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What Does “Burning A Feed” Mean?


[Note: this is the first in a series of posts about how to work with a blog feed and encourage others to subscribe to blogs both using the RSS feed method and via email.]

The question of “what does it mean to burn a feed?” may seem very basic to most genealogy bloggers but I bet when you first started your blogging habit, you had much the same puzzled look as I did when I first heard of “burning a feed.”

Feed Burning Terminology

The best place to start is to look at the two key words:

  • Feed – refers to a Web feed which sends updated content to users. The terms web feed and news feed are inter-changeable. Users must subscribe to a feed – it is just like a magazine in that you won’t have the content delivered unless you sign up or subscribe.
  • Burn – just like “burning a CD,” the content provider, usually a blogger, must actively create a feed to which users can subscribe.

So the next step is to discuss how each end of the connection – the blogger/content provider and the user/reader – perform their functions and which tools are used to not only send content out to users, but also how users can receive and read that content.

  • Reader – there are various news readers (aka feed readers) available to users, all of them more appropriately being described as aggregators. An aggregator is a program which combines all the various feeds to which a user has subscribed and allows the user to read and organize the content.  The most common web-based readers are Google Reader and Bloglines. There are also desktop-based readers (aka client readers) which are not as common.  Most readers allow you to create folders, tags and labels to organize the content of the feeds.
  • Burner – the content provider/blogger must select a program to use in order to prepare the content to be fed to the user. This process is called “burning a feed” and is usually accomplished using the Atom or RSS standard. The most common program used to burn feeds is FeedBurner.

Feed Burning Configuration Options

Some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to burn a feed and which settings to use:

  • Most blogging platforms allow you to burn full posts (showing the entire post) or partial posts (either a teaser headline or the first few lines of a post).
  • If you have a readership that accesses your content through a mobile device (smart phone), very often they want the full content since they may not have access to a Web browser to view your original post.
  • Bloggers prefer, of course, to direct traffic back to their blogs so they very often only burn partial posts into a feed.
  • Burning full posts to a feed also helps with the proliferation of splogs or spam blogs since the content is freely available to anyone who subscribes.

Next post:  Setting Up A FeedBurner Feed

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

9 thoughts on “What Does “Burning A Feed” Mean?

  1. When I tried to click through here to comment, I got this:
    Firefox can’t find the server at

    So, I guess you feed wasn’t working at that moment.

  2. One thing about summary feeds versus full content: readers hate summary feeds. When you force readers to click through (even in a browser), they know you’re doing it for stats/ad dollars, and they don’t like it at all. This is a topic on which you see a lot of comments on sites for professional bloggers (ProBlogger, etc.).

    I rarely keep my subscriptions to summary feed blogs. I follow a large number of blogs, so if I had to click through and wait for each one to load, I’d never be able to keep up. If I can’t read it all in Google Reader, I’m probably not going to read it at all.

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