Is it just me, or do RSS feeds detract the user from a website? Let me try to explain what I mean by this.
Recently, because I've been reading a lot, and particularly a lot from Smashing Magazine (@smashingmag), I've installed a Firefox add-on called "Google Reader Watcher", which allows me to instantly see how many feeds I have unread in my statusbar. That's just great! It means i don't have to go and check myself and when something new pops up I click it and it takes me to my Google Reader where I can check out the latest articles from my favourite places.
No the point of this article is not to sell Google Reader, surprisingly. I have noticed that in using this, and the RSS feeds from various sites I never actually visit the site anymore. Whether this is a good or bad thing or not is up to the site themselves. But it makes you wonder what impact RSS has had on traffic statistics, as well as peoples' ability to keep up with the latest news and trends circling the various niches of the Internet.
I know that, for a fact, I do not visit A List Apart or Smashing Magazine anymore unless it is to download an icon set or comment on something I've read. The whole way I browse for articles has changed. Not completely mind, as I still use a good old-fashioned Google Search for some things. But most of the time I look to my feed for enlightment on the latest trends and information.
Is this a bad thing? Is this a good thing? From a personal perspective it can be a very good thing because it's so damn easy to find and read the latest interesting articles from genres I enjoy. However, does this mean that my views on such things are one-sided? Afterall, having only a collect group of resources you're not really seeing the whole picture, are you?
So, RSS as a technology is great. It allows people to keep with their reading of the things they love with the greatest of ease to them. But the statistics for a website are important in regards to traffic hitting a blog page. I know that sites like Smashing Magazine won't need to worry about this too much because they are huge and will always get visitors. But I would be interested to see if some readers, like me, simply take to reading their RSS feed (from various sources) rather than visiting the site.
This all leads me to the question, do RSS feeds affect the traffic hitting a site? And does this have a negative impact for the webmaster of that site? Afterall, if you've got a product to sell as well as things to read, losing visitors by any means constitutes to losing business...
What do you think? Comments welcome!