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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