Google Reader Trends Reveals Your Reading Habits - Social Media Explorer
Google Reader Trends Reveals Your Reading Habits
Google Reader Trends Reveals Your Reading Habits
by
Jason Falls
Jason Falls

If you’ve been around social media for more than a few days, you probably subscribe to a handful (or more) RSS feeds. What was originally an inside scoop for geeks who read those crazy, senseless diary things called blogs, has turned out to be the single-most effective technology in enhancing people’s productivity the Web 2.0 world has given us. RSS means you can surf all or part of the web you want to see in a fraction of the time.

I’m constantly asked what my favorite feed reader is. I’ve experimented with a half dozen or so but keep coming back to the old standard — Google Reader. It’s simple, intuitive, organized and efficient. But there are a couple of features to Google Reader many people either don’t know are there, forget about or simply don’t use enough. One such feature is the trends tab, shown below circled in red.

Google Reader with Trends Highlighted

What your Google Reader trends tell you is pretty self-explanatory, though consider that most of the data is generated from the previous 30 days. The above-the-fold data you see at the top of the page shows you a display of the number of posts versus the number you’ve read in each of those days. As you can tell from mine, I actually read only a fraction of what I subscribe to. As you can see, I subscribe to 317 different feeds, only a few of which are feeds for clients or other projects that I wouldn’t subscribe to otherwise. I’ve read only 327 items from those feeds in the last 30 days. Those feeds produce between 500-600 posts per day during the week. (Click on any remaining graphic to see a larger version.)

Google Trends Main Graphic

What you can gather from these numbers is, in a general sense, how much of what you think you read, you actually read. I happen to subscribe to many news feeds and search terms as RSS feeds in my reader that produce many results each day. I subscribe so that I can search those posts when I need them. (Searching your feeds is another feature many people forget about, by the way. That search box at the top isn’t for the web, but your Google Reader subscriptions.) Taking that into consideration, you can see that I don’t mind not reading the vast majority of what I subscribe to. If I were trying to be more efficient with my reading and didn’t need those search-able feeds, I could improve my posted-to-read ratio.

Google Reader - What I ReadBelow the main graphic, you get some very useful information. To the left of the middle of the page is a list of the feeds you access most often and what percentage of their total posts you read. As you can see, this top-10 list reveals what I read the most in terms of number read. It appears I read about half of what Chris Brogan posts and read him often. The Google Alerts results for a search of my name are second (am I vain or protective of my personal brand … or both?). I read a higher percentage of what Valeria Maltoni, Todd Defren and Amber Naslund write, but not as many as Brogan. Of course, none of them post as frequently as Chris does, but, with apologies to him, perhaps that’s an argument for quality over quantity.

Anecdotally, Zen Habits is my “For Me” blog. Leo Babauta’s advice is always sound and helps bring a bit of calm to me. Accidental Hedonist is a fantastic food and spirits blog written by Kate Hopkins. I started reading it for my spirits clients. I now read it for myself because Kate is an excellent writer and writes fantastic pieces.

You can also see the feeds you most frequently star items from, share with others, email to friends and read on a mobile device. I share items sometimes, but don’t really use the other mechanisms much.

To the right of that chart is perhaps the one I find most useful. Subscription trends shows you tabs of the feeds that are most frequently updated, inactive and most obscure, meaning the ones the fewest people subscribe to. (My Google Alerts feed for my name is pretty obscure. Heh.)

Google Reader - Inactive FeedsBut the inactives tab is the sweet spot. I click on it frequently to unsubscribe from feeds that haven’t been updated in some time. As you can see from the graphic, I don’t unsubscribe to all the non-updated feeds. The Social Media Release site/page is relevant to me. If those running it ever update it, I’ll want to know. Matt Winn’s blog hasn’t been updated in almost a year. Matt’s a VC guy here in Louisville who is smart as hell and has a lot to say. I have faith he’ll be back. The others on the list I have reason to hold on to a bit longer for one reason or another.

The point is, you can cull your lists by getting rid of those not updated frequently, which you wouldn’t really notice if the trending information wasn’t available.

You’ll notice you can expand the lists to 20 or even 40 entries. It makes organizing and editing your feeds pretty efficient.

At the bottom of the Trends page, you see a list of your Google friend’s trends. You see who shares most frequently and who has the most subscribers to their shared lists (most popular). The other side of the page shows a tag cloud displaying the most populated of your folders/categories in Google Reader with darker indications of words indicating you read those more than others.

