RSS Analytics / Subscription Count

It would be really interesting to see Netlify take a stab at providing RSS analytics, specifically an estimate of subscriber count.

TBH: I’m not even sure how you’d figure this out. Would a user have to specify where the feed is in the site build? What if there are multiple feeds, i.e. a /feed.xml and /feed.json?

This ambiguity withstanding, I’ve seen a few interesting perspectives online about guessing at subscriber count.

For example, Darek takes a stab at getting an estimate by looking at server logs where some standard RSS readers provide info in their HTTP requests, like this:

"GET /atom.xml" 304 0 "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible;; 9 subscribers)"
"GET /atom.xml" 304 0 "Feedbin feed-id:1524967 - 5 subscribers"
"GET /atom.xml" 304 0 "Feedly/1.0 (+; 16 subscribers; like FeedFetcher-Google)"

Squarespace also talks about how they estimate it:

The RSS subscriber count is an estimate based on a combination of data:

  • Number of unique visitors to your RSS feed URLs, based on IP address
  • Data from RSS feed readers representing multiple subscribers, like Feedly or Flipboard. These services each calculate subscribers differently, and some numbers may be estimates.

Feedburner also gives deets on how they do it:

Subscribers counts are calculated by matching IP address and feed reader combinations, then using our detailed understanding of the multitude of readers, aggregators, and bots on the market to make additional inferences.

Granted, Netlify isn’t exactly in the RSS business. So your heuristics for guessing at this might not be totally sophisticated. That said, knowing an estimated guess is at “100 subscribers” vs “10,000” subscribers is a meaningful difference.

You might ask, “why don’t you just use Feedburner?” Short answer: I don’t have any trust in Google’s capricious treatment of their products—especially RSS ones.

How does it benefit you & others?

Provides visibility into data in the server logs which, as Jamstack folks, we don’t have access to.

how does it make our services better?

Enhances the “analytics” feature offering by providing additional insight into who is access your site.

To quote the esteemed Chris Coyier

It’s very reasonable to want to know how many RSS subscribers you have.

hi there! thanks for this and sorry to be slow to respond.

It’s definitely an interesting idea, but after checking around a bit I doubt this will be on the roadmap anytime soon. but, I could be wrong, and if we do work on this, we’ll be sure to let you know here!