I normally start my day by reading my RSS feeds and checking my blog stats and assorted other things. Imagine my surprise this morning when I checked my blog subscriber count. I glanced at the number and was shocked that it was almost double. I figured there was something being double counted, so I continued to read my RSS feeds. That is when I found the FriendFeed post on subscriber counts:
So if you have 200 people subscribed to you on FriendFeed, and you’ve added your blog as a service on FriendFeed, now you can see those subscribers right alongside the subscriber counts from Google Reader, Bloglines, My Yahoo, and anyone else subscribed to your blog’s feed.
I understand that they are just trying to help, but the trend is what concerns me. First, let’s look at some numbers of a few blogs and FriendFeed users. This blog had 1544 subscribers yesterday. Today I have 2869 subscribers, with the gain mostly due to people subscribing to my FriendFeed account. Louis Gray’s blog had around 8000 subscribers almost a week ago. Today, it shows that he now has 13814 subscribers (he is louisgray on FriendFeed). Lastly, we have the Stay N’ Alive blog that had around 950 subscribers earlier this week. Due to Jesse Stay’s FriendFeed account, the blog now has 4730 subscribers.
Now, I am all for the ego stroking goodness of my subscribers growing, but the problem is whether this growth can be considered natural. I will not go into the true accuracy of the Feedburner statistics, but at least it was a benchmark of how many people were reading your RSS feed. FriendFeed puts a layer of abstraction between the blog and your readers. I know FriendFeed can drive some good traffic to the blog, but returning a subscriber count for the blog does not seem quite right. FriendFeed is an aggregator, so my subscribers are really subscribing to me, not my blog.
The real problem, as I said earlier, is the possible trend. Using FriendFeed, I post an update to Twitter and Facebook whenever I write a blog post. What if Twitter and Facebook started to report subscriber numbers because I post a blog link there? Granted, my subscriber numbers would not go up that much, but the inflation of those numbers would cause the subscriber statistic to be completely useless. My reasoning is that applications like FriendFeed, Twitter and Facebook provide you with passive subscribers. They get links to your blog whether they want to or not. People subscribing to your blog’s RSS feed did so specifically using their reader of choice.
Nothing against the FriendFeed team, as they have always been awesome, but I think the subscriber count reporting may be a bad idea. I would prefer that they remove the feature (not that I have a choice) and continue adding awesomeness to FriendFeed itself.