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Why, How and When to Quit FeedBurner

If you are currently using Feedburner for your RSS feeds, you may have noticed – as we did – that your blog feed is totally dead.  (Easiest way to check this – subscribe to your own blog in Google Reader, and see if it’s pulling the latest content.)  If your Feedburner feed is not working anymore, you’re not alone and you basically have two choices – switch to your blog platform’s atom feed for free (no analytics), or switch to the best alternative, Feedblitz for a small fee.  So when I got an introduction to Phil Hollows at Feedblitz, I asked if he would write up a post to explain how to switch.  Thank you so much Phil!

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Your blog’s most important asset is its community, and the most committed part of your blog’s community is its subscribers. Whether they’re following you on RSS feeds or via an email subscription, these are your most ardent fans.

For many years, FeedBurner (acquired by Google in 2006) has been the principal provider of RSS and basic email subscription services to bloggers. It was simple, largely effective, and free. What’s not to like?

Well, unfortunately, from Google’s perspective, it seems not that much. FeedBurner hasn’t been updated much in the intervening six years, and has gained a measure of notoriety for unreliable metrics. Worse, from Google’s perspective, it seems that the ads running in feeds just weren’t that productive and so the economics don’t seem to be working out. FeedBurner entered a phase of benign neglect, which was OK as long as you didn’t mind the occasional glitch and utter lack of corporate support.

Things have changed. What recently caught people’s attention now were two moves by Google on July 26, 2012. They announced then that the Twitter account @FeedBurner was being closed, as was the FeedBurner Blog (renamed by Google to the AdSense for Feeds Blog, most recent post October 2010 – nearly two years ago). With the FeedBurner API already deprecated and due for expiration in October 2012, it surely looks like a managed slowdown of the venerable service.  Here are some posts commenting on Google’s actions:

So – if you’re worried about relying on a service whose owner is clearly ramping down, even though they have NOT said as much, what are your choices? How can you keep serving your RSS and email readership? How can you change without losing subscribers? Free is all well and good until the free service goes away because there’s no economic benefit to its owners of having you as user.

Well, if you want to self-host your feed, you can – but you lose the RSS metrics, hosting and other benefits FeedBurner delivers, plus you’ll need a new email service anyway.

Or – you can find an equivalent service that delivers RSS metrics AND email services, is actively supported, and is very close to being a simple drop-in replacement.

In other words, you want FeedBlitz.

FeedBlitz is the only third party service to match FeedBurner with both RSS feed services (feeds, metrics, etc.) and a much richer array of email and social media subscription services for your blog.

The catch? FeedBlitz isn’t free – a nominal monthly fee of $1.49 applies if you don’t use it for email (i.e. for RSS feeds only). But there are a lot of benefits, not the least of which is that paying for value establishes a vastly stronger relationship between you and FeedBlitz than a free one where the platform owner doesn’t care about you.

Other key benefits compared to FeedBurner are:

  • Prompt corporate support and ongoing development;
  • More consistent and reliable RSS metrics, tracking and updating;
  • Greater email design flexibility (e.g. add your own sponsorships to the mailing);
  • Multiple email scheduling options;
  • Ability to send an email newsletter blast to your list without a blog or feed entry;
  • Custom fields, personalization and segmentation;
  • Autoresponder capability for drip marketing or simple incentive mailings;
  • Extensive email reports for click, bounce, open tracking and more;
  • Automatic subscriber management, including automatic dual opt-in reminders;
  • Better email deliverability to major US internet service providers, such as AOL;
  • Greater integration with social media.

You can read about feature differences in great depth here: http://kb.feedblitz.com/article/AA-00444

If that sounds interesting and you’re worried about FeedBurner’s future, what do you have to do?

To help make things as easy and painless as possible, FeedBlitz has a FeedBurner Migration wizard that automates a lot of the hassle involved in switching, along with a 30+ page free e-book, taking you step by step through the process. At the end of the process you get an equivalent RSS feed (with embedded comments, related posts and more) you can map to your site instead of FeedBurner, and email updates that are basically identical to the ones you send now from FeedBurner. There are also tools at FeedBlitz to help you move remaining RSS subscribers over from FeedBurner if necessary.

The process outlined in FeedBlitz’s FeedBurner Migration Guide (try saying that three times after a couple of drinks!) is basically this:

1)    Update your web site’s RSS autodiscovery tags to point to your native blog’s feed.