While it tempts me to throw out a number of uses for your Reader trends, I’d rather open it up and see what you think its uses are. How does this information help you manage your feeds? How can these statistics help you draw insights from feeds you monitor for your business or your clients? (PR folks ought to see some uses here!) Give it some thought and let us know what you can or do use Google Reader trends for. Please share in the comments.

And if you’re not using Google Reader for your RSS feeds, what are you using and can you pull these types of insights from your reader? I didn’t dive in to others to see if there’s something better out there. If there is, please share and tell us what you think of that option. I’m diving into Fever right now (see TechCrunch article below) and will report back as well.

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
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  • Nice post I Like your site very much and continue to do so.I think that the word is not enough to appreciate this article i come across very interesting. Keep it up.

  • Nice post I Like your site very much and continue to do so.I think that the word is not enough to appreciate this article i come across very interesting. Keep it up.

  • JasonBrett

    Thinking about this today, I'd like to discriminate in trends between posts that I marked as uninteresting, or ignored. So “mark as read” and “mark as ignored” would, I think, largely give us the trust in our trends that we are looking for.

    What do you think?

    • I got to see it thanks to Backtype.

      The thing is, I'm just hitting the default “next next next next next” shortcut keys. I'm not even considering using an alternative shortcut. I really don't think it's Google's priority, but if they wanted to, they should assess the length of a feed item and figure out how long someone actually spends “reading” the content. If the content is “nexted” quickly, it probably was not read at all. If it wasn't, Google should assume it was read.

  • Good recap – you should also analyze the number of posts you share with the number of posts you read. I did that back in Feb09 http://www.playoutintelligence.com/2009/02/16/r… If you analyze that over time it is interesting to see how hypes and topics shift (or my work and projects ;))

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  • This is a fantastic post. I still haven't found a reader that does all I want it to do. I'd like to have something with an easy share and widget function.

    However, this post is excellent. Keep them coming.
    RhondaK
    rhondakwrites.com

  • This is a fantastic post. I still haven't found a reader that does all I want it to do. I'd like to have something with an easy share and widget function.

    However, this post is excellent. Keep them coming.
    RhondaK
    rhondakwrites.com

  • This is a fantastic post. I still haven't found a reader that does all I want it to do. I'd like to have something with an easy share and widget function.

    However, this post is excellent. Keep them coming.
    RhondaK
    rhondakwrites.com

  • This is a fantastic post. I still haven't found a reader that does all I want it to do. I'd like to have something with an easy share and widget function.

    However, this post is excellent. Keep them coming.
    RhondaK
    rhondakwrites.com

  • Ha! thanks, Jason. funny that the same day you posted this, I finally posted to my blog! what are the odds of that?? thanks for sending good web karma. :)

  • Ha! thanks, Jason. funny that the same day you posted this, I finally posted to my blog! what are the odds of that?? thanks for sending good web karma. :)

  • Ha! thanks, Jason. funny that the same day you posted this, I finally posted to my blog! what are the odds of that?? thanks for sending good web karma. :)

  • Ha! thanks, Jason. funny that the same day you posted this, I finally posted to my blog! what are the odds of that?? thanks for sending good web karma. :)

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  • You're right. It'd be best if Google actually figured out that time spent on a specific post equals reading. Sometimes I go through a specific blog's feed and find one or two posts that are interesting and jjjj through the uninteresting ones. Unfortunately, that means Google thinks I actually read 'em. That said, their data on me this time around is incorrect! :) You're absolutely right – it's flawed.

  • You're right. It'd be best if Google actually figured out that time spent on a specific post equals reading. Sometimes I go through a specific blog's feed and find one or two posts that are interesting and jjjj through the uninteresting ones. Unfortunately, that means Google thinks I actually read 'em. That said, their data on me this time around is incorrect! :) You're absolutely right – it's flawed.

  • You're right. It'd be best if Google actually figured out that time spent on a specific post equals reading. Sometimes I go through a specific blog's feed and find one or two posts that are interesting and jjjj through the uninteresting ones. Unfortunately, that means Google thinks I actually read 'em. That said, their data on me this time around is incorrect! :) You're absolutely right – it's flawed.

  • Crazy, I just read today that a local paper, the Eagle Times, is filing for bankruptcy. I lived in that town for quite a few years.

    I guess they are all falling away..

  • Crazy, I just read today that a local paper, the Eagle Times, is filing for bankruptcy. I lived in that town for quite a few years.

