This isn’t a magazine: subscribing is free!

What does “subscribe” mean?

How to increase your blog subscription rate by 254% suggests you shouldn’t use the word “subscribe” to entice people towards your RSS feed.

Bloggers are used to the word and know what it means, especially when accompanied by an orange icon with two curves and a dot. How many other people understand it? Tech-savy people probably have no problem with the concept of RSS, even if they don’t blog (oh dear, it seems “blog” has become a verb now!). Unless you’re writing for nerds, what good is their knowledge to you (or your readers)?

The dictionary on my MacBook says that subscribe means to arrange to receive something regularly, typically a publication, by paying in advance.

RSS feeds are similar to traditional subscriptions…

A good way to understand RSS feeds is to think about how magazine subscriptions work: rather than having to frequently visit the newsstand to check for a new issue of your favorite magazine, you can just subscribe to it and sit back and wait for the new issues to come to you.

From Library 2.Oakton

RSS is free

Yet, RSS feeds are different too. You don’t need to pay in advance… or at all.

When I first saw “Subscribe for free” on Logo Design Love. I thought it was a bit weird, but now that I realise there’s an association with subscriptions costing money, it makes perfect sense.

free rss updates

I’ve changed my link to say “Free updates” (pretty much all I could fit on without changing the font size). Feel free to suggest phrasings that are even simpler, or self-explanatory. I’ve also introduced email subscriptions through FeedBurner; for those who don’t use an RSS fetcher or reader.

Why you would use an RSS reader

Do you have sites that you seem to come across regularly in your searches? Do you see sites and think “Ooh, I’ll have to remember that one.”? Do you have an enormous list of bookmarks that you get lost wading through?

Even if the answers are no to those questions, you’ll probably benefit from using a feed reader. RSS isn’t only for blogs, it’s available for news sites, forums and any other site that offers it. Since using a feed reader I’ve been able to keep track of news headlines, tech news, as well as all my favourite blogs and the blogs I kinda like… and the blogs that I’m testing out to see if I like them.

Feed readers save time by alerting you when a site is updated, and save you the disappointment of visiting a site only to find it hasn’t been updated. I’ve also learnt an enormous amount, about a whole range of topics by following a bunch of different blogs. It’s pretty sweet.

Previous posts about feed readers

Further reading about RSS


  1. says

    Hi Kristen,

    I wonder if it made any difference having ‘free’ mentioned on Logo Design Love. It was the recent post on Copyblogger that prompted me to change the wording on too.

    Thanks for the mention!

  2. says

    I started mentioning “Free RSS Subscription” on Creative Curio practically since the beginning. I never thought that the word “subscription” could be a potential problem, though! I like how you’ve phrased it, “Free Updates.” I can’t think of anything better because that describes it perfectly and succinctly!

  3. says

    Difficult to tell David, if you started with it that way you don’t have any old stats to compare it to (I’m going to see if anything happens to my feed stats after the change). I guess people interested in logos are a bit more likely to be tech savvy. Would you agree?

    Thanks Lauren, glad you think it’s a good phrasing. 😀

  4. says

    I guess people interested in logos are a bit more likely to be tech savvy. Would you agree?

    That’s a fair comment, for sure. Do let us know if any significant change occurs.

  5. says

    Wow I never really gave this any consideration before which was really ignorant of me assuming people would know what I mean.

    RSS is such second nature to me, I’m actually annoyed at site that don’t offer it (I’m looking at you Empire).

    I will take a look at this over the weekend.

    Oh by the way I just ‘subscribed too’ 😀

  6. says

    Will do David.

    I know what you mean Lee, it didn’t really occur to me that people didn’t know about RSS until RSS day was publicised.
    Cheers for the sub. :)

  7. says

    I like your phrasing — “Free Updates via RSS” — because “Free RSS subscription” can suggest that RSS feeds generally are _not_ free…. muddies the water even more, dunnit?

    So your version spells it out nicely for your own case, _and_ helps clarify RSS in general. :)

  8. says

    So you know, even though I checked the ‘subscribe to comments’ box, I’ve not been receiving notification.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but worth asking the others.

    Feel free to delete this comment too.

  9. says

    Oh, that’s strange, thanks for letting me know. I looked at the subscriptions from the admin and it says that your email isn’t subscribed to any posts Do you get the You are subscribed to this post. Manage your subscriptions. when you come to comment?

  10. says

    Interestingly enough for me, I don’t associate an electronic “subscription” with fees, but with a bombardment of messages, probably because of being exposed to aggressive marketing tactics when I do sign up for something (and it’s hardly the retailers who do it, but charities/worthy causes, in my experience). But by offering “free updates,” there’s an implicit promise that I’m only getting one notification per post.

    By the way, I found your blog via David’s. :coffee:

  11. says

    Hi Jay,
    That is kind of interesting. I suppose the difference between subscribing to a site and those marketing tactics is that usually you are trying to get something else and they force you to give them your details. I’m getting more annoyed every time I have to create an account to get something… I am having to do the “forgotten password?” retrieval thing more and more.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  12. says

    I always find these type of posts helpful – in theory. I just never get around to taking action. However, that is on me. 😉