Can You Trust The RSS Count Chicklets? Don’t Bet On It.

Posted Oct 15, 2007

“Google Reader stats, in case you don’t know, are bullshit,”declared Pete Cashmore, founder of top social networking blog, “In fact, all Feedburner stats for most top blogs are bullshit due to the effect of default feeds.”

One of the reasons why I respect Cashmore for bringing this issue to the public is because is considered a top blog and they have gained credibility by the number of RSS subscribers they have. Whereas, many smaller blogs that have quality content struggle to increase the number of their RSS subscribers, only to be shadowed by bigger blogs who have struck deals or have a close relationship with those who design RSS homepages. has roughly 121,000 RSS subscribers based on Feedburner statistics. Pete Cashmore followed up by saying:

At Mashable we know this topic very well: back in late 2006, we got ourselves a default feed on the Pageflakes homepage, resulting in a huge boost for our subscriber numbers – 300K+ at one point. Except that if you visited Pageflakes once and never came back, you were still counted as a subscriber. Pageflakes eventually made changes to correct this overcount, but people were unlikely to trust our Feedburner count after that. And yet the issue continues to affect other blogs.”

By exploiting some of the measuring tactics used by RSS analytic companies, Cashmore is essentially flattening the playing field for beginner bloggers such as myself. Whether these RSS companies react to Cashmore’s findings… its a matter of ethics (see [1] below for further discussion, including a rebuttal from Feedburner).

The Internet has a long way to go before accurate data can be measured. For example: Why does LifeHacker have a lower Alexa ranking than TechCrunch even though they get more hits? I know this because TechCrunch’s SiteMeter also used to be public as of a few months ago and there was a significant difference in hits against LifeHacker.

Information Source:
[1] Mashable: Google Reader Stats are Bullshit (With Proof)