I know that a lot of people watch the little FeedBurner chicklets that show how many subs any given blog has.
Here is mine:
Here is TechCrunch's:
So what does this mean? Not as much as everyone thinks. FeedBurner has a really good post up on their blog explaining why these numbers have been going up a lot recently.
The main reason is that Google has started to report their feed subs to FeedBurner, both Google Homepage (their MyYahoo/Netvibes like service) and Google Reader. Since Google has about 20% of the reader market, everyone's subs went up on average 20% recently.
The other thing that goes on is some of the aggregators auto subscribe their users to the top blogs. So some blogs get huge boosts in subscribers. My blog has ~5000 subs from Rojo. I don't think they are real but they get included in my total of 19,714.
So what to do? It's really simple. Focus on "reach". FeedBurner calculates a reach number every day for every feed it manages. Here's a screenshot of the popup you get when you click on "what is reach" next to your reach number in the FeedBurner dashboard:
Here are my reach numbers for the past week and my site visitors in parentheses for comparison:
Monday - 2,540 (3,079)
Tuesday - 2,736 (3,738)
Wednesday - 2,987 (3,180)
Thursday - 2,878 (3,042)
Friday - 2,534 (2,733)
So you can see the number of people who read this blog each day via feeds is pretty close to the number who read it on the web. And there is certainly some overlap (that would be a great number for FeedBurner to calculate and I am sure they can do that).
So on any given week, this blog gets between 5,500 and 6,500 readers, about 40% of which are via the feed and 60% are via the web.
So what is the relevance of the 19,714 number? Not much actually. It's the number of people who at one point have subscribed to this blog. If you subtract the daily reach of approximately 3,000 people, you see that over 16,000 subscriptions are out there but not particularly active.
I suspect the same is true of Techcrunch's 279,000 readers as well. If their feed subscribers are like mine, Techcrunch's daily reach would be about 50,000. That's still a huge number of people reading a feed every day.