I’ve been playing around with the beta of BlogBeat and recently switched on FeedBurner for my feeds (just the free version). Both systems attempt to show who’s reading your blog and provide some statistics about them. FeedBurner does this by looking at the number of people viewing your RSS feed and BlogBeat does it by looking at the number of people looking at your web site.
In the end, you have to realize that the actual numbers are irrelevant because both these methods are really quite inadequate. What they do show however, is trends and comparatives. You can’t say with any real degree of certainty that 100 people read your blog, but you can say with certainty that more people read your blog today than yesterday or that Wednesday is the most popular day. It’s because of this that I much prefer Blogbeat to FeedBurner, even though I suspect that FeedBurner’s number are likely to be more numerically accurate. With BlogBeat I can see what links people are clicking on around my website, not just what entries they clicked through to. I can see the window size people use when they access my blog – though I wish that were easier to visualize – and the service has a lot of potential to pull out other data about what readers are accessing on the site, more so than just how many people are reading.
I also find BlogBeat’s interface a lot nicer to use that FeedBurner’s. FeedBurner constantly forgets whether I’m looking at the last 24 hours or all of time (and it only provides those two options) whereas FeedBurner lets me switch charts and datasets while still preserving the timeframe I’m looking at (today, yesterday, this week, last week, this month, last month, this year or last year). Generally I just find that the information that comes out of BlogBeat is easier to understand than out of FeedBurner as well – the graphs are cleaner and clearer, BlogBeat isn’t constantly trying to make me upgrade to the paid version either which reduces a lot of the wasted space and makes for an overall simpler, cleaner interface.
It will be interesting to see how BlogBeat goes forward as they come out of beta. How they plan to profit from the service will make a big difference to whether or not it remains usable and worthwhile. For now I’ll stick with it and I’ve turned off FeedBurner again (or at least I’m working on doing so). That’s the other nice thing about BlogBeat, it’s far less intrusive than FeedBurner and doesn’t require making your users change.