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Dear Google: Please Take Feedburner to the Next Level

Posted By Darren Rowse 19th of June 2009 RSS 0 Comments

google-feedburner.pngDear Google – I have a suggestion that I submit to you for your consideration.

It pertains to your excellent Feedburner service (particularly the email subscription element of it) which so many hundreds of thousands of bloggers (I’m taking a stab in the dark on that number, it could well be more) use to deliver our content to readers.

My observation of Feedburner is that it seems to have stalled a little in terms of it’s development of features and options for bloggers.

I know that you’ve done a major transition recently in integrating Feedburner into the Google fold and that this must have been a massive job – but I’d love to see you accelerate the development of this important service – most bloggers I know rely upon Feedburner to deliver our content to subscribers, it’s central to what we do so we’d love to see it be everything that it can be.

One of the areas I’d like to see improved is the service that allows us to deliver our RSS feed to readers via email. This is one of the most popular ways that my readers access my feed – it’s crucial to delivering my content to tens of thousands of readers every day.

One of the improvements that I’d like to see made is illustrated by an email that I received from a reader of my photography blog yesterday.

I would not really have taken a lot of notice of her suggestion except for the fact that she’s the 7th reader so far this month (it’s only 18th of June) to email me asking the same thing. Here’s what she asked me:

I really enjoy reading the DPS Daily Update emails, and I am quickly amassing a library of them in a saved Outlook email folder for future reference. Problem is, when I want to refer to my growing library of saved DPS emails, all of the subject lines are the same, and I do a lot of searching for the topic I’m looking for. While I could use my email search tool, I generally want to quickly scan the subject lines and see a description of what’s actually in the email.

I’ll save today’s email, because there’s a great tip on fixing keystone issues. How cool would it be to scroll down my list of saved emails and see…

“Digital Photography School – Daily Update: Photographing Industrial Deserts and Fixing Keystone Issues”

“Digital Photography School – Daily Update: Metering Modes and Batch Resize”

“Digital Photography School – Daily Update: Fluid Mask 3 and Smart Scaling”

Google – at the moment every email that I send to my subscribers using the RSS to email service that you offer (I have over 21,000 readers subscribing this way) gets the same subject line, every single day of the week/month/year/decade.

Here’s how it looks when I look at the folder that contains these updates:

dear-google-feedburner.png

As I say – this is not an isolated complaint – I get it it every 2-3 days. Readers are telling me that they unsubscribe because they don’t find the emails as useful as they could be.

Other RSS to Email solutions allow publishers to customize the emails that they send using tags (Aweber’s Blog Broadcast tool for example). I’d prefer to keep all my subscriptions where they are but am slowly getting to the point where I think I’ll be forced to move.

Another feature that other tools give is to change the frequency that these RSS to email subscriptions are delivered. You can have them delivered as posts are written, daily, when there’s X# of posts written, weekly, on a certain day of the month (you allow us to choose a time of day which is great – but how about going to the next step?).

They also give you the option to go in and manually edit emails before they’re sent so that you can add extra content just for subscribers of these emails as well as use different designs, templates and customizations to make your emails look more unique (you allow some color changes and adding a logo which is cool – but it’s still pretty limited).

All in all the product you’re offering looks pretty much the way it did a year or two back from the front end. Gone are the days when we used to see new announcements of features from Feedburner every few weeks. Yep – Feedburner works (for most of us) but where is the innovation that we used to see?

Perhaps I’m convincing myself to switch my list over to Aweber as I write this, but I guess I wanted to verbalize my suggestions before moving on. I hope that they help to improve what you’re offering your publishers.

Now that you’ve got your publishers all onto the Google feeds system I do hope that we’ll see the product taken up to the next level.

Darren Rowse

ProBlogger.net

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Yes, they need to innovate alright. Let’s hope they pick up the pace again.

  2. Yes, Google need to fix this issue.
    And one more annoying problem with Feedburner, is its chicklet count. It flatters altogether sometimes. While chicklet problem is not a big issue for now. Google must first fix this “Subject lines in email updates”. It really feels annoying and spammy! #fix

  3. Amen, Darren!

    I’ve been sending “feature suggestions” to Feedburner / Google for literally years now, hoping that I’m at least lending a crumb to some more massive, collective Voice.

    Hopefully, given your enormous readership, your letter will have more sway.

    A simple Post Title as email subject line would go a loooong way to making Feedburner more competitive against Aweber.

    Like you, it feels like a matter of time before I will make the decision to bite the bullet and go through that transition hassle.

    What’s the hold up, Gooburner?

  4. Huh, I’d not even realized that all the e-mail RSS feed e-mails have the same title. Not good. Please change this for us Google! I love Feedburner, but I’d like to see more features.

  5. You echoed my thoughts!

    I have been thinking of switching over as well considering the features provided by other Email tools.

