Why I Stopped Using Feedburner to Serve My Blog Subscribers

 

Leaving Feedburner for MailChimp

Update: March 21, 2013

For two months, I used Feedblitz to deliver my posts via e-mail to blog subscribers, but then moved to MailChimp in mid-October 2012. Feedblitz performed exactly as advertised and is a good service. However, I already use MailChimp for other e-mail newsletters, and I find its UI (user interface) to be intuitive, friendly, and better suited to my particular needs (and skill level). Why I didn’t use MailChimp to begin with is too complicated to explain here, but for those of you considering it, you can just as easily transition your blog subscribers to MailChimp from Feedburner as you can from Feedblitz.

Also note: I still use Feedburner for RSS service. Given that Google is discontinuing Google Reader (an RSS reader), I expect Feedburner will soon follow. When I find another RSS service for my website, I will again revisit and revise this post.


When I launched this site in late 2009, it was a no-brainer to use Google’s free service Feedburner to give people a means to subscribe to my blog via e-mail or RSS. It was clean, simple, and easy to integrate into my WordPress site. It also required no work from me.

Nearly three years later, it feels like a dead-end solution. It’s not being actively developed or supported. Last week, after not posting to their Feedburner Adsense blog in 2 years, Google finally said they’re shutting it down. The primary Feedburner blog hasn’t been updated since 2011. Google also recently shut down their Twitter account for Feedburner, where they had 12,000 followers.

However, Feedburner is free, so it’s hard to shake your fist at them. And since I’m not directly/actively monetizing this site, moving to a paid service doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But I believe in two things: (1) the power of e-mail communication (at least for my demographic of readers) and (2) the power of providing good service to those loyal readers. As of this writing, I have 1,000+ people subscribed to this blog through e-mail, and another 1,000 through RSS. These are valuable readers, and they deserve to be taken care of.

Why was I dissatisfied with Feedburner?

  • I couldn’t offer subscribers the option of weekly digests.
  • I couldn’t send a message only to e-mail subscribers.
  • I couldn’t include anything additional in the e-mails (e.g., sidebar info or ads)
  • I couldn’t add sharing or forwarding buttons in the e-mails.
  • I couldn’t add a preview of comments on the posts.
  • I couldn’t remind readers of most recent posts.

And there were many other reasons, but you get the idea. Further customizing the messages or delivery wasn’t possible.

7 Steps I Took Before, During, and After Leaving Feedburner

1. I compared my subscriber lists. I use MailChimp to send out a side e-newsletter about 6 times per year. (Since this list is under 2,000 names, I use MailChimp for free.) I anticipated there would a huge overlap between e-newsletter subscribers and my blog subscribers (which would ultimately lead to savings if I decided to use MailChimp). There was almost zero overlap.

2. I asked readers for their feedback. Maybe I was the only one who saw a need for a weekly digest, or more interactivity in the e-mails. Plus, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I received about 200 responses, or about a 20% response rate. Preferences were split right down the middle, with a slight edge to people who preferred a weekly digest. About 10% of those responding said they’d stick with their subscription no matter what. One amusing result of my survey: nearly everyone justified their preference (daily vs. weekly) by saying that it saved them time or energy. This clearly illustrates that we should never assume that what saves US time is what will save OTHER people time. We all manage communication very differently.

3. I chose a new service. I was about to pull the trigger with MailChimp, but it wasn’t as customized to my needs as FeedBlitz, which is partly marketed as a solution to dissatisfied Feedburner users. Both services cost the same for my volume of subscribers: $30/month. As an aside, I wouldn’t be surprised if MailChimp further improves its RSS-to-email service into something I can’t resist. Its interface is beautiful and easy to use, so I hope it keeps developing its RSS option with knowledge that more people are likely to flee Feedburner.

4. I activated Feedblitz. I migrated my Feedburner e-mail subscribers using Feedblitz’s system. (If necessary, you can have Feedburner export all of your subscriber e-mail addresses into a .csv file. This would’ve been necessary if going with MailChimp.) I also set up new e-mail templates in Feedblitz to include all those things I couldn’t include before (social sharing buttons, recent comments, etc).

5. I deactivated Feedburner for e-mail subscribers. This is a matter of checking a box inside Feedburner that says “Deactivate e-mail subscriptions.”

6. I replaced links on my website, redirecting new subscribers to my new e-mail subscription form.

7. I directly e-mailed all my existing subscribers about the change. Using Feedblitz’s special newsflash feature, I informed existing e-mail subscribers about how they can switch to a weekly digest. I didn’t have to post anything to my blog.

And that’s it. Later this year, I hope to have an update about how it’s going—if my site traffic, subscribership, and blog engagement has changed as a result.

If you’re using Feedburner, FeedBlitz, MailChimp, or another service for e-mail updates, I’d love to hear about your experience and tips in the comments!

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Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.
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58 Comments

  1. Jane, can you share with us how many of your readers actually opt-in to the new list? Statistically speaking, changing email lists has only about a 19% retention rate.

  2. I didn’t know that Feedburner is being retired. I’m going to take the opportunity to find a better e-mail service.

    Unfortunately, I have no money to pay for services like Feedblitz. There seems to be a similar service called Noirish, so I’m going to try it soon.

    It isn’t like I have a lot to lose. I only have three e-mail subscribers. :p

  3. Thank you so much for including a link to my post so I would see this. I’ve shared it with my Bloggers MasterMind group, Phil Hollows @FeedBlitz and across social networks. We are actively migrating all blogs off FeedBurner and onto FeedBlitz that we didn’t already have on it.

    Mailchimp has restrictions on affiliate and other monetized links and if you accidentally run afoul of that or trigger some algorithm what they do is break ALL your previous links in EVERY email you have EVER sent. That alone would keep me from ever recommending them!

