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RSS-to-Email Comparison Review – Zookoda and AWeber

This is the third 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 Part 2, a review of Feedblitz here. This post has been contributed by Brian Armstrong of Breaking Free.

Zookoda Review

Logo-3Zookoda is a breath of fresh air in the RSS-to-Email market. A slick Web2.0 interface makes it easy to use (although in a few spots it still feels like its in beta), and it comes with an impressive array of features in a free product.

Here are a few: true scheduling, email customization, importing subscribers without another opt-in or contacting the list, ability to capture additional fields (like first name), and extensive reporting and stats.

Zookoda really is quite brilliant. There were two negatives I feel obligated to mention however.

The first is that Zookoda subscribers don’t show up in FeedBurner stats. Whether this is Zookoda’s fault, an inability to communicate with FeedBurner, or that the two companies are simply too busy I have no idea. You can of course include an additional badge that shows your Zookoda subscriber count, which is one somewhat less-than-ideal work around.

Secondly, and of much bigger concern, is that it appears for all intents and purposes that Zookoda is no longer being supported. Apparently they were purchased recently by PayPerPost, and activity seems to have dropped off since then.

There have been zero posts to their blog, and responses from their support are practically nonexistent. This is really a shame, because Zookoda represents the best option available today for RSS-to-Email.

Open message to PayPerPost: don’t drop the ball on this one! You are sitting on a gold mine and have 90% of the equation for success sitting right there in front of you. Put one or two people on it to answer a few emails and fix the occasional bug and you will hands down have the best RSS-to-Email product available today! I hear this whole “blogging” thing is a growth market too, so it might be a good opportunity. Just a thought… ;)

Pros

  • Scheduling
  • Customization
  • Importing without another opt-in
  • Free
  • Nice user interface and easy to use

Cons

  • Subscribers don’t show up in Feedburner stats
  • Zero support as of right now, so if you can’t get it to work on your own, you’re stuck

Bottom line: 4/5 stars
An impressive service with plenty of great features that represents the best hope of an ideal RSS-to-Email product. Only questions is whether PayPerPost has abandoned it.

Update – I discovered that you can in fact get support for Zookoda, but you have to do it through PayPerPost’s website contact form. Submitting questions through Zookoda’s contact form gets no response.

Note from Darren – I’ve been using Zookoda for over 12 months now and agree that there’s a lot to like about Zookoda. However in the last few months I’ve noticed increasing deliverability problems – particularly with Yahoo email addresses (and other systems that use Yahoo like sbcglobal emails). I’m told by Zookoda that this is a Yahoo problem – however I’ve not seem the same problems with other services such as AWeber. This combined with slow customer support is making me seriously consider moving my lists to other services.

AWeber Review

Logo-2-1I have not tried AWeber (aff) personally, so I will make this section short. From my research, it is quite possibly the best paid service option. AWeber has been around for a long time and RSS-to-Email is just one area of their business. Many large companies use AWeber. The only problem is that it is expensive.

Pros

  • Plenty of features
  • Good support

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Subscribers don’t count toward FeedBurner stats

Bottom Line: ?/5 stars

I haven’t used it personally so I won’t say, but this is most likely the best option for corporate blogs or bloggers who want a no hassle solution and don’t mind spending for it.

Conclusion

If you don’t have any current subscribers and want something quick and easy to set up (or you aren’t technically savvy), your best option is to go with FeedBurner.

If you already have an existing email list, and/or you want more control over scheduling and customization, I’d recommend going with Zookoda.

If you are a corporate blog or have some cash to spend for a worry free solution I’d suggest going with AWeber.

By the way, if the idea of transferring subscribers from one list to another sounds daunting (and it should, don’t underestimate it), remember that you can always start a new system (such as FeedBurner) while leaving your old subscribers on the old system. There is no reason you can’t be running two simultaneously. It will be totally transparent to your readers if part of them are getting email updates from one source, and part from another. This will avoid the issue of transferring subscribers entirely.

Regardless of which approach you use, take some time to make your decision before jumping in. Once a change is made, it is not always easy to change your mind without confusing/annoying your readers (and shrinking your list). Expect to encounter some problems in the transition (broken links, incorrect formatting, duplicate articles being sent) and proceed with caution. It’s an excellent idea to notify all your readers of the transition before actually doing it. At least then if something goes wrong (and assume it will), they won’t be totally in the dark. Best of luck!

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. Mike Werner says:

    Yeah, I agree, Zoodoka was THE choice of the net. I followed Darren’s choice when he blogged about Zookoda, and loved the guys to death. They were incredible, responsive and a great product.

    But that’s past tense. It would appear that the owners were only interested in selling their product, because once they started their negotiations, they dropped their product.

    It’s a real pity, since I really liked using them, and since I’ve left them, I’ve not managed to find another service provider.