    But I believe this post will surely jolt the Google guys behind Feedburner out of their naps and get them going! :-)

  6. Katerina says: 06/19/2009 at 1:03 am

    Great post, was wondering exactly the same thing yesterday. What’s new? Would be great too if you could see stats via google analytics.

  7. I was thinking if feedburner can supply an email subscription service why can’t they move forward and make a paid aweber autoresponder subscription service.

    I think you answered it, there is simply not enough development of the product all Google Feedburner for is to serve up adsense ads.

  8. I agree 100%, Darren! I use Feedburner for my subscribers also and have the exact same problem. I hope that Google takes notice and makes these improvements.

  9. Amen, Darren!

    I’ve been sending “feature suggestions” to Feedburner / Google for literally years now, hoping that I’m at least lending a crumb to some more massive, collective Voice.

    Hopefully, given your enormous readership, your letter will have more sway.

    A simple Post Title as email subject line would go a loooong way to making Feedburner more competitive against Aweber.

    Like you, it feels like a matter of time before I will make the decision to bite the bullet and go through that transition hassle.

    What’s the hold up, Gooburner?

  10. Yeah It is a very silly thing to do. I guess they haven’t really focused on improving the feedburner service yet.

    Hope they put more effort in taking care of Feedburner

  11. Hmm. That’s a very good point about the email subject line.

    The majority of my subscribers are straight RSS. I have very few email subscribers. Still, it would be nice to have this feature.

    I’ve also noticed a glitch where the “reach” is reported as 0 for a few days in a row … then, when I look back a week later, the reach is a normal number.

  12. Even I had so many mails asking for this feature. Its high time they do something about this. This is what I dont like about Google, they swallow some companies which are doing really good and just stall them till they die!

  13. Another comment that I routinely receive is that pictures and video do not transfer via email (at least not on blogs hosted by blogger.com). Is this a common issue amongst your readers?

    Other than that, I completely agree with your list. Changing the once a day update via email and the inability to pass the name of the blog post through the intertubes seem like easy enough fixes to me. Thanks for championing this cause!

  14. All it is needed a just one line of code change in their email module for correcting titles. I am not joking. Ability to send emails whenever we want would be so useful and if will not irritate the readers.

  15. I agree. Change is needed!
    Onward and upward Google.

  16. Very good point…. I never realized this. I hope Google can make a change on that. The site of multiple emails in your inbox that look alike cause you to want to delete them all. It would definitely help if they looked different.

  17. I would love to see a response from Google on this! Really good points. I’ve noticed the blog broadcast feature on Aweber but haven’t checked it out. I guess now I will.

  18. huh, okay Darren. I am hearing. Keep speaking. By the way, when are you going for a vacation?

  19. Question, Darren. This is a bit off-topic, but how do you feel about having both a Feedburner subscription form AND a newsletter subscription form? Currently I use the RSS feed button to teleport over to the Feedburner page, where readers can pick to receive email updates if they want, but I also want them to sign up for my email newsletter.

    Do you (or anyone else here) think that having two forms is a bit much?

  20. Very good point Darren. I totally agree with you on this. Let’s hope hear you

  21. Well said Darren. Out of interest, how easy is it to switch to aweber, can you easily migrate existing feedburner email subscribers?

  22. Google is sure to notice this. I am sure they would improve it very soon. Even I have the same problem with my subscribers!

  23. Google KILLED FeedBurner when it acquired it. FeedBurner USED to provide real service and fix stuff. Now any issue — I’ve had four in the last year — just gets dumped into the Google forum where it dies an instant death.

    My current issues are

    — no unsubscribe link provided for certain e-mail addresses (@yahoo.com, @msn.com and also now recently @att.com)

    — unable to search for a specific e-mail address (in order to manually delete addresses that don’t get an unsubscribe link)

    For three years now, I’ve offered readers the choice of FeedBurner or FeedBlitz — telling them that the primary benefit of FeedBlitz is the post name as the subject. But FeedBlitz also allows the addition of branding elements such as logos, etc. And there’s a real person who provides support.

  24. Darren Congrats on the 112k subscribers :)

  25. Amen. I am desperate for ability to send emails when I want, not daily, plus ability to change title line…

  26. My god, I couldn’t agree more. A bunch of people unsubscribed from my blog today and I was wondering what could be the problem. I am certain that more customization of the emails could fix this.

    Feedburner was a great thing until Google came along…

  27. Oh Darren.. Thank You for raising this issue! I have been thinking about the same thing for the past few weeks..In fact i even thought about moving away from feed burner.

    It would be gr8 if you can do a post on some of the other alternatives that we have. You mentioned Aweber but there are tons of others out there as well…

  28. These are all excellent suggestions! I’d love to see more features on the admin side as well. I’ve had trouble searching for email addresses recently, and I can only go back so many months. I’d love to be able to send a reminder to readers to activate their subscriptions directly from feedburner and also to have a bulk delete feature for readers that haven’t activated after a certain period.

