Why I Stopped Paying Attention to Feedburner Subscriber Numbers

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Readers of this blog probably haven’t noticed, but the little chicklet/button for Feedburner disappeared from my sidebar about a month ago.  The Twitter one, however, has stayed fixed in place (mostly so people can easily find my account; the feeds for my blog are linked above the Twitter gizmo).  There’s a good reason, too.

One of the things that I have noticed since the disappearance of Google Reader is the unreliability of Feedburner subscriber numbers.  They’ve never been terribly reliable, for sure, but the death of GR resulted in a massive drop off in subscriber numbers for my blog, and, it seems, a whole lot of weird fluctuations throughout the blogosphere.  For example, in a matter of hours (yesterday), SF Signal’s subscriber numbers went from 19k, then down to 4k, then up to nearly 21k, then down to 15k, and so on.  For a site like SF Signal, I suppose those drops are meaningless, since the popularity of the blog can be easily measured via other means (a vibrant comments section
and site views).  For a blog like mine, where I babble about things I like, there isn’t a whole lot of that kind of activity, so measuring popularity relies on subscriber numbers.

But watching the numbers for my blog plummet by hundreds after the death of GR made me rather anxious, and after a time, I became aware that I had put too much attention into how many people read my blog, and not enough attention elsewhere.  And since Feedburner, thus far, hasn’t demonstrated the ability to catch numbers from cloud-based RSS readers (like Feedly), I also realized that there isn’t a point even paying attention to the numbers anymore.  People read my blog.  They are now commenting more (in part, I think, because I took all of the barriers away).  Whether I have 400 subscribers, 800, 100, 12, or 47.5, I think there’s something toxic about fixating on subscriber numbers, in part because that means energy I could spend on other things (you know, like blogging interesting things) is spent worrying about where my subscribers went and how I can get them back.  I’ve never spent a lot of energy on the numbers, but I’ve come to the conclusion that any time spent thinking about these things is stupid.

So I deleted the chicklet.  Feedburner is now merely a RSS dispensary for this blog.  And that’s what it’s going to be for the time being.  There’s no point sitting around worrying about numbers.  If people hate my blog, then they hate my blog because I suck.  I trust that someone will tell me as much at some point.  If they love my blog, they’ll comment or lurk forever (I will hunt down all of you lurkers eventually).  But it’s time to move on now.  It’s time to just blog about shit I like.

It’s time to stop caring about the numbers.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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