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Feedly WAS (is) Hijacking Shared Links And Cutting Out Original Publishers

Feedly is feedly copy contentknown as the leading replacement for the now deceased Google Reader but they are also beginning to get a reputation for making absolutely bone-headed decisions. Last month Feedly had the bright idea of forcing all their users to have a Google+ account in order to use Feedly, and today Feedly has found a way to piss off bloggers everywhere.

I have just discovered that Feedly has rolled out an unannounced update that changes how users share links.

Instead of sharing a link which leads to a publisher's website, Feedly users are now sharing links that lead to the same content, only now it is hosted on Feedly's website.

This change happened sometime around midnight Friday night. Any link shared from Feedly before midnight links to the original source, but any link shared after about 10am links to Feedly.

Update: As of midnight Saturday, Feedly has suspended the hijacking of links. All links (including the one below) now lead where they should.

For example, the following link leads to a copy of one of my blog posts which Feedly is hosting and distributing:

It looks like this:

feedly copy content

Just to be clear, I don't know of any other service that pulls this kind of stunt. This is very much not okay with me and I would bet that I am not the only one.

This bothers me both as a publisher and as a reader. And just to add insult to injury the "open site" button at the top of the screen won't actually take you to my blog. It takes you deeper into Feedly.

I'm not sure how many of my readers remember but a similar problem occurred last year when the save-for-later service Readability was criticized for having users share links that led to the Readability website and not the source publisher's website (AppAdvice).

Readability was roundly criticized and quickly changed how their sharing option worked, but before that happened ReadWrite spelled out exactly why one is always supposed to share a link to the source:

I'm not moaning about page views here. That's not my point. I'm a blogger, but I don't care about blogging nearly as much as I care about reading and sharing.

The problem with this is that it breaks sharing. It forces mobile users to use Readability instead of their link-saving app of choice, which might be Instapaper, a service that does treat publishers with more distance and respect. It might be Pinboard or another bookmarking service. A shared link should always, always, always be the original URL, so that users can do with it as they please.

Instead, Readability skipped ads for publishers and showed ads for itself instead. Even on the desktop, though it loads the original page below, it puts the linked story in a frame, so the URL still isn't right.

And that's not the only reason why one should be allowed to share a link to the original source.

I have contacted Feedly and confirmed that this is a new feature they are testing (and not a bug). Instead, they think it will boost engagement:

This is a tool we are building to help publishers increase the engaged readership in feedly. This also helps mobile users consume content a lot faster. This is still experimental but I will be happy to completely opt you out.

I really have to wonder about Feedly; it's almost as if they don't realize that publishers want to engage with readers directly and not have Feedly engage with readers at our expense.It's kinda the reason I have a website rather than posting everything on (for example) Facebook. Furthermore, what if said reader wants to engage via email, Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section?

Feedly can't help in those areas, and in fact by changing the way their links work Feedly has actually hurt my ability to engage with readers.

Why they would think this was a good idea escapes me, but I have high hopes that Feedly will drop this publisher hostile policy.

About Nate Hoffelder (11123 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

61 Comments on Feedly WAS (is) Hijacking Shared Links And Cutting Out Original Publishers

  1. Kinda funny seeing you posting this, as all your outgoing links in the RSS feeds go through Previously there was also but it seems you’ve at least dropped that.

  2. I don’t see the relevance. is a url shortener based on bitly. It doesn’t do anything other the same 301 redirect service offered by bitly. I use it because bitly’s bookmarklet is the easiest way to grab a title and link and then share it either on Twitter or the blog.

    Redirectingat has to do with commission junction’s affiliate service. It’s just a way of tracking links to sites like walmart.

    Neither of the services I use hosts the content; they just link to it in a specific way for specific purposes. Many websites use similar tricks when creating outbound links (including, as of yesterday, Feedly).

  3. Hello,

    (This is Edwin from feedly).

    As I mentioned in the email I sent to Nate earlier this morning, the goal of this feature is to 1) help content creators increase their readership in feedly (when a user discovers your content and adds it to his feedly, they are converting a one time visitor into a repeat engaged user) and 2) help user consume content faster on mobile device.

    We are early in the design and implementation of this feature. If you are a publisher and want to work with us on improving this feature (we are working on some interesting features around discovery, call to action, analytics), please email me at [email protected] If you do not want to benefit form this feature, you can also sent me an email and we will quickly opt you out.


