Get a Bead on Feed Reading

I’ve made no secret of my undying love for Google Reader, Google’s snazzy newsreader. It’s gotten me excited about blogs, and blogging again… no small feat, when you consider I was sick of the word “blog” back in 2000.

Well, the Google Reader team hasn’t been resting on its Bloglines-busting laurels, and today announced a Reader Trends feature. If you’re into charts, statistics, and similar numberly goodness, this will make your head spin.

I spend a lot of time in Google Reader. I’d guesstimate that it’s how I consume easily 80 percent of the stuff I read on the web. But with that pesky need to sleep a few hours a day, and with dozens of feeds bringing dozens of posts a day (see Twitter), there’s a lot of “Mark All As Read” skipping going on. Some blogs or topics will always get me to take my finger off that spacebar (it skips to the next item, if you didn’t know — they keyboard shortcuts in Google Reader are key to optimized feed reading), but lots of stuff gets skipped.

Well, Reader Trends shows me which feeds I read the most, and the percentage of a feed’s items that I actually look at. For example, I looked at 447 items on Robert Scoble’s link blog (his Google Reader “shared items” feed), about 27 percent of all its entries. While I only looked at 13 items from, that represents 62 percent of its entries. Indeed, it seems some of the most prolific bloggers in my reading list are skipped quite often. Blogs that post more rarely catch my eye (and Google Reader has long been able to specifically highlight such items for you, to keep them from getting buried in the deluge of other content).

With the kind of information Reader Trends can collect, I’m betting serious data miners will be able to find a sweet spot that balances frequency of posts with item readership. Putting out twenty posts a day does you no good if only 20 percent of subscribers read them. Maybe seven posts, tops, will keep most of your fans interested?

You can also see your reading habits over time. Not surprisingly, I do very little reading on weekends. Mondays are peaks. I have no doubt lots of graphs will show a dip on Christmas.

Reader Trends also shows you “subscription trends,” revealing your most active feeds and calling out the inactive ones along with the date of their last update. Glancing over at my inactive list, there are several old friends I didn’t even realize had gone missing. Time to fire off an e-mail.

I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be derived from Reader Trends, but within mere minutes of its unveiling, I’ve already got a lot to chew on.

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