Tumblr Removes RSS Feed Control

Bob Leggitt | Friday, 21 February 2014 |

UPDATE: Tumblr has restored the Truncate RSS control, but it's now located in the Advanced Theme Options. To access it, click Customize from your main Dashboard, and then scroll right down to the bottom of the left hand column, where you'll find the Advanced tab. Click on Advanced, and adjust the setting as marked with the arrow in the image below, making sure you Save when you've done.



Gladly, you can now ignore the rest of the article if you wish. But for reference, I've left it in place...

The option in the Tumblr settings which enabled users to truncate their RSS feed, or assign it to Feedburner, has been removed. It appears that those who were using Feedburner for their Tumblr blogs were emailed a notice, but those who merely truncated their blog feed were not told at all, and all Tumblr blogs with truncated feeds were simply amended on the quiet so that their RSS included the full posts.


This blog settings page on Tumblr was where users previously found the RSS control: "Truncate RSS Feed". It's now conspicuous by its absence. This is the Tumblr account I use for Twirpz

WHAT IS, OR WAS, THE TRUNCATED FEED?

The truncated feed was the feature that allowed users to present only a small taster of each post (rather than the whole thing) in their syndication. So when readers were accessing posts remotely, on third party sites, they’d have to click through to the actual blog to read the full article. Now that the feature has been removed, the need for remote readers to visit your blog no longer exists.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?

The primary problems are that Tumblr has now become much easier for parasitic scraper sites to steal from (because scrapers predominantly steal posts using non-truncated RSS feeds), and, as mentioned above, that readers who use RSS facilities to source their reading matter will no longer need to visit the actual Tumblr blogs if a post takes their interest. It’s no surprise, given Yahoo!’s attitude to accommodating scrapers and content thieves with their Flickr API, that they’ve now presided over a similar concession to Internet parasites with Tumblr.

CAN I HIT BACK AT THIS MEASURE?

There are steps you can take to combat this. First off, don’t pay for a Tumblr Premium Theme, because Tumblr is doing everything within its power to ensure that no one will ever see it. This is yet another step which inherently cuts down on the number of visitors to users’ actual blog pages, and it’s reached the point now where, for the average user, a Premium Theme is simply a waste of money. If Yahoo! want your money, let them earn it by helping you get traffic to your blog. At present they’re doing the opposite of that. They clearly want to have their cake and eat it.

You could of course also move your project to Blogger (that's where you are now) or WordPress.com, where things are set up to send traffic to the actual blog pages rather than to the host’s root domain, as is the case with Tumblr. But I understand that can be difficult, particularly if you’ve a lot of time invested in a Tumblr blog, have built up a following, and have got to know the platform well.

There are two straightforward options you could use to reclaim some of the power which Tumblr has taken away.

1) Backdate your new posts so that they don’t appear in the RSS feed at all. In other words, if you’re posting on 21st February 2014, change the date of the post to, say, 21st February 2013. Tumblr RSS feeds include the blog’s most recently-dated 20 posts only, so if you date a post to fall outside that range, it won’t be included in the feed at all. There are obviously drawbacks with excluding your posts from RSS altogether. Those who’ve added your Tumblr to their RSS readers won’t know you’ve added a new post, which is a disaster. But in a moment I’ll explain how you can combine this and the second suggestion to create a workaround.

2) Add enticing links to your new posts, which direct readers to other posts on your blog. If you avoid giving the full story in any new post you make, and always ensure that readers have to click a link if they want the rest of the information, then RSS readers will still click through to your blog. They won’t be clicking through to your new post of course, but at least you stand a chance of getting a visit.

One way you might combine the above tricks and artificially truncate your RSS feed, is to divide each new post into a Part 1 (taster) and a Part 2 (resolution). Link to Part 2 at the end of Part 1, then backdate Part 2 so it doesn’t appear in the RSS feed, but leave the date on Part 1 as is, so it goes out in the feed as normal. Technically, this should work, prompting interested RSS readers to click through to your blog. But what a massive amount of hassle just to artificially reinstate a feature Tumblr didn’t need to remove in the first place.

CONCLUSION

Some argue that truncating an RSS feed is a negative decision because it makes reading posts too inconvenient for remote readers and therefore cuts down on the number of them sharing the material with others. But in truth it depends on the project, and if the titles and first paragraphs of your posts are sufficiently intriguing, you'll get both visits and shares from remote readers. Ultimately, bloggers should have the choice as to whether or not they want their full posts automatically delivered to remote sites and served up as easy pickings for scrapers. Afterall, it's their work.

I wonder what Tumblr will disable next?

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