A seldom-mentioned side-effect of “the RSS revolution” is the weird way it skews web traffic. If a person subscribes to my RSS feed, index.rdf is going to be pulled off my site every time the person’s (or site’s) aggregator checks to see whether I’ve published updates. I leave NetNewsWire up and running 24×7, and set to refresh its feeds every hour. That means I generate 24 hits a day on Radio Free Blogistan and around 100 other sites I like, even though I actually look at the site only once or twice a week.
In August, I had 24,000 requests for index.rdf — fully 6x more requests than for my homepage. More than ever before, traffic fails to equate with readership. In fact, the numbers are way off. And the more popular RSS gets, the more skewed the numbers are going to get.
If you’re dishing up RSS, make sure all feed paths are removed from your traffic summaries (this is easier and more effective than trying to trap the UA strings of the various readers). You’ll still want to count those requests, but don’t be misled: You’re not nearly as popular as you think.