RSS subscriber numbers for science blogs

All your Google Reader stats are belong to us.

Following on from the blogroll data I took a look at the subscriber counts in Google Reader for each science blog that we track.

Some things to bear in mind before trying to make sense of the data:

  • Google Reader is one RSS reader of many. Anecdotally it accounts for between 30%-70% (big range) of all RSS subscribers.
  • Some blogs are going to have more old school ‘refresh the page’ vs RSS traffic than others, so this doesn’t answer any ‘does x have more readers than y’ type questions.
  • A subset of blogs have more than one feed (Atom and RSS variants, for example), I’m only counting one – the one submitted to Scintilla or Blogs. That could significantly affect results for some blogs.
  • Number of subscribers != number of people actively reading their subscriptions
  • I’ve left the raw numbers out again, though you can probably work some out from the graph below.

That said, here are the top thirty science blogs by Google Reader subscriptions (#15 – #30 are below the fold):

Rank Blog
#1 Pharyngula
#2 Mind Hacks
#3 Bad Astronomy
#4 Science Blog – Science news straight from the source
#5 Good Math, Bad Math
#6 Wired Science
#7 Health Blog
#8 Cognitive Daily
#9 PsyBlog
#10 Not Even Wrong
#11 Environmental Graffiti
#12 BPS Research Digest
#13 The n-Category Cafe
#14 Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends
#15 Cocktail Party Physics

And here’s the obligatory long tailed graph:


Pharyngula is, again, way ahead of the pack – PZ is pretty much King of the Science Blogosphere any way you shake it (well, except one. And even then he’s in the top ten). The Panda’s Thumb is at #26 this time. Interestingly the top ten blogs by blogroll is otherwise almost completely different to the top ten blogs by subscriber count (that’s not to say that the blogrolled blogs aren’t popular: they are, just not in the top ten most popular in this context).

2.5-5k subscribers might not seem an awful lot, but it’s pretty good going. Boing Boing has around 28k subscribers in Reader (this seemed very low to me, perhaps they’ve changed feed address recently)? The Nature journal TOC is delivered to around 4,800 Reader users. This blog has 468. The BBC News science and technology feed goes to 6,722.

For even more context – beware, not comparing like with like here so take with a pinch of salt – the average mid-tier science journal might print 450 copies (you could extrapolate wildly to get the number of actual readers by multiplying by ten or twelve).

Anyway, the top fifteen is a pretty mixed bag, I can’t see many common themes. 4 are neuroscience / psychology related (BPS Digest, Mind Hacks, PsyBlog and Cognitive Daily) and 4 are associated with publications of some sort in real life (Mind Hacks, Not Even Wrong, Wired, WSJ). Suggestions / analysis welcome.

Rank Blog
#16 Bad Science
#17 Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology ? A Group Blog
#18 Social Science Statistics Blog
#19 The Loom
#20 Developing Intelligence
#21 The Panda’s Thumb
#22 Uncertain Principles
#23 Mixing Memory
#24 Climate Progress
#25 john hawks weblog
#27 CogNews
#28 Archaeology
#29 Respectful Insolence
#30 NHS Blog Doctor


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