On Truncating Feed Content

While skimming my RSS subscriptions this morning, I came across this tidbit from NetNewsWire:

On the Many NetNewsWire Feature Requests to Show Full Web Pages

[…]

There is a solution to the problem of showing full content and not leaving the app, and it’s a feature that really does belong in an RSS reader: using content extraction to grab the article from the original page.

If you’ve ever used Safari’s Reader view, then you know what I’m talking about. The idea is that NetNewsWire would do something very much like the Reader view (but inline, in the article pane), that grabs the content and formats it nicely, without all the extra junk that is not the article you want to read.

Let me be clear about this: Truncating content in RSS feeds is, without a sliver of doubt, an accessibility issue first and foremost. Accessibility as in making your content accessible to your readers wherever they chose to subscribe to your feeds—be it a mobile app, a command line, or through a screen reader. Undermining this aspect and coercing them to visit your website, no matter how much love you poured into it, is short-sighted at best, and inconsiderate at worst.

I get that authors need to pay the bills, and some of them resort to sponsorships or ads to do so. But it’s user-hostile to presume that your subscribers don’t know any better and that they can only enjoy your content directly on your website.

Authors who care about their readership have already figured out perfectly legitimate ways to monetize their feeds without any content truncation. Those who don’t are unlikely to bother and will continue to do a disservice to their readers.

In the meantime, industrious developers will keep finding workarounds to restore functionality that users yearn for. And nothing can stop that, because open always wins.