I do most of my on-line reading via a feed reader. For years I used Google Reader, without even really worrying about the risks. After Google ruined it, I experimented with several alternatives. I’m happy enough with a couple of the options, so I’m not so unhappy with how things have turned out (with Google having announced that it is canceling Reader). But the surge in interest has prompted me to think about how reading feeds is different from reading things via social media. Social media helps you find great posts. Feed readers are for when you’ve found a great writer.

I notice this whenever someone shares one of my pages (either here or on Wise Bread). I’ll get a surge of traffic to one post. Some of those people will read another post, or even a few. Only a few seem to become regular readers of my work—and fewer now than before.

Back in the old days—let’s say, five or six years ago—there was more of the latter, and I think it was because more people used feed readers. It was wonderful to find a great post, but it was much better to find a great writer. Then you could add their feed to your feed reader and read everything they wrote.

I still do that. Every time I find a great post via Facebook or Twitter (or whatever), I look at other stuff the guy has written, with an eye toward adding the feed to my feed reader.

I’m puzzled that more people don’t seem to do the same. Finding a great writer is way better than finding a great post.

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2 thoughts on “Great writers versus great posts

  1. On the one hand, I agree with you; on the other hand, citing Tim Ferriss’ “Information Diet” idea, once I’ve established a trustworthy circle of friends, there’s a good chance that I’d rather read what they recommend, no matter from who. From time to time, they recommend enough articles from a single writer that I want to “follow” that writer, whatever form that takes. I find myself pruning my RSS feed almost as much as I read it.

    Of course, this risks living in an ever-amplifying echo chamber, but if I notice that, then I simply add more diverse friends. :)

  2. I prune my RSS feeds too. But when I find a writer that has written a few pieces that I found really interesting, I’m willing to cut them quite a bit of slack.

    It’s worth it to me to skim a dozen posts that aren’t very interesting, in order to find one that’s got new info about a topic I’m really interested in.

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