    I guess they are all falling away..

  • Crazy, I just read today that a local paper, the Eagle Times, is filing for bankruptcy. I lived in that town for quite a few years.

    I guess they are all falling away..

  • Cool list, there Jim. I read my news feed headlines, but rarely open an article to read it. Of course my local paper hasn't been compelling in a long time. Heh.

  • Cool list, there Jim. I read my news feed headlines, but rarely open an article to read it. Of course my local paper hasn't been compelling in a long time. Heh.

  • Cool list, there Jim. I read my news feed headlines, but rarely open an article to read it. Of course my local paper hasn't been compelling in a long time. Heh.

  • Good Lord, don't bring Dad into this. Heh.

    I think I would read someone's personal/posterous/tumblr blog if I thought they were particularly interesting, funny or were good friends. But I think I would separate the feeds from work related stuff, provided the content they provide there is more personal. I tend to group by topic and overlook or eliminate the personal stuff. Still, there are a few folks I'd watch if they had compelling personal blogs.

  • Good Lord, don't bring Dad into this. Heh.

    I think I would read someone's personal/posterous/tumblr blog if I thought they were particularly interesting, funny or were good friends. But I think I would separate the feeds from work related stuff, provided the content they provide there is more personal. I tend to group by topic and overlook or eliminate the personal stuff. Still, there are a few folks I'd watch if they had compelling personal blogs.

  • Good Lord, don't bring Dad into this. Heh.

    I think I would read someone's personal/posterous/tumblr blog if I thought they were particularly interesting, funny or were good friends. But I think I would separate the feeds from work related stuff, provided the content they provide there is more personal. I tend to group by topic and overlook or eliminate the personal stuff. Still, there are a few folks I'd watch if they had compelling personal blogs.

  • That would be the advantage to not using the shortcut keys, T. I just hit “mark all as read” atop the listing display. It only counts them as actually “read” if you open them in the view, which apparently you do if you just hit “jjjjjjj.” (Or at least that's my guess.)

    Certainly a flaw in their design, however. Maybe someone will read this and fix. Heh.

  • That would be the advantage to not using the shortcut keys, T. I just hit “mark all as read” atop the listing display. It only counts them as actually “read” if you open them in the view, which apparently you do if you just hit “jjjjjjj.” (Or at least that's my guess.)

    Certainly a flaw in their design, however. Maybe someone will read this and fix. Heh.

  • That would be the advantage to not using the shortcut keys, T. I just hit “mark all as read” atop the listing display. It only counts them as actually “read” if you open them in the view, which apparently you do if you just hit “jjjjjjj.” (Or at least that's my guess.)

    Certainly a flaw in their design, however. Maybe someone will read this and fix. Heh.

  • I can't really trust my trends. Here's what it tells me: “From your 113 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 22,732 items.”

    The problem is that I really haven't physically *read* those 22,732 items. I just hate seeing a big bold number next to my feeds, so yes, I mark them as read even if I don't even give the item a second glance.

    I think Google Reader would be a little better if it assessed reading not by clicking “mark all as read.” If you spend time on it, it should be read. If you're simply pressing jjjjjjjjjjj to go to the next item and the next, you're not really reading a thing.

  • I can't really trust my trends. Here's what it tells me: “From your 113 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 22,732 items.”

    The problem is that I really haven't physically *read* those 22,732 items. I just hate seeing a big bold number next to my feeds, so yes, I mark them as read even if I don't even give the item a second glance.

    I think Google Reader would be a little better if it assessed reading not by clicking “mark all as read.” If you spend time on it, it should be read. If you're simply pressing jjjjjjjjjjj to go to the next item and the next, you're not really reading a thing.

  • I can't really trust my trends. Here's what it tells me: “From your 113 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 22,732 items.”

    The problem is that I really haven't physically *read* those 22,732 items. I just hate seeing a big bold number next to my feeds, so yes, I mark them as read even if I don't even give the item a second glance.

    I think Google Reader would be a little better if it assessed reading not by clicking “mark all as read.” If you spend time on it, it should be read. If you're simply pressing jjjjjjjjjjj to go to the next item and the next, you're not really reading a thing.

  • I can't really trust my trends. Here's what it tells me: “From your 113 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 22,732 items.”

    The problem is that I really haven't physically *read* those 22,732 items. I just hate seeing a big bold number next to my feeds, so yes, I mark them as read even if I don't even give the item a second glance.

