Summary of this post: When it comes to my subscription service, I'm in wait-and-see mode regarding FeedBurner. I'm also considering paid-for options. Currently, my RSS subscribers are at FeedBurner and my email subscribers are at FeedBlitz, but I'm considering moving them to MadMimi.
(If you don't know what I mean by "feed," check out this post.)
Long version: You've probably heard the rumblings about FeedBurner shutting down on October 20, 2012. There's a lot of confusion surrounding it and I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs, however, there's no indication the FeedBurner service itself will die on October 20, just the FeedBurner APIs. (The APIs allow developers to interact with it. I know that's Greek to many of us, so if you want to know more, read this post from Phil Hollows at FeedBlitz who knows what he's talking about. In that post, he tells you too that there's no indication the service itself is going away.)
Suffice it to say, FeedBurner should still work and subscribers should still get posts after October 20.
Important companion to this post and I highly recommend you do this: How to Download Your FeedBurner Email Subscriber List
What's the plan for FeedBurner, Google?
Still, there does seem to be some sort of shutting down process going on over there at Google when it comes to FeedBurner, and we'd all like to know what's up. Mostly, we'd all like to know whether or not we can count on a free service in the future, whether it's a new and improved FeedBurner or a different service that does the same thing.
All I know is that there are a WHOLE LOT of bloggers who use FeedBurner (big and small) and if FeedBurner just drops off the face of the earth one day, there will be a lot of really mad people. Not that Google is responsible (or cares) whether or not people are mad, but it wouldn't be great PR for Google, to say the least.
It's very difficult for me to imagine Google would do that without ample warning, but what do I know. (Phil Hollows says they did it in Japan, but I'd be curious to know how many bloggers were significantly impacted by that.) Given the popularity of FeedBurner as we know it, it seems to be in their best interest to give fair warning.
Plus, think about all the data they have access to when people sign up for FeedBurner. I'm no Google or RSS guru, but it seems reasonable to me that they're using all that information for something and wouldn't want to just let it go.
Recent FeedBurner woes
Then there was the glitch that caused everyone's subscriber count to plunge to zero last week. Again, it's not that everyone's subscribers actually went away, it's just that the counter seemed to stop working. As of this writing, it's still not working although Google says they are working on it. It's what prompted my last post about downloading the list of your email subscribers as backup. You should do that.
Here's what I've done
When I first started hearing the rumbling about FeedBurner possibly going away, I decided to try another service because I knew people were going to start asking about alternatives.
I have heard nothing but good things about FeedBlitz (affiliate link since I'm a paying customer), so I decided to give it a whirl. The raving fans about FeedBlitz's customer support are absolutely right and Phil Hollows graciously walked me through the process to switch. My RSS subscribers are still at FeedBurner, but I moved my email subscribers to FeedBlitz. I'll be honest, it was a bit complicated and it costs $50 a month for the service–a HUGE jump from free. (Note that rates vary depending on how many email subscribers you have, RSS subs aren't counted. I have the 2500-4999 subscriber plan.) Based on my experience the last few months, if it's in your budget, I would recommend FeedBlitz. Frankly, fifty bucks a month for me is painful. So, while I haven't used anything else I'm considering other options…
Conclusion: FeedBlitz is my current service for email subscribers and I'm happy with it, but the price is a bit prohibitive.
*Noted to add: Since I wrote this post, an issue arose with my FeedBlitz service that was out of the ordinary for me. It seems only about 1/3 of my list received my last blog post via email, How to Download Your FeedBurner Email Subscriber List. It's unclear why. I heard from one other person who experienced the same thing with her FeedBlitz account on the same day (September 22, 2012). I have not yet heard back from FeedBlitz, but I will keep you posted on the resolution…
Update 11/20/12: I did receive prompt attention to the matter and was refunded one month's fee due to the hiccup. It was very much appreciated.
MailChimp (not an affiliate link) has a free deal for those with less than 2000 subscribers and who send less than 12,000 emails a month. You don't get all features with the free package, but it might be worth it for some. If I were to switch to MailChimp, it would cost me about the same as FeedBlitz ($50/mo). The main thing that makes me nervous about MailChimp is their Terms of Service (see Part 1, Section 11f) state affiliate marketers are not supposed to use the service. Posts from former users on the subject like this one (particularly the comments about sites being shut down) are giving me pause. Granted, what they mean by "affiliate marketer" is unclear. So many affiliate marketers are spammy, but a lot of us are legit. The question is, where do they draw the line?
Update 12/11/12: Erin from Design by Insight (excellent designer BTW) sent me this link in the Support Forum at MailChimp: Does MailChimp Ban Affiliate Links? It's definitely worth the read and sheds some light on how to use MailChimp and affiliate links safely. (The section "Ah-hah! In your list of risky content, you say: 'Affiliate Marketers.' Busted!" is particularly helpful.)
doesn't seem like a good option for me at this point. is one I'd consider given the update above.
