RSS-to-Email Comparison Review – FeedBurner, FeedBlitz, Zookoda, AWeber

This first part of a three part series of posts has been contributed by Brian Armstrong of Breaking Free (read more about him at the end of this post).

Most bloggers have heard that providing an email subscription option is a good idea.

The reasoning goes that most internet users don’t know what RSS is, and don’t care. Just ask your parents! They need another subscription option, and email fills that role beautifully.

By the way, I believe we as bloggers have ourselves to blame for the RSS confusion, but I’ll save that story for another day.

Today I’m going to give you an overview of what RSS-to-Email services are out there, and help you pick the right one for your blog.

As a side note, I have yet to find a perfect RSS-to-Email service that does everything I could possibly want. I believe a real opportunity exists for one of the services below to step up and really meet the needs of this market! If I could find a service that did all of the following I’d be in heaven, as would many bloggers:

  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Branding/Customization
  • Import subscribers without requiring another opt-in
  • Free
  • Some basic support (by email, or a forum for example)
  • Subscribers count in FeedBurner stats

Without further ado…

Feedburner Review

Flamocon 190HIt was only natural that Feedburner, with it’s dominance in the RSS arena, would offer an RSS-to-Email service. It turned out to be a breeze and is a excellent, if rather basic, service.

If you already have a FeedBurner account, just click “publicize”, “email subscriptions”, and then “activate”. You’ll have three options but just stick with the standard FeedBurner for now (FeedBlitz is discussed below, and RMail is so basic that I wouldn’t recommend using it over FeedBlitz).

Their emails actually look quite professional by default, and new subscribers will count toward your Feedburner stats which is great.

Only two things disappointed me about FeedBurner. The first was that the only scheduling option was “once per day”. In my own tests, I’ve seen that emailing users once per day is too much and will leave you with a fairly high unsubscribe rate. People’s inboxes are already packed (which is why they need RSS, but alas…) and you will get a handful of emails from people saying “stop emailing me!” if it’s once per day, even though there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom.

While once per day is too much, once per week is probably not enough. Some top marketers that I’ve seen send out messages once every few days (every three days is probably ideal), which I assume is based on extensive testing. The bottom line is that I’d love to see more scheduling options from FeedBurner.

The second gripe I had with FeedBurner is that I was not allowed to import subscribers. Their official policy is that they review each request on a case-by-case basis. It took about a week to get a response but my request to import a fairly small list of 600 or so was denied, stating that it was too big. Based on this limited information, I have to conclude that importing is essentially not allowed for all but the tiniest of lists (they never asked for proof of double opt-ins or anything of that sort so I don’t think it would have helped)

I understand why they have the policy (to avoid problems with spammers) but at the same time this is a major disadvantage. Your only option is to email everyone on your list asking them to re-subscribe to your new list, which has a very low success rate. Expect to have your list cut in half.

Even people who WANT to receive your content will ignore or delete that type of email. Remember, your readers don’t know or care about double opt-ins, single opt-ins, and the can spam act. Nor should you expect them to. From their point of view you are just bothering them. They found your content emails interesting but they don’t feel like filling out more forms.

Pros:

  • Simple to set up
  • Allows basic branding by uploading your logo
  • Subscribers count toward your Feedburner stats
  • Decent support by email (responds within a few days)

Cons:

  • No scheduling
  • Can’t import subscribers

Bottom Line: 4/5 stars

FeedBurner is a good solution for anyone who doesn’t have a current subscriber list to import and wants to get something setup quickly.

Note: Part 2 and 3 of this review will cover FeedBlitz, Zookoda, and AWeber.

About the author:
Brian Armstrong is a entrepreneur who achieved financial freedom working for himself at age 23. If you’ve always wanted to start your own business and work for yourself, check out his website on how to start a business. You can read interviews with self made millionaires where they share the secrets to their success, and learn how to start your own business for under $100. Check it out: http://www.startbreakingfree.com/

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.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip. I knew you could do this with feedburner, but I couldn’t find where it was at. Can’t wait for your other reviews :)

  2. John B says:

    I was just thinking about writing about post about what RSS is and what it is used for. I would say about 90% of the people I know would have no idea what it even stands for, let alone how to use it. Email options would be a good alternative for those users since they all are familiar with it.

  3. Silus Grok says:

    I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and wonder if xFruits might be a good topic in this one? They’ve had RSS to E-mail for some time… but I’ve always been a little leery of using them (sadly, it’s the English on the site; it’s not their first language, as you can tell, and I worry that support may be lacking)…

    http://xfruits.com/

  4. JuliaN says:

    Darren,

    I think it is good that you provide such information. I must tell you one post before Increased my readers by 80% .

