March 28, 2008

The Largest Blogs Are Still Rapidly Growing Their Subscriber Base

There's no universally accepted way to track momentum in the blogosphere. Some point to Alexa and ComScore statistics, while others poke holes at this data. Others instead look to the TechMeme leaderboard to show who has the largest share of voice in tech. But we do have access to some quantitative tools that give us a clearer picture into just how fast the largest blogs are growing their most loyal readers via RSS, thanks to FeedBurner and tertiary services, including BlogPerfume and RatingBurner.

In December I first mentioned BlogPerfume and the site's ability to review your FeedBurner RSS growth, and project your statistics three, six and twelve months ahead. But more interesting than self navel-gazing, you can view any blog's statistics, so long as they use FeedBurner as their RSS engine and activate the Awareness API.

(This restriction made some popular feeds, including Engadget and Robert Scoble, unavailable for analysis.)

I clicked over to RatingBurner, which ranks public FeedBurner feeds from most popular to least popular, and fed BlogPerfume some of the most popular technology blogs.

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A quick look at some of the leaders in the so-called A-List, who hover in the 100,000 or so RSS subscriber range and above, shows 3-month growth of 10 to 25% per site. Looking much lower in the list, to those who are in the 500 to 5,000 or so RSS subscriber bracket, you can see a great deal wider range, including some who have nearly doubled their subscriber count over the last 90 days.

Unsurprisingly, TechCrunch is the king of the hill here, with an average of nearly 700,000 subscribers this month. Over the last three months alone, TechCrunch added nearly 84,000 new RSS subscribers, for a growth rate of 13.72%. BlogPerfume also showed single month growth of 4.2%, and projected TechCrunch would break 1 million subscribers before this time next year.

TechCrunch's enormous subscriber base means other sites can grow more quickly, despite getting fewer net new RSS readers. In the same period, Read/Write Web grew 16.47%, adding 25,017 subscribers, and Mashable! grew 15.77%, increasing their total by, 20,954. In fact, Mashable!'s high growth rate, coupled with GigaOM's lower 8.92% growth rate, would see them pass up Om Malik's team before six months are up, if you project that 90-day trajectory forward. Lower down the chart, you can also see Fred Wilson and Brad Feld posting growth rates of more than 20%, as they reach six digits. (Also Included: Guy Kawasaki, John Battelle)

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In fact, RSS subscribers are growing steadily at all levels. Looking down where I live and breathe, growth rates over the last three months at those off us under the 5k level show 30% increases for Andy Beard and Mathew Ingram, and dramatically higher levels for people like Tamar Weinberg (78.72%) and Muhammad Saleem (59.67%). (Also included: Mark Evans, Zoli Erdos, Susan Mernit and Sarah In Tampa)

Our own stats reflected one-month growth of 41.88%, and three-month growth of 286.89%, with an average of 708 subscribers, up from just 183 back at the start of December. (See: BlogPerfume: and above chart.)

Even as some are openly discussing dropping the RSS feed reader, or asking where they are going next, this rising tide is raising all boats. While there's no doubt this initial report is partial, it shows RSS adoption is strong at every level. With anticipated further growth in adoption and gravitation toward tech blogging, the momentum is sure to continue.

I know I didn't get every relevant site, so if you found one that is remarkable in growth rate or wasn't what you expected, head to, put their FeedBurner URL in, and note it in the comments. I'm eager to see what you find.


  1. Nice work Louis. Do you know if the numbers you have collected represent "active" users? Some people might have set up an RSS reader account and populated them with some default feeds but might have never gone back. Some others might have 25 subscriptions but only actively read 5 of them.

    The techcrunch number seems really big so I was wondering if it was the number of active readers or the total number of people who at some point subscribed to Techchrunch.

  2. Edwin, that's more a FeedBurner question than a BlogPerfume question. TechCrunch today is reporting 732,000 subscribers. I know my numbers go down on the weekends and go down on days I don't post, so I would assume FeedBurner count increases when there is an action, through reading, etc. There are also undoubtedly folks who are subscribed but have it passively hitting their reader for later retrieval.

    More from FeedBurner is here:

  3. Louis,

    Nice work! I consider RSS readers to be a bigger indication of how well the blog is doing because it means you've people who, hopefully, come back often. That said, traffic growth is also nice. :)


  4. Those are some kick-ass graphs and charts, Louis :-)

  5. Great stuff Louis and thank you for the link.

    One of the things that got me thinking about RSS was the slow growth at ML2. The key I'm thinking is the new feed discovery tools like Toluu.

    I did a feed analysis and it is what I expected ... meaning I have a lot of work to do to get more subscribers!

  6. Checked out BlogPerfume. Neat tool Louis. Thought you'd find it interesting that the post you, TechMeme and Hacker News pointed to, is now up to a total of 1135 views. The ol' one day blip just carried two. This IS the power of social media and Friendfeed. Very cool stuff.

  7. Wow, Louis, thanks for including me. It appears though that YOU are the fastest growing star in "our club"

  8. Awesome insights Louis! In looking through the lists, it seems like the majority of blogs included are tech oriented, or at least in that general niche. What do you think it will take for blogs in other niches to achieve this level of success? Thanks!

  9. Thank you for pulling this together Louis! I have posted on the discussion board of the "Community Manager, Advocate, and Evangelist" site on Facebook as I know "measurement" is of interest there.

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