Is it Okay to Gain More Readers by Tricking Them?

A Google security flaw (which has been fixed) allowed malicious websites to automatically subscribe readers to RSS feeds using Google Reader. The way it worked was an iframe was loaded on a page that would automatically load a page adding users to a blogger’s feed count.

The trick (hack?) mentioned above is a blatant attempt to game the feed counters that are so prevalent on many sites. It can also be interpreted as an attempt to lure advertisers in since a high feed count might be a good indication that a site is doing well.

A large side-effect of adding all of these readers as feed subscribers is that the readers had no choice in the matter. All a reader had to do was go to a website. If many websites had participated in this technique, a reader would suddenly be overwhelmed with new feeds and no idea how they had gotten there.

Michael from Copyblogger wrote how it is never a good idea to force readers into anything. I am against forcing readers to have advertisements blasted in their face, and also forcing readers to unknowingly subscribe to content.

I’d like some feedback on this if any of you have time to comment. What are some of the ways you’ve been “tricked” to click on an ad, subscribe to a feed, or stay longer on a website? Are there any benefits at all for tricking readers to do a task?

About William

William lives in Oakley, California and is an avid tech enthusiast. When he's not writing about online social networking and businesses, he is busy reviewing how social media affects us all.