  4. I noticed this with Feedly links that started showing up in my twitter stream. I was confused when I ended up at Feedly and did not see the website I expected. When I tried to get to the original site, that proved to be impossible. I wanted to see the comments to that post. And the Feedly link made that impossible.

    Great. //sarcasm

    For this user, the Feedly links were a complete fail.

    This is hijacking the destination and it is not good behavior.

    :If you do not want to benefit from this feature::

    Right. How is that a benefit to anyone but Feedly?

  5. As a publisher its not behavior that I see any benefit from, and increases the suspicion that as Nate suggests, the only benefit goes to Feedly. Now if the site redirected through feedly so they could track it, I would be fine with that (i.e. share a link, person clicks on link, link goes via feedly through some type service but user ends up on the main source page in their web browser, that’s fine. But publishers want to know who is reading their stuff, where they are based, how many pages did they click around their site, and hopefully, did they go to a subscribe page. None of that information would be collected if its pointing to feedly.

    Plus the user wouldn’t know or see links to any other content the publisher produces based on this model.

  6. Paul,

    The comments feedback is one that we collected a few times over the last week and tomorrow’s iteration will address it.

    The need for better analytics is also one that we are hearing a lot about (independently from the url shortener feature). We are working on analytics tools which will offer content creators insight into their readership and engagement tools to better interact with them.

    For example, Nate has aggregated a community of 1,000 readers in feedly. It would be nice for him to know how many of them are really passionate and read every article? who are the most influencers? what is the aggregated interest graph of that micro-community? It would be nice to allow Nate to ask readers about their profile so that he can get a list of actual people (like twitter and facebook). It would be nice to allow Nate run campaigns (events, e-commerce, fund raising, etc…) if he wants to.

    We are going to start with analytics but there is a lot more we want to offer content creators who want to take advantage.

    We are also going to make it easier for both content creators and users to opt out. This way it will be clear who has the control.

  7. Uneducated Guess // 7 December, 2013 at 6:40 pm //

    Links are everything on the web. The fact that you don’t care is yet another reason I will never use Feedly.

  8. Uneducated Guess // 7 December, 2013 at 6:49 pm //

    Also, can we look forward to a Lifetime Ransom option for those “better analytics”? That would be swell.

  9. I already have the analytics, but more importantly all that analytics stuff is irrelevant to the point that Feedly is hijacking links.

  10. This is BS. You’ve already started hijacking links but you are not providing any analytics, thus proving that any claim that there is a connection is nonsense.

    Also, where do you get off demanding that I opt out of your hijacking? It’s like saying that I should have to ask someone to stop hitting me in the face wallet. And yet you think that is reasonable?

    Do you realize that you have just reinforced my point that Feedly is hostile to publishers?

  11. Treating people like they just don’t understand the value you are going to create is a pretty awful sales tactic. You are just making people distrust you. It’s obvious what is happening here.

  12. This seems to be a “feature” of sharing directly through Feedly only. I use RSS readers (in particular, Mr. Reader and Newsify) and use Feedly only as the backend aggregator. When sharing links, Mr. Reader gives a direct link to the shared article while Newsify uses Google’s Feedproxy redirect, but you still end up on the originating web site. So there are ways to use Feedly while avoiding the hijacked links problem.

    Another way, of course, is to find another service for RSS aggregation. Thanks for alerting us to this new behavior.

  13. Bummed out Feedly users: if you’re looking for a no-nonsense slick RSS reader please have a look at – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised :-)

  14. I’ve got to agree with Nate on this one…This seems like a low blow by Feedly. I hope you’ll backtrack on this quickly, b/c if the decision stands, I’ll be looking for another reader.

  15. Educated Guess // 7 December, 2013 at 10:55 pm //

    Sweet taste of irony, the publishers that never told their readers how they’d promote content are now the ones who cry when Feedly is offering a better reading experience than their blogs…

    Let me grab my popcorn.

  16. It’s your opinion that its hostile to publishers. Feel free to opt out of Feedly if you’re a publisher, I’ll take my attention elsewhere.

    Content is the commodity, and it. is. cheap.