So if your blog is at example.com, your advertised RSS feed would be something like example.com/feed and NOT feeds.feedburner.com/example. This means that new subscribers always follow a feed on your domain, not your RSS provider’s platform. You can then use plugins, redirects, .htaccess files or DNS CNAME entries to get FeedBurner (and later, FeedBlitz) to serve that particular feed. Read more on this topic here: http://www.feedblitz.com/one-thing-to-do-to-get-your-rss-right/

2)    Set up your account at FeedBlitz and start your 30-day trial (you’ll need a valid major credit or debit card);

3)    Tell FeedBlitz about your FeedBurner account;

4)    Let FeedBlitz migrate your email and RSS over;

5)    Update your web site – autodiscovery tags, plugins, theme settings etc. – to reflect the change in feed service.

6)    Quit FeedBurner!

This can be a scary prospect, so let’s hear from some people who’ve already made the change in light of Google’s recent moves using the FeedBurner Migration Guide:

So – how do you start?

Easy – grab the free FeedBurner Migration Guide from http://www.feedblitz.com/the-feedburner-migration-guide/

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Phil Hollows is the Founder and CEO of FeedBlitz (www.feedblitz.com), the premium FeedBurner alternative. As well as writing the FeedBlitz News blog (subscribe: www.feedblitz.com/f?Sub=84), he often speaks about feeds and email marketing at social media events. Since he simply won’t shut up about it, Phil also wrote the book List Building for Bloggers about how non-email experts can build better lists faster. Follow Phil as @phollows on Twitter.

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(photo credit)

{ 14 comments }

phollows August 28, 2012 at 8:57 am

Thank you for posting this, Maddie!

socialfish August 28, 2012 at 11:42 am

 @phollows thank YOU for writing it!!  Super useful info! :)

askdebra August 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm

 @phollows Super helpful! I’ve had problems off and on with Feedburner for at least a year. It “dropped” about 400 subscribers at one point, in one day, and I’ve just now built it back up. What happened there, I wonder…in any case. Now’s the time to switch, and  you made a convincing case to do so. Thanks, and thanks for publishing this, Maddie!

ymmat August 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm

What does that mean for those blogs where we’ve subscribed via FeedBurner. Are we going to have to redo all the subscriptions?

phollows August 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

 @ymmat The answer is a solid “It depends” – the Migration Guide we have at FeedBlitz helps you with this process. For many bloggers, FeedBurner *serves* the feed even though the feed URL is hosted on the blog’s domain – that won’t require resubscribing at all; just a change in redirect. Email subscribers can be readily exported and imported too.
 
If you subscribe to the FeedBurner URL directly, then you may need to update your subscription depending on what the blog owner does. FeedBlitz can help with that to, by sending different messages to FeedBurner subscribers as opposed to everyone else.
 
Hope that helps! Bottom line: There’s always a way. But best to think about it now when you have the luxury of time.

BobVaez August 29, 2012 at 7:27 am

 @phollows  @ymmat I have noticed our blog email subscriber# has also dropped to zero, I know we have hundreds of subscribers via email. But there is also no way to export the email list, it’s empty!! How would Feedblitz export the email subscribers if we can’t even export them from Feedburner?Thanks.

phollows August 29, 2012 at 8:33 am

 @BobVaez  @ymmat  Hi Bob: Contact me directly phil @ feedblitz dot com and we’ll see if we can figure out what feedburner has done with them all! They’re out there somewhere… Happy to spend a little time helping you dig them out.
http://www.socialfish.org/2012/08/why-how-and-when-to-quit-feedburner.html#lf_comment=35556799

Susan Cato August 29, 2012 at 6:53 am

This is really helpful. I have relied on feedburner for years – for RSS and email, but also for podcast friendly feeds. I guess it’s time to start the migration.

Tinu August 30, 2012 at 1:16 am

Spot on. Imw a huge fan of FeedBurner before they got bought. When they made the switch over to Goole accounts after being bought, I didn’t have access to my analytics for over a year. So I just started using my blog’s native feed again – not too hard since I kept most of my settings that would make switching away from them easy.

btrandolph September 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

I tested this out and am seeing no problems with feedburner showing current posts?

socialfish September 4, 2012 at 8:39 am

 @btrandolph Just be prepared – lots of people say their feeds are fine, until they aren’t.  It took me over a week to notice my feed was stuck on an old post, and then only because people started asking me where my posts were.

Frank Fortin1 September 4, 2012 at 8:18 am

Many thanks for the post – and, I would like to hear about alternatives that are not produced by a competitor selling his or her product.
Maddie, where should we look?

socialfish September 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

 @Frank Fortin1 Thanks Frank!  The reason I asked Phil to post here is that I’m not aware of any reliable alternatives apart from the native blog feed itself (but with that at least in my experience you can’t get the number of subscribers or any decent analytics).  There are a few others – see http://knolzone.com/7-best-free-alternatives-to-feedburner-and-why-you-should-be-using-them/ and http://ielectrify.com/feedburner-alternatives – but I’ve never head of any of these nor anyone using them.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has been using something they would recommend.

maddiegrant September 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm

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