  29. Right on Darren.

    To be honest, their most recent changes have frustrated me more than anything. They should at least allow me to prevent FeedBurner from tracking FriendFeed subscribers as subscribers in FeedBurner. My numbers are extremely inflated right now and I am not a fan.

  30. yes that’s right,i think maybe google fix it

  31. It would be great if Google improved a few things. It would also be great if Outlook worked better too.

  32. Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!

    The folder contents are hideous and painful. You’re right, Darren, and I hope they listen.

  33. Darren,

    I’m gald someone of your stature was able to craft such an elegant letter. I have had this conversation in my head (with far more course language) every day that a reader sends an email about the subject lines issue.

    I try to tell myself that Feedburner is a free tool and I should be happy with the functionality it does give me. And I’m sure Google is currently working on it but I’ve all but sold myself on an aWeber migration, too.

  34. This is a very genuine suggestion. Anyone is going to be irritated if the heading is same for any number of email subscriptions or just plain email. Hope google team rectifies this “bug”.

  35. Maybe Google should consider aquiring Aweber/iContact.

  36. Are there any other feed managing programs? I’d like to track my rss subscribers, but I don’t want to use feed burner.

  37. Just like to echo some of the other bloggers here. Feedburner has been left in the corner like an unwanted toy by Google, and as it isn’t a cash cow product, is stagnating. I don’t think its any surprise to see Feedblitz recently re-launching some of its offerings, there clearly is a market there for the changing.

    Can I suggest this post serves as the start of a meme, and hopefully the blog community will put this issue infront of the eyes that need to see it.

  38. thank you thank you thank you!!!

    And I’d like to add that Feedburner should have some tech support. No one moderates their “help” forum and problems come up frequently. I lost half my subscribers when migrating my blog and was never able to recover them, nor did anyone reply to my many requests for assistance.

    FeedFlare is a horrible inconsistent mess that I would love to use if it worked properly, which it doesn’t.

    The AdSense options in FeedBurner are limited and infuriating. Now that I think about it, AdSense could use some upgrades too.

    Ha ha, way to get me fired up Darren!

  39. It would be really nice to see some progress made on the points Darren has listed and I’m sure with some head scratching we could all offer up a few more ideas as well!

  40. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, with a little tweaking, Feedburner email service could be a powerhouse. I’d even be willing to pay for added services.

  41. Google is busy fighting off competition to be developing their own assets. I think the only massively popular products are the search, maps, reader and email.

    The rest were acquired to prevent competiton

  42. Makes a lot of sense. I hope they listen.

  43. Does anyone know of any decent alternatives to Feedburner, especially in regard to keeping track of how many RSS subscribers you have?

    Personally, I’d rather not be tied in to a third-party service like Feedburner for my RSS feed, which Problogger is. On the other hand, what choices do we have in “the marketplace”?

  44. I don’t subscribe to your email updates, since I read the feed in a reader, but you should be aware of one limitation of AWeber: There’s no easy way of pushing the full text of an article via email. Only excerpts.

    I was going to switch our nonprofit’s email subscriptions from FeedBurner to AWeber for all the reasons you say above, but this was a deal breaker. I had many calls with support both on and offline trying to make it work. There’s some workarounds, but it involves things like putting the entire content in the excerpt field which was unrealistic or other gymnastics.

    Ultimately, we ended up canceling AWeber before we even started and stuck with FeedBurner, warts & all.

  45. Thanks for this article. I had been considering switching from Feedblitz to Feedburner. You have convinced me to stay right where I am!

  46. Great post Darren,

    I’ve been debating whether to get rid of the email via Feeburner subscription option and only offering RSS and Aweber, but for one of my sites email is the preferred method that my clients want to use. Feedburner is so convenient in many ways, but as you point out has a few limiting features.

    I’ll be interested in whether Google respond to your blog post.

  47. I’ve basically given up on Feedburner email delivery and will be moving setting up any new sites on Aweber for email delivery now, with the added bonus that i can use Aweber’s excellent features for delivery free subscriber bonuses.

    I get the feeling Google just wanted to go as far as adding ads to Feedburner and thats about it.

  48. The worst thing that happened to Feedburner was getting bought by Google. I have had nothing but trouble since. Most recently, the numbers for some of my feeds have been way off. Supposedly, one of my feeds lost 5,000 people in one day while another lost something like 3,500. The one feed was corrected after a bit, but the other still shows the low numbers. I tried getting help in the support forum, but I have been ignored. I expected better from Google, but it looks like they have just come in and ruined a good thing.

  49. The innovations you suggest are good. But I’d be happy with them just not losing feeds constantly, frankly.

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