    I do hope that the new owners do something about it, and use it wisely.

  2. Pamela says:

    I’ve been using Zookoda for blog updates since it was released and I too have become a little concerned about the deliverability issues of late. I’m certain they have issues to address and the fact that they do allow imports without another opt-in may be the reason for it.

    I also used AWeber to send “traditional” email newsletters for years (after trying many alternatives that didn’t even nearly come up to them), so I can tell you that they do, actively, address these issues and have the contacts and clout do do so. Their customer service is pretty much the best you’ll ever come across anywhere, for anything, which is ironic really, because they’re so reliable, you’ll never need it! :)

    The bottom line is, if it matters and it’s business, then AWeber is the way to go. Tip: pay for your account for the year up front, because this offers a huge saving. AWeber are not going anywhere, so it’s an investment.

  3. Kenneth says:

    Hi Darren,

    I felt compelled to add a comment here regarding Aweber. I have used Aweber for 4 years and they have been the best solution for autoresponders, email broadcasting, great email deliverablility and more recently, the RSS to email option.

    However, lately I have been having a few troubles with their service since they ‘upgraded’ their interface a few months ago. Email formatting output from the RSS has been buggy (although this looks to have been fixed for the most part) and the site is extremely slow to get into the RSS to Email features.

    Having said that, I have to say that Aweber is known for their deliverability and their good relationships with the various ISP’s and that has not changed. Also, they have excellent customer service (most of the time but I am picky!) and that feature alone cannot be overestimated if you’re serious about your business.

    Overall, I am confident they will fix these issues. Sorry if this ended up being a mini-review but I wanted your readers to know my 4 years + experience with them.

  4. Jaime says:

    Thanks, great review and a great 2.0 web site.

  5. Aaron says:

    Many thanks Briain for an excellent series of reviews. I was in the hunt for an RSS to email service about a month ago so a little late for me but a great resource for anyone else out there in the same situation.

    I eventually opted for Feedburner’s service and from reading your reviews I’m happy with my decision. By the sounds of what you’re saying about Zoodoka I think Feedburner is more likely to be developed and adopt some of the features it might be missing now.

    Thanks again.

  6. Thanks for that ad.
    I will go with feedburner, to handel all the fu… trafik I’ve to handel these days

    See you and thanks!

    Martin

  7. Wil says:

    Thanks for the series and especially the original idea of moving email subscriptions over to one of these services. On my site I was running a list via a WordPress plugin that had about 200 subscribers. It wasn’t really the best option since it sent out every post individually (I think some people were unsubscribing for that reason at least), the formatting was kinda ugly and the mail servers were being kinda slow. I decided to move them over using the paid option on FeedBlazer and it worked quite well — no problems with the import and while there were some unsubscribes I think I’ll be better in the long run. For the user, they have improvements in the issues I mentioned, for me I now have a 15% increase in my RSS subscribers plus my Text-Link-Ad & Feedburner ad network ads are showing (don’t worry, I keep them unobtrusive).

    One option you missed that might be useful for some people is http://www.rssfwd.com/ — I’ve used it to monitor some feeds myself and it seems to work pretty well (the delivery is the most timely of the ones I’ve tried). Not so many options for publishers (don’t think you can even see the subscriber list), but its simple to set up and the subscribers count towards your FeedBurner numbers. If that’s all you need, give it a look.

  8. Thanks for this post. I’ve been using Zookoda for a few months and thought they were terrific and responsive. They offered many useful options, such as picking the delivery time within a 15 minute window, email templates that match blogspot.com templates, input box for help on each page. There was also the novelty about living in Canada and dealing with an Australian company.

    With the new owners, development seems to have stopped. Bugs aren’t getting fixed. Some messages are sent at the wrong time, perhaps using an Australian time zone? The Your Description field isn’t working (emails show the words “Your Description”, rather than the description itself).

    While I don’t want to leave Zookoda, how can I stay when problems aren’t getting fixed?

  9. As the founder of a major RSS-2-email solution, I feel a need to chime in. I tested most all the competing services. I won’t even mention mine, to try to show that I’m here to be honest and not just promoting my thing. I haven’t tried aweber. I did try Zookoda and rarely ever received an email. FeedBurner is extremely reliable. FeedBlitz seems to work most of the time. Zookoda rarely worked at all. When people promote Zookoda, I often have to wonder if they are even subscribed to their own blog. It just doesn’t work.

  10. Thanks for the honest reviews! good stuff!

  11. SaiKaew says:

    I am thinking to register a service for newsletter long time, and today your post is realized me to start make it.

    Thanks for your post

  12. Pete says:

    Zookoda has worked very well for me.

    However, and it’s a big however, I have consistently suffered problems with newsletters being caught in spam filters. Anybody else get this problem?

