Hunting for Subscriber Stats

Update: I am leaving this post visible as an archive, but unfortunately this method no longer works. Google Reader was shut down July 1, 2013. You can use a similar process with other readers such as Feedly. However, the RSS reader market is so fragmented now that it’s hard to get an overall picture. Sorry to those who found their way here from the WordPress support forum. I wish I had a better answer for you!

In response to Tony Karrer’s request, Wendy Wickham posted that she only has 29 subscribers for her blog, a number that sounded absurdly low to me. I was so sure it had to be wrong that I went to check it myself in Google Reader and Bloglines. I do see much higher numbers from those sources than what Feedburner tells her she has: probably closer to 90. Clearly the numbers don’t match up, but as I’ve done some digging around, I think I see why. Wendy did ask how I found the numbers, so here’s how to get some rough subscriber stats on Google Reader or Bloglines regardless of what blogging platform you use. Note that all of this is of questionable accuracy, as none of these measures are perfect. (Update 10/11/2010: As Bloglines closes November 1, 2010, you can now just look at Google Reader for your rough estimate. In 2008, Bloglines was a more common reader.)

Google Reader

  1. Click Add Subscription.
  2. Type your search terms (the blog author or title).
  3. With your search results, you’ll see the number of subscribers for each feed in Google Reader. Here’s Wendy’s 31 subscribers (which show up twice in the list here, but it’s the same feed).
Blog Stats in Google Reader

Note that you have to check the URL for the feed (in this case, http://in-the-middle-of-the-curve.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default). This isn’t Wendy’s Feedburner feed though; the Feedburner feed doesn’t show up in the search list at all for whatever reason. To find that number, I actually did a search for her Feedburner URL (http://feeds.feedburner.com/InTheMiddleOfTheCurve). That shows me another 20 subscribers. If Wendy was redirecting from her default URL to Feedburner, Google Reader’s stats might count those redirected subscribers twice. However, she said she never set that up, so this should be two separate sets of subscribers. If you’re looking for stats for your own blog, you could just go into Feedburner and see the same number and skip the second search. If you’re nosing about other people’s stats like me though, you might want to do both searches.

Bloglines

It’s a similar process with Bloglines; when you search for a feed, you see the number of public subscribers. Make sure you search for feeds rather than for posts. This shows me 32 subscribers for her default feed, plus another 6 for her Feedburner feed. (Update 10/11/2010: As Bloglines closes November 1, 2010, you can now skip this step. In 2008, it was a more common reader.)

Adding It Up

Google Reader (default feed): 31
Google Reader (Feedburner): 20
Bloglines (default feed): 32
Bloglines (Feedburner): 6

Total: 89

I only found 26 subscribers with Feedburner, but Wendy said she saw 29. My guess is that she has three subscribers to her Feedburner feed using some other reader. She probably has a handful of other subscribers on her default feed too.

I’m curious why Wendy has almost equal numbers of Google Reader and Bloglines subscribers, while I have three times as many Google Reader subscribers. I also have more people using other readers–probably about a third overall when you count my default WordPress feed.

Feedburner Pie Chart

Just to make it fair to Wendy since I publicly picked apart her stats, here’s the breakdown for my subscriber stats:

Google Reader (default feed): 97
Google Reader (Feedburner): 30
Bloglines (default feed): 23
Bloglines (Feedburner): 10
Other Feedburner: 28

Total: 188

I assume I have some other subscribers to my default feed on other readers, but I have no stats for them. I’m going to round up to 200 total just because it’s a nice round number though; this is just a rough estimate anyway.

Now of course, if I had Google Analytics–or was even able to redirect my default feed to Feedburner–this would be a much less convoluted process. Anybody happen to know a way to redirect my WordPress subscribers to Feedburner?

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21 thoughts on “Hunting for Subscriber Stats

  1. I believe there is a WordPress plugin in for feedburner, that you can download from the feedburner website:

    http://www.feedburner.com/fb/a/help/wordpress_quickstart

    We can also maybe change the URL in our database, but that wont help you for Google Reader.

    Bjorn Tipling
    Bloglines Engineer

    (CT edit 10/22/2012: Someone noted that the link above is now broken. Here’s the new link to Google’s support page on this topic: http://support.google.com/feedburner/answer/78483/?hl=en& )

  2. Unfortunately, the directions you linked to don’t apply for WordPress.com users like me. For anyone who’s interested in setting that up, here’s the directions. You can’t use their regular widget; you have to do something in html like I have at the top of my sidebar.

    I started using Feedburner when WordPress stopped providing any Feed Stats. Now that they’re bringing back some stats, it might work out to just use what WordPress provides.

    I’m not overly concerned with my stats though. It’s nice to know, but not crucial. If I was really worried, I’d get my own domain and set it up with all the widgets I want.

  3. Christy – thanks so much for that post. No problem picking apart my stats. It makes a lot more sense to me how you got that number (I now have 90 subscribers?!?!?!?! Yikes!!!!!)

    – Wendy

    PS – I’ve been updating our comment conversation in the original post. Looks like Google Reader doesn’t see the updates to the original RSS. Go figure.

  4. Thanks for updating the original post after I realized my mistake. If you look at the screenshot with your Google Reader stats, you can probably see where I got the first overly-inflated number. I saw the 289 subscribers with your blog name but forgot to check the URL. That was actually Tony Karrer’s number–his stats are just a wee bit higher than yours or mine! It picked up a post from his blog where he mentioned you. Ah well.

    Glad I could pick apart your stats and show you the process I went through to come up with the numbers. I think 90 is a very respectable number of subscribers, and clearly many more than you originally thought!

  5. thanks – I’m still trying to grasp this. It would be nice if the subscriber data could be passed along via plugin to the dashboard. surely the data is there in the webserver logs – it just needs to be hashed out.

  6. I miss having all the stats right within WordPress like they were when I first started. You can now see the feed hits for individual posts within your WordPress dashboard, which is nice if that’s what you want. There’s no way to get an overview of all your feed subscribers in one place though.

    Fingers crossed that they’ll bring back an overall stat someday!

  7. Thank you for the post

    I do not know how to get a lot of subscribers on wordpress though. On my Myspace blog, I have about 200 times bigger number of subscriber. I do feel wordpress seem more professional, and myspace is more entertain. anyway, : )

  8. Hi there, I’ve tried searching in google reader to see how many rss subscribers my blog has bu it says the number is ‘unknown’ anyone know what that means? Is it because my blog is pretty new?

    1. Take a look at the URL and make sure it’s the right one. When I search for “cam cope photography” your blog doesn’t come up on the first page. The second result is for a tag feed which shows “unknown”: http://wordpress.com/tag/cam-cope-photography/feed/

      I ended up finding it by typing “camcope.wordpress.com” in the feed discovery, making sure to search rather than to just add the feed right away. Going in that way, it looks like you have 3 subscribers in Google Reader. I’m positive that’s more than I had only 10 days into my blog.🙂

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