Is there an alternative to FeedBurner?

In mid December, the RSS feeds for all my blogs including this one that have been managed by FeedBurner since 2004were auto-migrated over to Google.

This is part of the changes that started happening earlier last year following Google’s acquisition of FeedBurner in 2007.

As I wrote last month, the migration was a smooth process although not everyone has had such a good experience during the past year.

But all is definitely not well with Google/FeedBurner.

Last weekend, I noticed a considerable and sudden drop in subscriber numbers, from 2,380 on January 16 to 1,563 on January 17. That’s a drop of 817 in a 24-hour period as you can see in this chart (the green line) which I’ve highlighted in red.

feedburnerdrop

A drop in subscriber numbers over a weekend isn’t unusual, reflecting the fact that most people aren’t at work and so RSS requests for content drop commensurately. Drops tend to be minor, though, and things usually pick up again at the start of the following week.

Not this week. The loss I experienced persisted until yesterday when, suddenly, the numbers fell away to zero and then jumped back up again.

Yet there’s nothing I can find anywhere online that offers a clue or any kind of information about what happened this week other than a one-line reference of sorts in the Google Groups’ FeedBurner Help Group.

I’m not the only one who went through this – others I know also experienced a drop. Friend Dan York sums up a lot of people’s feelings in wishing Google could explain what is going on with FeedBurner subscriptions.

And by no means is this the first time something like this has happened.

The issue has now been strongly highlighted by influential commentators such as TechCrunch and VentureBeat along with Todd Cochrane and his tongue in cheek “I told you so!” message.

VentureBeat’s post includes an interesting view from Jason Shellen, the man who did the due diligence for Google before it bought FeedBurner, who has a credible view on what may be going on at Google concerning FeedBurner:

[…] what “happened behind the scenes is that the sales team can sells ads [in FeedBurner feeds] if it wants to, but with so many other products, managing feeds is fairly low on the list.” So supporting FeedBurner isn’t getting the sort of resources — engineers, servers, etc. — that it needs because its not making enough money. It’s hard to think of what the other reasons might be; the original Feedburner team is comprised of talented entrepreneurs who, on their own, built a product that was becoming ubiquitous on the web before Google came along. But after all, ads in feeds don’t make much money […].

Its sounds plausible.

I really hope FeedBurner isn’t suffering a fate similar to that which befell Twitter competitor Jaiku, ie, following acquisition by Google it literally languished on a back burner for over a year before Google announced what they were planning to do with it. In the meantime, people drifted away to alternatives.

The trouble is, from a publisher’s point of view (which is potentially anyone who publishes a blog or website, whether you’re an individual or a company) I don’t know of any credible alternative to FeedBurner for the depth and breadth of service in effectively managing your RSS feeds.

Is there one?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Boris

    I have been wondering about this a while too and your post really nspired me to take a good look at the possibilities of building a ‘New’ Feedburner. My ideas for TwitterCounter were always to make it into ‘the Feedburner for Twitter’ but maybe I should adjust my goals and just make it ‘The NEW Feedburner’. The timing seems right…

  2. neville

    That is tremendous, Boris. If anyone can do this, you can. If you do decide to do it, I’ll support you in any way I can, eg, PR, blogger outreach.

    I bet we could build up a whole community for that.

  3. Rob Safuto

    The real answer is to take back control over your feeds. For my WordPress sites I simply use the good ole /feed and track subscribers using the FeedStats plugin. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/feedstats-de/

    I do email subscription via WordPress with the Subscribe2 plugin. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe2/

    If I’m podcasting I use PowerPress (and I know you do too Neville) for iTunes feed support. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/powerpress/

    I’m not into feed advertising so those three WordPress modules replace the only features that ever provided me any real value on FeedBurner.

  4. neville

    I don’t think that’s the answer, Rob. One answer for some, of course, but not the only one.

    On feeds, I’ve yet to find an alternative that offers the sheer scale of options FeedBurner offers for you to subscribe in whatever is your preferred reader. Plus the friendly way in displaying content if you click on the feed link. No more scary-looking raw XML text!

    There’s the other features I like, too, eg, the chicklet on my site, auto-creating enclosures codes for podcasts, to name but two.

    Re feed advertising, I am into this since the FAN days at FeedBurner. When my feeds were migrated over to Google, I added support for AdSense in the feeds. It was a lot easier to set up ads than when it was just at FeedBurner.

    So taking back control the way you describe doesn’t look too appealing to me.

  5. Rob Safuto

    You mention the issue about FeedBurner styling RSS feeds. Don’t forget that by default both Firefox and IE7 display a styled version of any standard feed along with a subscribe button. You can also use the feed button from AddThis which will link your feed icon to a popup window that offers a list of one-click icons for all of the popular services.

    FeedStats, which I mentioned in my comment provides a feed subscriber chiclet as well. PowerPress auto-creates podcast enclosures too, no?

    If you must have Adsense in the feeds then FeedBurner is your only choice. But I stand by my assertion that the features I mentioned are available and work well via WordPress plugins.

  6. Robin Capper

    I notice you are on the new “Googled” FeedBurner. I’ve not migrated yet, actually tried and it bombed out mid process, and have had no problems with sub no. Mind you only have a thousand or so but the number has been as expected. Perhaps this is a migration rather than FeedBurner problem

  7. Keith Shirley

    I was really hoping you were going to have a suggestion at the end of the post.

    Hopefully someone will have a suggestion. @Rob – Thanks for your suggestions – I’ll have a look.

  8. neville

    Thanks for that, Mike. It’s in my RSS feeds too.

    I use Postrank on this blog, notably with the Top Posts widget you see at top right. I think they enjot a good reputation so I’m keeping an eye on this story.

  9. Tech Snacks

    Tired of Feedburner? Try some RSS feeds manager alternatives…

    Seems like people are tired of Google Feedburner glitches. Not a week goes by without a post showing up on my RSS reader that has something to do with poor performance and bad stats by Feedburner. Many of those posts end up with a cry – are there any …

  10. GD

    Have you found a replacement for feedburner yet?
    I’m not sure if it’s completely replaces feedburner but feedoor.com seems a good alternative

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