  13. John Cow says:

    Have to look into this one, seems to be a good service overall.

  14. Honey says:

    Nice Review !! Brian.

    Hoping for FeedBurner and Zookoda communication now.

  15. zool says:

    Wooo.. hope this rss can help my blog…

  16. Eric Giguere says:

    Darren, I wish you’d found someone who actually used AWeber’s RSS-to-mail service to write that part of the review, as it’s kind of unfair to do a comparison without having tried it. So let me jump in.

    I’ve been using AWeber‘s RSS-to-mail service ever since it was introduced as a way to deliver posts from my AdSense blog to readers who’d rather have it in their email inbox than use an RSS reader or actively visit the site.

    AWeber’s RSS-to-mail service is called “blog broadcast”. All AWeber mailing lists have both autoresponder (sending a sequence of pre-written messages at specific intervals) and broadcast (send a one-off message at a specific time and date) capabilities. A blog broadcast in essence combines both abilities by letting you automatically send a set of RSS posts to the subscribers of a given mailing list.

    Setting up a blog broadcast is very simple. You log into your AWeber account and select the mailing list you want to use. I usually create separate mailing lists just for blog broadcasts, but you can add blog broadcasts to any of your existing lists. You then create a blog broadcast by supplying it with the URL of the feed and how many posts you want sent out in each broadcast. The default is “1″ — an email is sent everytime a new post is made — but you can set it to any value from 1 to 20. This is great for readers who are generally overwhelmed by the amount of mail they receive. Some of my readers, for example, prefer to receive every post I make shortly after it’s published, so I subscribe them to a single-post-at-a-time broadcast. Others, however, want less frequency, so I subscribe them to a 10-posts-at-a-time broadcast.

    After setting these initial parameters, you then prepare the template for the blog broadcast. A number of predefined templates are available, so you choose the one that looks best to you and go ahead and modify the HTML. (Note that all blog broadcasts also include a plain text version for readers who don’t or can’t view HTML emails. These are also part of the templates.) The template includes special patterns for inserting the channel title, the item title, the item permalink, etc. When you’re done customizing the look of your broadcast, you save it.

    AWeber will then start polling the feed to look for new content. The polling happens about once an hour, so there’s not much delay between making a post and having it broadcast to your list.

    Because these are just normal mailing lists, all the regular features of an AWeber mailing list apply. You can generate signup forms. You can include personalization (“Eric, here’s the latest post from my blog:”). The reader can unsubscribe at any time just by clicking a link at the bottom of the message. You can import and export users. The only thing you can’t really do so far is click tracking, to see which links readers click in the posts.

    All in all, a very useful service. If you want an example, just subscribe to my AdSense blog by sending a blank email to [email protected] (for one post at a time) or [email protected] (for 10 posts at a time).

    If any of you have questions, please reply to this comment or else send me mail at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to answer them…

    Overall, I’m a pretty happy user of AWeber and highly recommend it, and not just for the blog broadcast feature.

  17. Eric Giguere says:

    Some further comments on AWeber’s pricing… I don’t find it that bad. Yes, if you have a single blog and you’re not running any mailing lists then you probably don’t want to spend $19.95 a month for AWeber. If you’re doing any affiliate marketing, however, then $20/month isn’t much for an unlimited number of lists with up to 10,000 subscribers total. You only pay extra if you go over the 10,000 subscriber mark, at which point I hope you’re making some money with all those lists, otherwise you’re doing something wrong :-)

    If you’re looking for a one-stop shop, AWeber is great value for the money.

  18. Veronique says:

    Hi Darren!

    Thanks for the detailed feedback on Zookoda! We certainly want to make sure that all issues are addressed as effectively as possible and I do recall answering quite a few of your tickets. We did have an issue earlier this week and our technical staff has worked diligently on resolution. I apologize if you have experienced any difficulty or delay due to this. As for your issues specifically, we’ve provided information regarding the Yahoo concerns, and your broadcasts are up to date! Please contact me directly if you still have questions regarding either issue.

    As the lead support for Zookoda at this time, I want to assure you that support has not dropped off at all. In fact, Zookoda tickets and communications are addressed throughout the day. I am concerned that this post indicates you have not heard from us. In looking through our history, both our customer support and tech teams have had several communications with you over the last week via email and ticketing. Please let me know if you have not been receiving our communications, as that is a great concern and we’d like to address it asap.

    And you are right, the blog should have more updates- and I’ll certainly get on that!

    Additionally, Riscario Insider, have you submitted a ticket? Any issues should definitely be reported, as every piece of information is as important as the last! Anyone else with questions as well- please send a ticket through the ‘Contact Us’ link at the top of the Zookoda homepage. We’re here for you!

