Is there any way to get numbers on how many people are reading an RSS feed? My understanding of the way feed readers work (e.g. Google Reader) is that they check the feed periodically, cache it, and serve the cached copy to whoever asks for it until it's refreshed - which would imply that there's no way to get reliable numbers on readership.


Lots of suggestions to use FeedBurner, but do they have a way of counting individual readers using a web-based reader like Google Reader? Otherwise it seems like the tracking pixel approach suggested by @ifwdev might be best.

+3  A: 

Include an image in your posts and see how many hits it gets?

And you could potentially use a service such as Statcounter to do this.
+6  A: 

Feedburner provides that info, you can delegate your feed to that service. I don't really know how it works under the covers (as you said, the feed should be checked periodically...) to be reliable.

+1  A: 

You can certainly get RSS statistics.

If you are hosting your own RSS feed, you can parse the IIS or Apache logs to find all requests for the feed and then do some processing to aggregate these per machine.

If your feed is hosted by any blogging engine, they usually offer some basic statistic.

You can also use Google's FeedBurner to generate an RSS feed that basically redirects to your real feed. FeedBurner gives really good statistics and also supports other interesting features.

Franci Penov
I don't think the per machine aggregation works in all cases (i.e. users behind a NAT firewall count as 1 user), but I can't imagine a better aproach.
It also doesn't take push services like Google Reader into account, where there is one subscriber on behalf of a large number of people.
Joel Coehoorn
That's why I offered multiple alternatives.
Franci Penov

Feedburner works rather nicely. They do all the stats for Perlbuzz, for example. Plus you get these little widgets that you can put on the page (the yellow box on Perlbuzz that gives the count of current readers).

You can track the logs yourself, but I don't mind having Feedburner do it for me.

Andy Lester