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RSS-to-Email Comparison Review – FeedBlitz

This is the second part of a three part series of posts on different RSS to Email Solutions. You can read Part 1 which reviews Feedburner’s system here and a review of Zookoda and Aweber here. This post has been contributed by Brian Armstrong of Breaking Free.

FeedBlitz Review

FeedblitzlogoFeedBlitz is a paid service that you can tie into FeedBurner (although they are entirely separate companies). Your FeedBlitz subscribers will count toward your Feedburner stats.

Unlike FeedBurner, they offer more extensive scheduling and customization of the emails, plus importing an outside list of subscribers is a little easier. But the fun stops there. I’ll explore each feature in a bit more detail.

I was excited to see that FeedBlitz had more scheduling options than FeedBurner, but I was a little disappointed after I actually tried it. It is not true scheduling in the sense that you find in most applications (Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar, etc) because it isn’t flexible at all. It basically give you four options: email immediately when posts are made, once per day, once per week, and once per month. As stated above, this is not the type of flexibility I was looking for that would allow me to make a post say every three days, or Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It is nowhere near as good as Zookoda’s scheduling, for example.

Second, I tried FeedBlitz’s email customization. While it is very flexible, it’s not necessarily easy to make something that looks good. After about an hour I managed to get something basic that included my logo and looked ok, but it never looked quite as good as even the basic FeedBurner email that you get by default. It was a little frustrating to say the least, but if you were really a pro (or hired one), you would probably appreciate this level of flexibility.

Importing subscribers was a little bit easier than in FeedBurner. Instead of emailing all users to ask them to opt in again, they email all users asking them to take action only if they DON’T want to continue. The difference is important because if someone ignores the email or deletes it, they will still be on the list. They don’t have to be proactive. You’ll still see a certain percentage of people unsubscribe, but not nearly as many as if you asked them to opt-in again.

One thing I found particularly annoying though was that it wasn’t clear to me that FeedBlitz was going to email my entire list after I imported them. It showed a sample email on the screen, but I thought they were suggesting I send that out, not that they were about the send it for me when I clicked “next”!

This brings me to perhaps my biggest gripe with FeedBlitz: it is quite possibly the worst user interface I have ever seen on a website, ever.

That is a big statement, and I’m being a little bit dramatic, but in all seriousness it is confusing and very difficult to use. I frequently found myself lost, arriving at screens totally unexpectedly from different links, and unable to perform basic tasks. Some functions are buried four levels deep in strange pull down menus, there are a handful of bugs, and a wide variety of UI conventions are mish-mashed together. The FeedBlitz team really needs to read some books by Alan Cooper.

I don’t mind paying for a service if it delivers, but even FeedBlitz’s payment system was flawed. Just the sheer number of options was bothersome: Free, Pro, AdPro, Turbo, and a mysterious Newsletter Edition, each of which had different features. I don’t know if I’m allowed to change my logo in the AdPro or Turbo version, and found myself just wishing they had made it one price for the “paid version” which came with everything. When it came time to cancel my subscription, even that didn’t work when their website form had a bug, and I had to call support again.

Overall I would have expected more from a paid service. There was no option to include additional fields (like the subscriber’s first name) which is free in Zookoda, and while it was possible to get a support rep on the phone by leaving a few messages and waiting, I received no responses to email inquiries.

Pros:

  • Offers customization of emails
  • Easier to import subscribers but still contacts them
  • More scheduling options, but not true scheduling
  • Support (sometimes)
  • Subscribers count in FeedBurner Stats

Cons:

  • Confusing user interface
  • Costs anywhere from $5-$20 per month
  • Annoying payment options

Bottom line: 2/5 starsWhile FeedBlitz had the right idea offering customization and scheduling, their poor implementation makes it tough to compete with services like Zookoda which offer the same features (and more) for free.

Note:

Part 3 of this review will cover Zookoda, and AWeber.

About the author:

Brian Armh3 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. redwall_hp says:

    First of all: Woot, first comment! :)
    Okay, back to what I was saying…

    The scheduling still sounds a lot better than feedburner’s, and the customization sounds nice. Is it free though? That’s a big consideration for me.

  2. Rhys says:

    Interesting side note. I noticed you didn’t include a link to it, so – being unaware of the service, I typed in “feed blitz” (without quotes) to google uk. One of it’s users came up top. It comes top for feeblitz, but that is terrible!

