"Following", "reading", and "subscribing" are not the same. Each relationship may involve a different medium used when viewing, a different traffic pattern, different rewards for you, and may be measured in a different way. If you're at all curious about who your visitors are, you need to know this.
Long ago, when the web was simpler, all that we had were readers. Readers view your blog using their browser. When satisfied with your blog, they may bookmark the URL of the blog, and when you are lucky, may add a link to your blog on their blog. Other people, viewing their blog, may follow a link from their blog, see your blog, and become a reader too.
Readers are the simplest population to measure, and provide the most detailed population information. By adding a free visitor counter to your blog, you can find out many useful statistics about your readers, and may meet many new friends anonymously, before they identify themselves.
Since not everybody produces blog updates regularly, and to allow people to view more web sites simultaneously, newsfeeds and newsfeed readers were developed. Subscribers view your blog using their newsfeed readers. Subscribers are the hardest viewer population to measure. Short of creating a FeedBurner feed, and using the FeedBurner Subscriber Management wizard, you'll know nothing about who Follows, reads, or subscribes to your blog.
Also, those who subscribe to your blog do so anonymously - and people may Follow your blog anonymously, at their option. People who view the blogs published by your subscribers may never know of the existence of your blog. Newsfeed subscriptions contribute no third party viewers, similar to the possible contributions provided by your readers who may link to your blog.
To encourage use of newsfeed subscriptions, promote a spirit of community approximating the feeling that you may get when viewing your typical visitor log, and to promote third party traffic from blog to blog, Blogger (and other web site hosts) developed Following, now using Google Friend Connect. Following combines a newsfeed subscription with links from your blog to the Blogger profiles of those who Follow your blog, and links from the Blogger profiles of your Followers, to Followed blogs.
Those folks who Follow your blog can use a newsfeed reader or their browser to view your blog. When other bloggers Follow your blog using their browsers, you can track them as readers using a visitor log. When they Follow your blog using their newsfeed readers, you can count and identify them using a FeedBurner Subscriber Management wizard. And the iconised (and personalised) links from blog to Follower profile, and then to other Followed blogs, encourages a spirit of community between bloggers who can remain aware of who their Followers are, by examining their icons and profiles.
One misconception about Followers, readers, and subscribers is how to retain each, when the blog is transitioned. Neither Followers, readers, or subscribers are actual property, to be moved around at will. When you change the blog ownership, or change the URL, you transition the blog.
- If you rename the blog, and change the URL, you can (with some effort, and some varying degree of success) retain your Followers, readers, and subscribers. This won't be automatic, or universally effective, though.
- If you transfer control of the blog using Settings - Permissions (not by deleting / renaming, then creating), you'll probably retain the Followers, readers, and subscribers - to some degree of success. If you (a person) move a blog from one Blogger account, to another Blogger account (both accounts owned by you), you'll discover that the blogs that you Follow will continue to be Followed by the old Blogger account. The Following relationship remains with the Blogger / Google / whatever account. If your Followers depend upon being Followed by you, you'll want to plan to handle that requirement.
If you simply transfer the blog to control of a different person, you'll discover that, as when a business changes ownership, some "customers" (Followers) will remain "customers" of the blog. Other "customers" may follow the person (you) to a new blog - or may simply cease Following either of you.