Yahoo! conducted a study of Internet users in August in an attempt to quantify the ubiquity of RSS among Internet users. Yahoo! released a whitepaper covering some of their findings after surveying over 4000 Internet users in August.
Only 12% of those surveyed were aware of RSS, and only 4% have knowingly used RSS. 27% of respondents had interacted with RSS content in personalized start pages such as My Yahoo! but did not realize they were using RSS.
The average RSS user subscribed to 6.6 feeds and spend an average of 4.1 hours per week reading those feeds. Only 7% of RSS aware users mentioned instant updating as a benefit of the medium, suggesting the sources play a larger role than their timeliness. This finding allows aggregators to worry less about ping and poll frequency and more about sourcing their list of available feeds.
Only 17% of survey respondents had ever seen a white-on-orange XML button and only 4% had ever clicked the button. Users who clicked the button either copied and pasted the URL into a newsreader, clicked on another button on the feed view to add the feed to a newsreader, or left the site. 50% of RSS-aware respondents choose feeds from the list available in their aggregator
The results of the survey could be interpreted as a user demand for My Yahoo!, small amounts of feeds, a browsable feed directory, and the spread of “Add to My Yahoo!” chicklets on every blog. Browsers such as Firefox 1.5 and Internet Explorer 7 are just now beginning to integrate web feeds as a rich software experience and should change usage of online services such as My Yahoo!. The survey shows there is a large available market for stand-alone aggregators to offer features and feed browsing capabilities beyond what exists on one browser window inside of a personal start page such as My Yahoo!.
The biggest surprise to me was the value of the browsable feed in each tool’s built-in listing. Blog authors should be aware of their placement within such listings and perhaps consider a paid listing for increased subscriptions.