set up means that Google (which owns Blogger) effectively controls access to feed readers for those using that widget.
In computing, a feed aggregator, also known as a feed reader, news reader or simply aggregator, is client software or a Web application which aggregates syndicated web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts, and vlogs in a single location for easy viewing.
Wikipedia - aggregator
Put simply this this is Google yet again trying to manage the competition. You are allowed to access the following feed readers ONLY
  • Google (surprise surprise!)
  • Bloglines
  • Netvibes
  • Newsgator
  • My Yahoo
  • Atom
Compare this to
  • the choice offered by the AddThis widget (at the top of my subscription module) - see image at top of post.
  • the choice offered by Feedburner (now owned by Google) for which feedreaders can be offered as an option - in terms of code added to the side column of your blog. (see right)
Feedburner Publicise - Chicklet Chooser

In reality techie readers will know that they should be able to add the blog feed into their favourite feedreader - whatever it is - but those that aren't so techie won't know and will therefore use one of the 'popular' readers - which stand to get a lot more popular as a result. My guess is that this will have a fairly hefty impact on market share for the rest given that Blogger is used by two thirds of people who blog. Personally I'm not in favour of promoting an oligopoly - I want people to be able to have a decent menu to choose from.

Second - and more importantly - the Blogger feed and comments widgets does not include an email option. In my experience, I can tell you that a lot of the people who read this blog like to get their feeds via email.

Feed readers are favoured by the geek community (the people who write widgets!) and there is tendency at times for geeks to think that nobody uses email any more for subscriptions. Wrong! Put simply by offering subscriptions via email your blog has a much greater reach.

If you would like to be consumer oriented I suggest you:
  • Give your readers a choice about which feedreader they use to subscribe.
  • Make sure you also add code which allows people the option of having their feed delivered by email.Both Feedblitz and Feedburner have options for this. Both are reasonably reliable but I do utter naughty words at both of them from time to time!
Check out Blogging for Artists - Resources for Artists for links to past posts about feedreaders and email services (see below)

[UPDATE: Having scheduled publication I woke up this morning to realise that I totally forgot to say that
  • I've got the AddThis subscribe option in my subscription module in the right hand column
  • AND you can subscribe to individual posts using the Bookmark icon just below this post - which gives you a choice as to how you subscribe.
  • The 'subscribe to this post' option ONLY offers Google as an option for subscription(!!!) - which is why I added in the AddThis Bookmark and Share option!]



  1. Thank you for this interesting post. If Google were a company here in New Zealand, our Government would be all over them for bad practice in trying to create a monopoly.

  2. I know! For me one of the problems of these global companies is that regulation of monopolistic practices becomes a real problem.

    First it was Microsoft and now it's Google..........

  3. What is much more important to me is that bloggers simply put ANY subscription option or button on their blogs! It's increasingly frustrating to find a wonderful art blog and absolutely no RSS or subscription button anywhere.

    Hanging out on a couple art forums it's clear that the majority don't even know what RSS is or that you can subscribe the blogs this way. That needs to be the priority in educating art bloggers. :)

  4. I agree awareness of feeds and providing a link high in the side column for people to subscribe is very important.

    However, if you are in the slightest bit geeky, (that's you and me Tina!), the reality for those who don't mind reading their blogs in a feed reader is that you don't actually need the RSS feed to be on the blog.

    Bloglines and Google Reader can both pick up feeds automatically if you just list the blog URL in the 'add this blog' function within your feedreader. Then you just decide which one to subscribe to.

    If there's a selection that that's the difficult bit which confuses me!

    My conclusion is that the absolute priority for people subscribing is a feed link for people to get an email. I checked my stats and the number of people who get this blog delivered to them by email each day is the same as the people getting it via Google Feedfetcher and Bloglines combined!

    In other words if you're into feedreaders then you can probably figure out the rest for yourself anyway! ;)

  5. I have to put my hands up and say I'm one of the clueless, and it doesn't matter how many times I read the definitions, it's gobbledygook to me because it's not described in a way non-geeks can understand. I used to use Blogrithms which was next to useless, now I use Bloglines and I like it a lot. The updated blogs appear in bold and the layout is clear. I tried BetaBloglines this week having read about it here and I can't make sense of it at all. The text is very pale, the new posts are updated but remain in pale text and none of the pictures open - I assume they are pictures of some sort but they are boxes with red crosses at the moment, and won't open even if I 'allow'. I don't find it user friendly at all. I don't really know why there needs to be a button on the blog page if you can just copy paste it, or click from your faves - I must be missing the very obvious.

  6. Ironic that you posted this subject today, since yesterday I spent HOURS trying to figure out how to put a SIMPLE "subscribe to this blog by e-mail" box on my blog.

    I never did get exactly what I wanted (something similar to what you've got), so I guess I'm just not enough of a techie-geek to figure it out.

    btw, I LOVE your blog, and am so happy I receive an E-MAIL whenever you post!

  7. Thanks Linda! :)

    You probably need to read my blog post Blog feeds - and how to set up a Feedburner subscription facility on your blog

    Don't be put off by its length. I tried to make sure I did a step by step which didn't leave anything out. That's because I HATE it when 'step by step' instructions forget the things we don't know and just cruise through to the next stage when they've not given you clear instructions for how to get there!!!

  8. Felicity - sounds to me like your security system may be blocking Bloglines Beta. The red cross means the image is being blocked. If you can see it in 'normal' Bloglines then it's your computer software which doesn't like that URL - or you've just not told it to like it! ;)

  9. Glad to see this, Katherine, though
    I'm with you, Felicity--my eyeballs are going round and round-- call me
    Clueless on Computers. I don't think I'll ever GET IT enough to use it.
    Until then I have long rows of buttons on my toolbar and two long BOOKMARKS to zap each website/blog (TWO buttons for you, Katherine!).

  10. Guess what! Ever since I put up this post the 'bookmark' addthis icon now doesn't appear on any of the blog posts which come after this - even though it appears on all those that came before.

    Check it out - it's quite amazing.

    Maybe Blogger has its nose severely out of joint?


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