    I think Google Reader would be a little better if it assessed reading not by clicking “mark all as read.” If you spend time on it, it should be read. If you're simply pressing jjjjjjjjjjj to go to the next item and the next, you're not really reading a thing.

    • That would be the advantage to not using the shortcut keys, T. I just hit “mark all as read” atop the listing display. It only counts them as actually “read” if you open them in the view, which apparently you do if you just hit “jjjjjjj.” (Or at least that's my guess.)

      Certainly a flaw in their design, however. Maybe someone will read this and fix. Heh.

      • You're right. It'd be best if Google actually figured out that time spent on a specific post equals reading. Sometimes I go through a specific blog's feed and find one or two posts that are interesting and jjjj through the uninteresting ones. Unfortunately, that means Google thinks I actually read 'em. That said, their data on me this time around is incorrect! :) You're absolutely right – it's flawed.

  • Something else I have to put on my to do list today checking my trends. Haven't done this in a while. It also made me wonder about my own feeds and how they are perceived. I write on so many different places I wonder how that blends on my own branding if you will. Or if I should just concentrate on blogging in one area and have it go out in a single feed. I just signed up to try Posterous and Tumblr so how does that work into your feed reading? Do you read a persons blog, their Posterous, their Tumblr, their Twitter page etc etc. I think blending all of a person feed into a single feed would be a cool thing. I single service that pushed a feed for everything. Funnel Feed? Don't even get me started on how your dad should invest in that company and technology.

  • Something else I have to put on my to do list today checking my trends. Haven't done this in a while. It also made me wonder about my own feeds and how they are perceived. I write on so many different places I wonder how that blends on my own branding if you will. Or if I should just concentrate on blogging in one area and have it go out in a single feed. I just signed up to try Posterous and Tumblr so how does that work into your feed reading? Do you read a persons blog, their Posterous, their Tumblr, their Twitter page etc etc. I think blending all of a person feed into a single feed would be a cool thing. I single service that pushed a feed for everything. Funnel Feed? Don't even get me started on how your dad should invest in that company and technology.

  • Something else I have to put on my to do list today checking my trends. Haven't done this in a while. It also made me wonder about my own feeds and how they are perceived. I write on so many different places I wonder how that blends on my own branding if you will. Or if I should just concentrate on blogging in one area and have it go out in a single feed. I just signed up to try Posterous and Tumblr so how does that work into your feed reading? Do you read a persons blog, their Posterous, their Tumblr, their Twitter page etc etc. I think blending all of a person feed into a single feed would be a cool thing. I single service that pushed a feed for everything. Funnel Feed? Don't even get me started on how your dad should invest in that company and technology.

  • Something else I have to put on my to do list today checking my trends. Haven't done this in a while. It also made me wonder about my own feeds and how they are perceived. I write on so many different places I wonder how that blends on my own branding if you will. Or if I should just concentrate on blogging in one area and have it go out in a single feed. I just signed up to try Posterous and Tumblr so how does that work into your feed reading? Do you read a persons blog, their Posterous, their Tumblr, their Twitter page etc etc. I think blending all of a person feed into a single feed would be a cool thing. I single service that pushed a feed for everything. Funnel Feed? Don't even get me started on how your dad should invest in that company and technology.

    • Good Lord, don't bring Dad into this. Heh.

      I think I would read someone's personal/posterous/tumblr blog if I thought they were particularly interesting, funny or were good friends. But I think I would separate the feeds from work related stuff, provided the content they provide there is more personal. I tend to group by topic and overlook or eliminate the personal stuff. Still, there are a few folks I'd watch if they had compelling personal blogs.

  • Wow, I just typed a nice long comment and Disqus says “sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen, try again”. Bye, bye comment..Let's try again.

    Expected:
    I stay pretty focused in seo and web design. Checking out nettuts, problogger, and a few seo sites almost daily..
    Not Expected:
    AP news… I didn't know that I read over 70% of the articles…that was interesting.

  • Wow, I just typed a nice long comment and Disqus says “sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen, try again”. Bye, bye comment..Let's try again.

    Expected:
    I stay pretty focused in seo and web design. Checking out nettuts, problogger, and a few seo sites almost daily..
    Not Expected:
    AP news… I didn't know that I read over 70% of the articles…that was interesting.

  • Wow, I just typed a nice long comment and Disqus says “sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen, try again”. Bye, bye comment..Let's try again.

