Estimate Your Blog’s Feed Subscriber Base

Figuring out how much bang you’re getting for your blogging effort is not as simple as it first seems. While it’s relatively straightforward to calculate readership of static Web pages on your server, making a similar estimate of syndicated content readership is much trickier. (For an exploration of that topic, see my 2007 blog post, “Counting RSS Subscribers,” and the feedstats application I built to estimate out how many people might be reading RSS4Lib.)
The trick, of course, is when you “free” your content via syndication formats, it becomes harder to tell at a glance how much those syndicated files are being read. This is a problem for libraries, as for any other business operation, because library managers need information about the effect of their publicity and public relations efforts to justify them.
With the goal of creating a tool to help bloggers, library bloggers in particular, quantify their feed readership, I created a version of my older RSS4Lib-specific tool for general use: YourStats.
YourStats parses a log file and generates an estimate of total “direct” readership (that is, readership of the feed itself). It summarizes readership reported by aggregators like Bloglines and counts unique IP addresses for PC-based readers (such as Firefox or NetNewsWire). Of course, individual blog posts often far afield, being reproduced in other systems that do not report readership numbers. Other tools, such as Magpie (the RSS feed cacher) or Yahoo! Pipes, almost certainly redistribute your content to many other readers but do so in completely opaque ways. This sort of readership is not included in YourStats.
A couple notes:

  • If you use Movable Type or WordPress to power your blog, and your RSS and Atom feeds have the default names, the application will take your log file and process it, giving results for both RSS (index.xml or feed=rss2) and Atom (atom.xml and feed=atom) readership.
  • You can specify a different feed by entering its directory path and filename (for example, if your blog’s RSS feed is at, you would enter /stuff/feed.xml.
  • YourStats only handles Apache standard log files.

I hope YourStats will provide you with quantifiable numbers around your blog’s readership. Try it and let me know what you think.