  3. Sue says:

    I find Feedblitz to be fairly good. I use the free version, and although the mail is not necessarily timely, that is not an issue with me (a new and very focused site).
    As far as the site UI, it’s not the best, but it’s not bad. With a little digging you can find your way around.
    One thing I did find difficult (or rather impossible) was integrating it with Feedburner (at the Feedburner site). Maybe it was OE (Operator Error; that’d be me) but it didn’t seem to work.
    redwall_hp: yes it is free, but you have no scheduling option with free.

  4. I still like feedburner, but would eventually give feedblitz a try.

  5. Phil Hollows says:

    Hi:

    I just wanted to point out a few factual errors in the above review.

    Firstly, FeedBlitz’s new service (launched 2 weeks ago – guess this review is a little stale) called “Newsletter Edition” (http://www.feedblitz.com/newsletter) allows publishers to capture subscriber demographic data (name, address etc), and then to customize not only the content and layout but also the distribution segments using this data. FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition also allows you to publish via Skype and Twitter and more using a single service. There is also a *free* service (which is used by most of our publishers). Newsletter Edition pricing starts at $1.49.

    There are three core services to choose from: Pro, Turbo and Newsletter. Pro changes the layout (don’t know why it took over an hour to change a logo, go figure…), Turbo the delivery schedule (BTW everyone can change their time zone for free), and Newsletter incorporates both with demographic capture and more. The “Plus” versions are simply bulk pricing options – nothing too complex here. For a peek at what’s possible with Pro, go to http://www.feedblitz.com/propreview.asp

    With the Newsletter Edition we also added some simpler GUI options site wide for both subscribers (no other service does this, and these are the people you’re trying to reach after all), and publishers. We’ve kept the menus for power users, but novice users should find our default wizard and icon-based approach easier.

    The review also neglected to mention FeedBlitz’s extensive standard real-time reporting (clickthrough, open rates and more), deliverability, testing and diagnostics features, RSS and blog-based autoresponders, newsflash broadcast, Skype, OPML and other capabilities. We’re also the only service to have a complete, open and free API, allowing publishers and service providers to enable mail functionality entirely within their own sites and applications.

    A more thorough and more timely review would have found out more and dug deeper than this one (Deliverability testing, anyone? Authentication? Rendering?).

    I invite readers to stop by at feedblitz.com and do their own due diligence. After all, we must be doing something right – we’re the largest RSS messaging service with over 3 million active subscriptions. Visit us and find out why.

    Thanks!

    Phil Hollows
    Founder, FeedBlitz
    http://www.feedblitz.com

  6. I agree, FeedBlitz has one of the worst user interfaces ever. It’s like they tried to make it difficult.

  7. Kevin Howard says:

    We have used Feedblitz for I guess about a year now and use two of their premium (paid) service options for publishers.

    I found Feedblitz through Feedburner, and despite Feedburner’s foray into RSS-to-email I decided to continue to support Feedblitz as a paying customer.

    As a publisher of multiple feeds I have found latest iterations of their users interface slow, tedious and inefficient. The earlier less sophisticated interface was much better from our perspective, I didn’t think it was so great at the time until I had to use the new version!

    One thing that this review would not have discovered is that once a subscriber to a feed unsubscribes, they can no longer re-subscribe to ANY feeds from the same publisher via the normal sign-up form, they are required to “log in” to their Feedblitz account, which they almost certainly no longer have the password for. Whats more, they are supposed to just know this, perhaps by ESP, because if they try to re-subscribe via the original sign-up form (which we link to on our sites) they simply get a message which says “Previously Subscribed”. At which point if we’re luck, they email us for help, which we can’t provide, because Feedblitz doesn’t trust their paying customers to manage their own subscribers. Sadly however, there will be plenty of others who just say “this is too hard – time to move on”.

    Feedblitz apparently do this to stop spammers re-subscribing people to their feeds once they have unsubscribed. Although the process still requires the subscriber to validate via the link in an email so it’s not like the spammer can actually complete the process. Of course serious spammers wouldn’t be fiddling around subscribing people to RSS feeds anyway.

    Nevertheless Feedblitz have decided to treat all their publishers, paying or non paying, as though they are spammers.