  5. Bowrag says:

    Im with the other commentor. I dont have a clue about the basic concept of RSS Feeds. I went to each site when I started my blog and posted the link on my blog only because I saw it on other blogs. but I don’t use them. I use technorati. Is that a RSS Feed? anyone wants to help please send me a direct email, [email protected]

  6. nice I just do not like who you can schedule it as you stated, with feedburner its every day in which I would like to send it maybe every week

    cant wait to see the other reviews

  7. Anne-Marie says:

    I offer Feedburner’s service on my blog because most of my readers aren’t bloggers and have no idea what RSS is.

    And true confessions here – I prefer getting my favorite blogs RSS feed via email because it’s the only way I read them. There’s something about email that forces you to open and read it. Going to an RSS reader is something you have to initiate on your own. And frankly, some days I don’t have the time or completely forget.

  8. Alan Patrick says:

    I’ve started to have a problem with Feedburner’s RSS-to-email subscriptions where the photos in my blogs posts (some or all) do not appear in the email (they are replaced by the alt text).

    This is a big problem for me because photos are very important to my blog posts. One of my email subscribers even wrote to tell me about the problem…

    Has anyone else experienced this? Any ideas how to solve it?

    Thanks,

    Alan

  9. Trent Hamm says:

    It has to do with how the email is delivered. The emails are encoded with both HTML and text, and the mail reader chooses which one is displayed.

  10. Alan Patrick says:

    Thanks for the answer, Trent!

    So basically this is out of my hands, as a subscriber email problem, and not a Feedburner one?

    Shame, because I don’t think the subscriber in question will be too happy with this answer.

  11. Ernie says:

    I have been trying to get into the blogging game for what seems like forever now and I still don’t think that my blog is reaching it’s full monetary potential. I do posting for money but it seems like I am getting no where fast.

  12. Tim says:

    Why don’t all blogging systems don’t have a ‘subscribe by email’ function built in by default? Is sending bulk emails to problematic?

  13. Mark Silver says:

    Thanks for the summary. I’m kinda doubting that you’ll ever find an import without verification option, due to spam laws (one of the reasons RSS has become so popular). I don’t know a single email service out there that will touch a mass-import email list without verification. All they need is one spammer to get through their system, and their ISP gets blacklisted, like happened to 1shoppingcart recently, and all their emails from all of their customers get blocked.

    It evidently took a tremendous effort on 1shoppingcart’s part to get their status un-blacklisted, and now their standards are as high as everyone else’s.

    I hate to say it, but it would probably be a good idea to let go of that wish. And, it’s actually a good thing. When you migrate a list like that, people who don’t verify, even after you nudge them a couple of times, gives you a more realistic view of who actually wants to be subscribed, as opposed to folks who just haven’t unsubbed yet.

  14. Steven says:

    FeedBurner is a great free service, but as a con I would add that customization of the email is limited (subject line, who the email is from, and the body of the email).

  15. Thanks for the heads up!

  16. I have to say, we have had no problems at all with Feedburner, for RSS subscribers. However, we were using Feedblitz for all of our clients for the email sign ups. And there were problems. LOTS of problems over the last 3 months. We post items at 5 or 6 in the evening, and clients would not get notified until a couple days later that there was a new entry at the blog. Sometimes, not at all!! We had numerous emails back and fourth with Feedblitz, and they had lots of excuses, but we have found ourselves now using Feedburner for everything, since they now allow email subscribers as well as RSS. We have had no problems with Feedburner but I would be wary of using Feedblitz again, if you are concerned with timely deliveries.

  17. Joni says:

    Yeah. I hate the way i can’t import my subscribers. I was browsing their Forums but couldn’t find a solution. Tsk tsk.

    FeedBurner is a good solution for anyone who doesn’t have a current subscriber list to import and wants to get something setup quickly.

    — i agree! should have made that change in the beginning. I lost all of my subscribers. =/

  18. At Club Troppo we used a few of the services for the Missing Link service and we found that none of them were really satisfactory. For a while we used a combination of cat2email and a Mailman mailing list to achieve a better effect. We got a lot of control over the email system. While in practice Mailman is not perfectly suited to the role, it can be configured to do the right thing.

    However cat2email seemed to stop working circa WP 2.1 and its author went to work on Habari instead. This plus ongoing VPS dramas means we’re without a mailing list service. Ideally with the mail-oriented changes in WP 2.2 somebody would whip up a simple mailing list system of this sort; so far no dice. I’d be interested to hear if anyone has.

