Reading Habits


I popped into Google Reader this morning to have a look at my news consumption over the course of my vacation (it’s been nearly three weeks now), and it said:

From your 112 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 8,431 items, starred 21 items, shared 60 items, and emailed 8 items.

Considering that I deleted roughly 80 feeds before going on vacation, it isn’t half bad. But that 8.431 figure is more than a bit misleading, since I don’t actually read all those items – it would be over 280 items a day, which is close to what I get in office e-mail, and an utter waste of time.

Furthermore, the daily pattern is heavily skewed:

Now, I’m pretty sure that scale has got to be the cumulative items read by time of day over the last 30 days, in those time slots. So a daily graph would have the scale divided by 30, and top out at around 60 items, not 1900.

Which would fit my vacation routine of getting up early, picking up my iPod Touch and going over 60 or so new items over breakfast before going out and about, with the rest of my reading scattered throughout the day at random intervals – as well as the usual amount of nightly reading1.

But even then, I don’t actually read 60 pieces of random fluff over breakfast. I skim the headlines, pop open the ones I want to read, star those that are too long to finish over breakfast, and make extensive use of the “mark all as read” link.

And that link is why I get 8.431 “read” items. It strikes me that the Google Reader team might want to add the notion of “skipped” items to their aggregator and have it reflect on both trends and overall statistics – it would be a much better indication of actual readership than the current model.

That said, I also found it interesting to see that the “sweet spot” for posts/day appears to be between 6-7 daily posts for the more interesting sites I read. It seems to be some kind of attention threshold that publishers might want to keep in mind.

For instance, Engadget is one of the feeds I skim and skip over the most (given that they churn out too much senseless stuff) and pumps out an impressive 33.5 posts/day, whereas GigaOM and Daring Fireball are squarely at 6.5, and I actually read the stuff they post (except when it’s about US politics2).

Before you ask, I have four custom feeds (built with Yahoo Pipes) that churn out more posts/day than Engadget (44.1, 40.3, 38.7 and 35.4 posts/day) – mostly filtered aggregators, Google News searches and other things I like to keep track of but not necessarily read.

Those have a much smaller attention slot, of course. The top one is an amalgamation of Planet Gnome, Prt.sc and other similar sites (filtered for duplicates and removing some authors), which should give you an idea3.

1 I abhor conventional “TV”:TV.

2 Another thing I also abhor.

3 No, I haven’t tagged it freetards, but I did filter out the most, er… enthusiastic authors, as well as those I prefer to follow individually.


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