    As a great believer in removing barriers to use, I find this incredibly irritating (as Phil knows). Perhaps that’s why we have about 10,000 subscribers to our 2 traditional mail lists and only 1700 through Feedblitz.

    Needless to say we still get emails from bewildered people who wonder why they can’t re-subscribe.

    BTW, I found this blog while searching for an alternative product to Feedblitz ;-)

  8. Phil Hollows says:

    Kevin and I have had a long conversation on the topic of resubscribes. Obviously we disagree about this.

    Regardless of matters of opinion, however, he’s absolutely incorrect in saying an unsubscribe stops a subscriber from subscribing to any feed from that publisher. Rather, we don’t alllow *publishers* to subscribe an unsubscribed user *via import* to a *different* feed (because otherwise a pubilsher could set up a parallel feed and hit the user up again using import, contrrary to the user’s wishes). That’s not the same.

    It is also true that we require readers who unsubscribed and want to rejoin the *same* feed to log in first; we believe that it’s a sensible risk reduction approach to ensure that people aren’t repeatedly sent subscription confrmations for content they’ve already said they don’t want. By reducing this risk have great ISP relations and we improve deliverability.

    We maintain very high deliverability rates because we run strict policies that prevent abuse, whether malicious or accidental. We can get to yahoo and hotmail where in-house and some other third party services can’t. After all, getting the mail through needs to be job #1, otherwise what’s the point?

  9. Phil, your business has great potential,if you don’t have a great business already. But you (or your company) are not listening.

    I emailed your company with in my view, a valuable comment from a user about the confusing, poorly designed user interface. I don’t get paid to write you emails. I don’t gain anything from it. I never got a response. We don’t say these things to annoy you.

    Do a survey. Ask people. It is terrible.

    I also signed up for a trial paid service, wanted to cancel and found out it wouldn’t let me. I emailed support, never heard back. Emailed again. Never heard back. You did cancel the account, but you forgot to communicate this to me.
    I wish you good luck with the service, but maybe you should consider listening instead of arguing with your customers.
    David

  10. Paul Bryant says:

    FeedBlitz is now injecting ads into full-text feeds without the author’s permission. That’s dirty.

  11. Simon says:

    I totally agree with many of you at the following points:

    - Unsubscribe is a problem: seriously, users time is priceless. the less time they spend the better. Feedblitz does NOT understand this.

    - Importing to new feeds requires authorization: I’d like to import users from feedburner ONLY because feedblitz offers a weekly delivery schedule (is there someone else that offers this?? I’ve been looking around with no success). But can’t HOPE that my users will understand all the fuss that feedblitz want’s them to go through. As i said, their time is PRECIOUS.

    - MY time is precious too and CANNOT go through a lenghty process of pages just to do the simplest of tasks.

    - Feedblitz interface is SO UGLY and CONFUSING that it scares anyone. REALLY. My god Phil can’t you see that? have a look at iContact’s interface. It’s not the simples but it’s very user friendly.

    Feedblitz has many many nice features and it’s the only one that offers them. But sorry, you didn’t buy me. As I said, my time is very precious too and already lost too much in trying to make it work as I wanted.

    Kevin, you’re completely right. Feedblitz treats us like spammers. Who are you to decide for ME if my readers have to accept a move of service/newsletter?? Please implement more security if you think, but NOT at the expence of readers or publishers.

    Thank you

    Simon

  12. Jon Spooner says:

    While I agree FeedBlitz’s User Interface is bordering on insance. It has been the only game in town.

    BUT I just saw (and have yet to test it) that http://MailChimp.com
    has a new RSS to Email handler that looks super simple!

    I will be trying them out in the coming months and see what happens.

    thanks
    Jon Spooner
    pupstyle.com

    ps. Im not a MailChimp plant – I just really like their products… and monkeys.

  13. Tigran says:

    for my blogs i`am useing feedburner, i think, feedburner much easy, and more eff. than a feedblitz..+feedburner is a free ;)

  14. We’ve been really happy with the traffic to this blog since we launched it a couple of months ago. We’ve had nearly 19,000 visits but we would like more, so we’re pleased to now be using a tool from Feedblitz that converts our blog into an e-newsletter for which you can sign up.

  15. Tira says:

    I hope , feedburner improve my blog!