Another popular service is AWeber (not an affiliate link)
and it's cheaper too. According to their pricing plan, I would pay $30 a month nearly $50 a month (many thanks to Beth from In Good Cents who pointed this out in her comment here). There are a gazillion posts about MailChimp vs. AWeber (google it if you're interested) and as far as I can tell, lots of people prefer AWeber over MailChimp.
Conclusion: AWeber is a possibility for me, but won't save me anything.
Another service I've looked at is MadMimi (affiliate link because I'm a paying customer). I continually go back to them, mostly because I love their site, I always get great customer service and their interface is dreamy. I'm a paying customer for non-blog newsletters. For 5000 subscribers,
their service would cost me $29/month ($24 for the base service plus $5 for the RSS to Email Add-On which I would need to send out my blog posts via email). Update 11/7/12: MadMimi has changed their pricing structure. Now it would cost me $27/m0 for 5000 subscribers (this now includes RSS to Email for free).
Conclusion: MadMimi is a definite possibility.
What? Yep, I've even (gasp!) considered moving back to FeedBurner. For me currently, it would be a savings of $50 a month. Fifty bucks. I like fifty bucks. Am I nuts? Oh maybe. But honestly, I'm holding out that Google's going to come through for us. Like I said earlier, it's super hard for me to imagine Google pulling the plug on FeedBurner without any warning and without any alternative. I think there's a good possibility they're cookin' up something over there. Only time will tell, I guess.
Conclusion: I'm still considering going back to FeedBurner.
There are other services I've come across as I've researched. The ones above are the most popular I've found so I haven't explored anything else too deeply. If you have a recommendation, please, leave it in the comments!
For now, I'm waiting. It'd be great to hear from Google (although I'm not holding my breath). My RSS subscribers are still at FeedBurner and for the time being I'm leaving them there. My email subscribers are at FeedBlitz, but I lean more and more in the direction of MadMimi. I'll let you know if I take the plunge. That is, if Google lets me down.
Why this whole thing frustrates me
Look, I like free. My goal is to make blogging as cost effective as possible, not only for myself, but for you too. I do my best to only promote paid-for products I really, honestly feel make a difference and are reasonable. FeedBurner might not be the fanciest RSS-to-email service, but for a lot of us, it does the trick. Most of us don't need a lot of bells and whistles–just send my posts to my subscribers and I'm good.
Why panicking is unnecessary. Numbers lie.
Why do I think there's no need to panic? Because numbers are for the birds. Why do we put so much stock in them? Really. Let's think about this.
We talk about the importance of the numbers and keeping track. I think it's important to look for overall trends, but honestly, how often do we use the numbers just to feel good (or bad) about ourselves? Maybe it's just me.
And also, this subscriber thing is not an exact science. Sometimes the numbers don't give you an accurate picture.
Case in point: After I moved from FeedBurner to FeedBlitz, I had 1000 fewer email subscribers in FeedBlitz than I did in FeedBurner. I was a little concerned, so I asked Phil Hollows from FeedBlitz where those 1000 subs went. Were they lost in the transition? According to him (I trust him), it's not that the subscribers were lost, it's that FeedBurner simply doesn't track the numbers well. (I've looked for my conversation with Phil so I could quote him, but unfortunately, I can't find it. I'm trying to remember–Phil, if you're reading, correct me if I'm wrong–but the bottom line is, there are people on the list that don't get emails due to bounces, unverified addresses, etc. but FeedBurner counts them as subscribers anyway. But they aren't getting the emails so they shouldn't be counted as a subscriber.)
You might say my FeedBurner numbers were lying. I didn't really have 5000 subscribers, I really had 4000 (or whatever it was). What was really interesting was how deflated I felt after finding out the truth. For a minute there, my feelings of worth decreased right along with those dumb (fake) numbers. I have issues people.
And then I started thinking about all of the stats that get thrown about in media kits and on advertising pages and I wondered how many of those numbers are just plain wrong too. I'd guess a lot of them are. I still think media kits and advertising pages are worthwhile, I just think we should recognize they don't guarantee anything.
On top of that, let's think about how many people actually read our stuff. To often we equate subscribers with readers, but they're not the same. I'm absolutely positive a lot of people subscribe to my blog but never read it. How many blogs have I subscribed to that I never read? Lots. How many emails do I get that I never read? Less, but still quite a few. How many emails do I open but delete within the first two lines? A fair amount. In that case, I'm counted as an "open" and the assumption is I actually consumed the information, but I didn't.
Sometimes I just want to pull an Ann Voskamp and skip worrying about the stats altogether. It's obviously working for her. And there's something freeing about the idea.
Where I'm at now
I realize there has to be some way of measuring this stuff. I realize there are a lot of people that really get into the nitty gritty of the numbers and I'd even argue it's important in a lot of instances. But for me, a smaller blogger who has other stuff to think about, I have to ask myself if I'm putting too much stock into the numbers. And do I want to pay for the privilege?
Just my $.02. What do you think?
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.