  17. I’m not sure I understand your point.

    I have always supported readers choosing to read my posts elsewhere. This is an option I value highly as a reader so i don’t want to deny it to folks who read this blog. It’s not the issue here.

    The problem here isn’t the quality of the reading experience but that Feedly has decided to hijack the links and cut me out. That is a completely different issue.

  18. Michael Donohoe // 7 December, 2013 at 11:52 pm //

    “It’s your opinion that its hostile to publishers”

    It is mine too and I’ve worked for various publishers for almost a decade.

    Let me be clear though – in its current form it IS HOSTILE to publishers.

    That said, I expect there are other features (of which this is just one) that Feedly would push out that would help counter the impact of this change.

    At least I hope so. If not, then this is certainly a shitty move on Feedlys part.

    I’m going to hope Feedly does right by publishers on this one.

    “Content is the commodity, and it. is. cheap.”

    I originally wanted to reply with a “Well, fuck you” just for that as it just came across as completely disdainful for a lot of people I know and respect. However I’ve said plenty of things that weren’t meant as written and I’m sure you had a different point to make.

  19. I doubt feedly even has the legal right to copy others’ content to their servers.

  20. I have no idea what you are trying to say.

  21. I tried Feedly, but I didn’t like it. I switched to NewsBlur when GReader went away, and I couldn’t be happier. I understand some liberties might need to be taken when presenting the content of a feed, but modifying links and copying content is sketchy at best.

  22. Well, just to play this point for a moment, no, you really don’t. What Feedly could offer you here is insight into the outside effectiveness of their platform. For example, how much of your traffic is coming from RSS readers who discovered you through their service and then shared that with an influential site like Reddit. How frequently this happens, and what articles specifically drove the most RSS subscriptions are among other data points that could reveal tons in terms of your own monetization efforts.

    I can agree, however, that Feedly’s method for this is simply unacceptable when there are countless alternatives for achieving the same goal. A simple url parameter appended to the string would be benign and have zero impact. Then, some client side scripting could parse that, post the data back to feedly, then bind itself to an RSS signup link to monitor click throughs. That’s just the easy way (from experience).

    If Feedly wants to continue this obnoxious method, fine, but they need to make it opt-in, not opt-out. Let me, as a publisher, decide if the value of Feedly’s data services is more important than that of multiple, high profile links scattered across the internet.

  23. Actually, I have more analytics data than I know what to do with, including Google Analytics, Feedburner, Webmaster Tools, Statcounter, bitly, Facebook, and AddThis.

    And I’m not even making use of all of the services out there.

    Do you know what?

    There is so much analytics data out there that it makes me wonder whether Feedly can add anything worthwhile. That service only represents about 10% to 15% of my RSS followers. I’m not sure Feedly will tell me anything I can’t find out elsewhere.

  24. Understandable. Metrics is a career unto itself and getting useful information out all that data is tricky. That isn’t enough to discount the value the data has, however, and once you’re able to put it all together in a cohesive way, marketing and monetization efforts become significantly less emotional.

    Data from Feedly would have significant value to publishers who see a sizeable portion of their traffic volume coming from RSS. Knowing what type of articles drive more traffic, which drive more subscriptions, etc would be invaluable as a tool in developing more reader engagement through content (and in turn, what sort of RSS adverts will drive user action). That’s just the tip of what you can get from that sort of data.

    Again, though, I want to be clear that I’m in no way defending Feedly’s scummy approach to this. This is exactly the sort of anti-user desperation move you see from startups about to go under. I mean, I sympathize with them in their desire to drive up user numbers through exposure, but pissing off publishers isn’t the best way to accomplish that.

  25. Wow, THAT is not an attitude that I, as a CONSUMER of content and up to now a customer of Feedly, like to hear. I can take my reading habits elsewhere. Aggregators are YOUR commodity, and they. are. WAAAAY cheaper than good content. Buh-bye, Feedly.

  26. I agree as well.

    I liked feedly, but when you see the owner/representative come out and act like a douche telling people to leave it if they don’t like it rather than listening to people’s concerns and addressing them in a positive manner, you can pretty much bet they won’t be around for long.

    I too will promptly start looking for an alternative.

  27. Content is NOT cheap. Sure, bad content might be, but good content isn’t cheap to produce, and it can single handedly make or break a business.

  28. …and done. Goodbye Feedly.

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