    Expected:
    I stay pretty focused in seo and web design. Checking out nettuts, problogger, and a few seo sites almost daily..
    Not Expected:
    AP news… I didn't know that I read over 70% of the articles…that was interesting.

  • Funny. I missed the related posting of Chris's article. Thanks for pointing that out. Duh!

  • Funny. I missed the related posting of Chris's article. Thanks for pointing that out. Duh!

  • Funny. I missed the related posting of Chris's article. Thanks for pointing that out. Duh!

  • I was a bit surprised, Jim. While I could have predicted a few of the insights I found, there were a couple that raised an eyebrow. Check it out and let us know how spot on your thoughts were.

  • I was a bit surprised, Jim. While I could have predicted a few of the insights I found, there were a couple that raised an eyebrow. Check it out and let us know how spot on your thoughts were.

  • I was a bit surprised, Jim. While I could have predicted a few of the insights I found, there were a couple that raised an eyebrow. Check it out and let us know how spot on your thoughts were.

  • Thanks Ken. I'd seen Chris's article. In fact, his post is one of my related articles in this entry! I haven't tried to do that yet, but it's certainly something I'll try. Thanks for the thought!

  • Thanks Ken. I'd seen Chris's article. In fact, his post is one of my related articles in this entry! I haven't tried to do that yet, but it's certainly something I'll try. Thanks for the thought!

  • Thanks Ken. I'd seen Chris's article. In fact, his post is one of my related articles in this entry! I haven't tried to do that yet, but it's certainly something I'll try. Thanks for the thought!

  • huangqin
  • Google Reader is a great tool for me. I am able to break apart all the different parts of the web I read into folders, or separate newspapers I like to say.

    It will be interesting to see if I know what I read the most…

  • Google Reader is a great tool for me. I am able to break apart all the different parts of the web I read into folders, or separate newspapers I like to say.

    It will be interesting to see if I know what I read the most…

  • Google Reader is a great tool for me. I am able to break apart all the different parts of the web I read into folders, or separate newspapers I like to say.

    It will be interesting to see if I know what I read the most…

  • Google Reader is a great tool for me. I am able to break apart all the different parts of the web I read into folders, or separate newspapers I like to say.

    It will be interesting to see if I know what I read the most…

    • I was a bit surprised, Jim. While I could have predicted a few of the insights I found, there were a couple that raised an eyebrow. Check it out and let us know how spot on your thoughts were.

      • Wow, I just typed a nice long comment and Disqus says “sorry, that wasn't supposed to happen, try again”. Bye, bye comment..Let's try again.

        Expected:
        I stay pretty focused in seo and web design. Checking out nettuts, problogger, and a few seo sites almost daily..
        Not Expected:
        AP news… I didn't know that I read over 70% of the articles…that was interesting.

        • Cool list, there Jim. I read my news feed headlines, but rarely open an article to read it. Of course my local paper hasn't been compelling in a long time. Heh.

          • Crazy, I just read today that a local paper, the Eagle Times, is filing for bankruptcy. I lived in that town for quite a few years.

            I guess they are all falling away..

  • Jason – In addition to RSS, I started using Google Reader to provide a way for me to search through my direct messages on Twitter. @cspenn put together a great how-to article on setting it up. http://www.christopherspenn.com/2009/07/10/how-

  • Jason – In addition to RSS, I started using Google Reader to provide a way for me to search through my direct messages on Twitter. @cspenn put together a great how-to article on setting it up. http://www.christopherspenn.com/2009/07/10/how-

  • Jason – In addition to RSS, I started using Google Reader to provide a way for me to search through my direct messages on Twitter. @cspenn put together a great how-to article on setting it up. http://www.christopherspenn.com/2009/07/10/how-

  • Jason – In addition to RSS, I started using Google Reader to provide a way for me to search through my direct messages on Twitter. @cspenn put together a great how-to article on setting it up. http://www.christopherspenn.com/2009/07/10/how-

  • Jason – In addition to RSS, I started using Google Reader to provide a way for me to search through my direct messages on Twitter. @cspenn put together a great how-to article on setting it up. http://www.christopherspenn.com/2009/07/10/how-

    • Thanks Ken. I'd seen Chris's article. In fact, his post is one of my related articles in this entry! I haven't tried to do that yet, but it's certainly something I'll try. Thanks for the thought!

      • Funny. I missed the related posting of Chris's article. Thanks for pointing that out. Duh!