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  5. I’m an Aweber user and a big fan. Saying that, I use Feedburner to monitor my RSS followers. Although I can’t say I understand it too much. I don’t find Feedburner particularly user friendly.

    I find most Google products to be rather difficult to use. If you unearth what they can do, they are usually great. But hardly the most user friendly features

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  6. Thanks for this, Jane!

    I recently chose to go with a company called Emma Communications. They have amazing customer support and designed me a beautiful email template, but I pay ~$30/month for 1,000 subscribers or less. Pricey, but worth it.
    I look forward to seeing your new emails (I’m a new subscriber) and hearing about how things go with FeedBlitz!

    • I don’t think that Emma has the RSS-to-Email feature that Jane is talking about here. They will do enewsletters though.

    • I look forward to seeing your new emails (I’m a new subscriber) and hearing about how things go with FeedBlitz!

      I don’t agree with that..
      visit

      • Danny to clarify: if one has 0 email subs the minimum email fee of 1.49 applies. But no matter how many email subs you have, there is no extra charge for RSS subscribers, no matter how many thousands / tens of thousands there are. This is in fact how @copyblogger uses FeedBlitz for RSS.

        • Thank you very much for this article and for the comments. I use Feedburner and my blog has 19,000 subscribers by email (I write one post and Feedburner sends 19,000 emails just with the RSS feed for this post). I don’t use newsletters, campaings, auto-responder, etc. Please could you tell me if in this case the cost is $140 a month (from the FeedBlitz pricing table for 19,000 email subscribers) or just $1.49 (because all the subscribers are RSS subscribers… by email, I know, but they aren’t newsletters subscribers or so, they just receive the RSS feed for each post.

          • If we’re emailing 19,000 people on your behalf then the fee is $140 per month. Active email subscribers are what count. It doesn’t matter what triggers the email.

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  8. We used MailChimp at my previous place of employment to send out newsletters. I did not find it to be user-friendly and I consider myself to be fairly technical.

      • I find MailChimpmuch more intuitive than Constant Contact. (But we’ve switched to Office AutoPilot for the scripting power, tho way less intuitive.)

      • Hi Karen / Rick,

        I agree completely with Karen, I find Mailchimp to be virtually impossible to use. And I am a UI, graphic and web designer. I adore the way it ‘looks’ and highly appreciate their design aesthetic…but find it completely un-intuitive. Each time I have to use it to send an email for a client, particularly a custom built html one, i spend about 30 minutes trying to figure it out. Drives me crazy. So in my mind, it looks pretty, but acts poorly. Obviousy we’re in teh minority because for years now I’ve wondered when they’ll ‘fix it’ and yet they haven’t, lol :)

        Katrina

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  12. Thanks for this post. I”m actually in the process of looking at Feedblitz and Mailchimp for my email to RSS. I’m curious what caused you to choose feedblitz over mail chimp?

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  15. Found this today because I too am frustrated with Feedburner and will likely use MailChimp (though will take a peek at FeedBlitz) – at least for now (already use them for newsletters). Strange how Google hasn’t tried to update Feedburner because they could probably monetize that with ads, etc., but I’m not waiting around.

  16. Phil, thank you so much for your information here. I did a search in Google to figure out how what I should do now that I want to switch from Feedburner and just signed up to get the migration guide!

    Jane, glad I found this post…great info that has helped me make my decision!

    ~Kesha

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  18. Hi Jane and all,
    Just a clarification.
    Google had shut down Adsense for Feedburner, not Feedburner itself. There are good reasons to believe that feedburner will close too and anyway is abandoned….
    The problem with Mailchimp is that I can’t monetize the e-mails as I was doing with Feedburner + Adsense.
    This is possible with FeedBlitz, reason why I’m really leaning towards this solution.

    Hope it helps!

  19. i was wondering all this while, why my feedburner was acting up and not delivering my emails to my subscribers, until i came across this post of yrs. thank you.

    I am looking for a free alternative, if you do know of any, please share. meanwhile i will have a look at mailchimp

    thanks again

  20. Jane, thank you heaps and piles for this post. I found it in a panicked search after being informed by FEEDBLITZ that my FeedBurner account had died that day and since I had not responded to FEEDBLITZ’s warnings about this, I no longer had subscribers, but I could save my bacon by paying FEEDBLITZ money. It was only $1.49, so I paid the ransom — with a virtual account number so they can’t renew a second month without my cooperation.

    When I looked back I saw that the previous emails they sent me looked like spam or phishing and I did not take them seriously or even pay any attention to them. I don’t merge accounts without a powerful reason and they gave none.

    Well… thanks to your post and several emails to friends, I learned that nobody else I know has received these misleading emails from FeedBlitz, and in fact, my FeedBurner account is still intact. Thanks to your column I learned that I am able to back up my subscriber list — I was not aware I even had access to it! I have backed that up and am in the process of following the trail into Mail Chimp.

    Even if I didn’t prefer free to inexpensive, I am not about to do business with a company that deliberately misleads me (the words lied and blackmail come to mind) the way FeedBlitz has done. Fortunately I have not migrated my list to their service, and will not do so.

  21. I would advise you to stay away from Feedblitz. Zero support! i have tried their support email. no reply, Their twitter account, No reply. They don’t accept comments on their Facebook profile either. Full of spam! What a waste of time. Quick to accept payments but really don’t care about clients at all

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    • If those are e-mail subscribers, then you’ll need to find a way to export the list, and import them into Mailchimp. However, you must be able to show Mailchimp evidence of how you legitimately collected those e-mail addresses before you can start using their services.

      You can find their prices at their website: MailChimp.com.

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