In tonights 106Miles meeting there was a bit of discussion on RSS and tracking readership. This came from some other discussions in the blogosphere about being able to track who’s reading and how many subscribers a blog has. This is an inherently difficult thing to do because of the way that the system has been set up. A large number of blogs will have several ways of syndicating the content, though rss, feedburner, myYahoo, bloglines, … This choice is one of the reasons for blogs/rss’ success and all of them take away from the publishers ability to track readership. Allowing people to read what they want on their own terms is why this whole thing is taking off. Giving control to the reader is the important part of the equation, not counting how many people are reading and I would argue that the two are mutually exclusive.
When you boil down what is happening with blogs, it occurred to me that it’s an extension of the model of the niche scientific or industrial community. As you progress upwards in a specific area towards being an expert in a field, it’s harder and harder to find mainstream content about the field that satisfies your need for learning. That’s the area that the niche publication and conference have filled in the past. What the blogs and rss has allowed is the same type of communication, it’s just become much easier to form groups dynamically and to expand the coverage into areas that weren’t commericially viable in the past. The only problem is that there is little to no penalty for producing content that is of no value to anyone.