  19. However, we were using Feedblitz for all of our clients for the email sign ups. And there were problems. LOTS of problems over the last 3 months. We post items at 5 or 6 in the evening, and clients would not get notified until a couple days later that there was a new entry at the blog.

    We were advised that they batch their emails; that you’re placed on their schedule. It’s fine if it’s a time that suits, but Missing Link is meant to be a timely summary of the best posts in ozplogistan. Not as good if it comes late the following day. Faster delivery is a paid service.

    Interestingly, FeedBlitz also turns your posts into uu encoding or similar. No raw HTML tags to look at, which struck me as odd and unnecessary.

  20. Joel Badinas says:

    Before I discovered FeedBurner, I used free email subscriptions that were, in my opinion lousy and slow. Thanks that I discovered FeedBurner. It powers my blogs now.

  21. JBagley says:

    I found a high number of sign ups to feedburner RSS-email service but very little converts. (Signing up, but not confirming subscription)…

    I then tested the service on my blog and found that the captcha on the pop-up window wasn’t working properly. It happened on numerous occasions that I tried. It wasn’t that the image wasn’t loading, it was that I would put in the correct characters and it would say it was incorrect! I emailed a couple of the wanabee converts and they confirmed the same thing.

    So bam went Feedburner and in came Feedblitz. I would love to use Feedburner, but I can’t use something that doesn’t work very well. ;-)

  22. Joewatson says:

    The series is information. As an internet marketers, we are interested ion knowing how effective one is vis-a-vis the other.Emails are personal and if used well,could have tremendous results. RSS are great too but am not sure if all internet users really know what they are.

  23. Jimson Lee says:

    I am very happy with Feedburner, and luckily I didn’t have a huge list to import. I simply sent a very nice email asking them to re-subscribe.

    And you can’t beat FREE! I looked into aweber.com (review to come) and 1shoppingcart.com, and both were $20 per month.

    The email delivery times works well for me and my subscribers.

  24. I am very happy with Feedburner and have little or no problems with it.

  25. J-Ro says:

    I just wanted to let people know that you CAN import email addresses into FeedBurner, you just have to email support. I did it a while back. Just email support, and when they get back to you, you email over your list.

    True, it would be nice to have them all imported through the interface, but at least it’s a possibility. I was able to successfuly import over 700 addresses.

  26. Cutie says:

    I use feed burner now and I like it, even I don’t really use it.. Thanks for the article :)

  27. Kevin Howard says:

    If Feedburner won’t allow list imports they can’t be very serious about the RSS2Email market. I can understand their desire to promote RSS rather than email but the reality is, RSS isn’t going to replace email any time soon.

    Given their dominance in the RSS publishing space it would be so easy for them to also dominate the RSS2Email space. They already have direct access to a massive chunk of the market – all they need to do now is put a bit more effort into product features, and of course work out a safe way for publishers to import their subscriber lists from other services.

  28. I have been using FeedBlitz for years and have been happy. I must confess that recently I have encountered a few problems. Trying to get some customer service was difficult and I eventually got Phil himself answering the customer service phone while he was traveling in California.

    With Feedburner being bought out I am wondering if perhaps they are going to gobble up FeedBlitz too.

    Anyway…I have been losing a lot of subscribers to the “one a day” e-mail.

    Darren, do you have a post that speaks on this topic in detail? I saw that you recommend an e-mail every three days. I am going to try that out, but it would be nice to hear of others comments on this topic.

  29. Johan says:

    Hi

    There’s a lot of people on the feedburner forum asking for flexible scheduling of emails.

    Please support the effort and get FeedBurner to do it at

    http://forums.feedburner.com/viewtopic.php?t=15226

    While we wait: one of the FeedBurner support people said that you should consider a solution where your feed is *burned* once a week and submitted to feedburner. This sounds/feel great but where do you find a tool that burns your feed once a week?

    While I am waiting for you to get feedburner to do what we want ;-)
    I tried out Zookoda but I need degree to figure them out.
    I suppose if I try for anther day it may snap in place.

    Johan

  30. Shishir says:

    I want to choose rss to newsletter service. I tried feedblitz, however all the time feedblitz deny the subscriber import by sending message “spam trap”.

    Please help.

    Shishir
    http://www.salahsoftware.com

  31. Attiq Shaw says:

    Hello,

    Thanks for great article.

    I can not see importing subscriber feature in Zookoda.

    Can you please guide me.

    Thanks !

    Attiq Shaw