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.