    Veronique
    Zookoda Support

  19. Darren Rowse says:

    Thanks for stopping by Veronique. Please note that this series is not written by me. Yes I have had some communication with Zookoda this week (although initially there was some slowness in getting responses at times which I’ve been frustrated by) – however the support issues talked about in this post were written by guest poster Brian Armstrong.

    My only comments on this post were ‘A note from Darren’ where I talked about the deliverability issues that I have with yahoo email addresses.

    Thanks for stopping by – if you’d like me to put you in touch with Brian please let me know.

  20. Something I learned recently is that if you pay for Aweber a year in advance it brings the price down to about $15 a month.

    I’ve been using Aweber for 3 years and am very happy with it. I recommend it to all my small business clients.

  21. Thanks Veronique. It’s great to know that Zookoda is active. I’ll resubmit tickets that I initially submitted online and later by email. No response :(

    More updates to Zookoda users would be most welcome.

  22. Johan says:

    After the feedback from Zookoda I tried to use them on a test basis to see how easy/difficult it will be to implement. I wanted to use them because of the flexible scheduling of broadcasts and the free option.

    After many hours I could not figure out how to setup a recurring broadcast for blog posts.

    I know Zoodoka said they support the product but their blog is non existent at the moment and there’s no support forum.

    This is what I will do until Feedburner created flexible scheduling.

    I will create my blog posts and save them as drafts and then publish them all when I want to – one big bang every time I feel like it. Then feedburner can come along and grab the posts burn them and email them according to my manual publishing schedule.

    Here I am going off to the reliable but inflexible feedburner. See you there for the free option.

    BTW: I use aweber personally but I teach newbies how to market using blogs and lists by introducing them to the free options; wordpress.com and feedburner.

    Hope you have a great day.

    Johan Horak

  23. Johan says:

    Hi

    It took me some time but the more I used Zookoda the more I like what they do and the options they give you.

    As I said above I use aweber. I also use feedburner and tried to use FeedBlitz but they classified my as a spammer. I spoke to Phil and he said that I need to change my provider as they will not unlock/unblock my IP. If I had 1000′s of people on my list I understand why they classified me as a spammer but all the email I have total less than 200. His solution is very technical and I decided to use feedburner but they do not allow scheduling etc.

    So I tried Zookoda again and was surprised by what they offer for free.

    Time will tell on the issues you mentioned above but they have supported me fine.

    Johan

  24. Johan says:

    Hi I am reluctantly using this space because I don’t want to be seen as abusing this great review for my own purposes. Apologies in advance.

    For various reason I believe that Zookoda has the best features from all the RSS-to-email services.

    I wanted to teach people how to use zookoda using screencast.

    But the support issues you mentioned above is still a problem.

    I mailed them twice through their contact page and once through payperpost’s contact page and I am not getting any response.

    Johan

  25. Veronique says:

    Hello Johan,

    I just wanted to reiterate that Zookoda Support is quite active and I just verified that your emails have been addressed an answered. I, of course, apologize for the delay, but as you can read on the blog, there have been server issues and the holiday weekend set us back a bit. However, we’re movin’ on up and making sure to lend attention to every issue reported. If you have not received a response to a particular issues, please let me know immediately.

    Thank you!
    Veronique
    Zookoda Support

  26. Johan says:

    Hi

    Yes. I got every email answered. Thanks Veronique. I will continue with screen cast of Zookoda.

    Thanks Veronique.

    By the way: She even gave me her personal email address.

    Regards

    Johan

  27. John Mettie says:

    Well, based on the comments I read here, I opened an account with Zookoda a few minutes ago. Everything was working fine until I attempted to upload a 50,000+ opt in e-mail list from a tab delimited txt file as required by Zookoda. The file started and the green progress line as well as my flashing router lights told me the file was being processed.

    After about 3 minutes, progress stopped, and about ten minutes after that, the browser informed me that an internal error had occurred on the remote server, listed some critical error messages and told me to read my Cold Fusion manual to determine the problem.

    I closed the browser, re-opened and returned to the login screen, logged out, logged in again, could find no limits as to list size, so I reduced the list by 20k, crashed, 10k, crashed, reduced to 2500, crashed, 1 address, OK, 5 addresses OK, 500 address, crashed and I am unable to bring the site up at all. I sent numerous e-mails to support and even to PayPerPost support. no replies. I have now returned to the site, very slow and cannot submit a trouble ticket.

    I think I have crashed the site, and on my way to being immortalized as the supreme newbie hacker of all time, or a buffoon! With the Internet, it could go either way.

  28. Ben Evert says:

    I’ve used Zookoda for about a year but have really become frustrated with the site. I have tried accessing my small mailing list for about 3 weeks now and keep getting an error that will not allow me to access it. Something about a ColdFusion error, I have no clue what that is.

    I have sent several support tickets have not received a reply. Either they are overworked in that area or they just don’t give a crap.

    Needless to say, I have taken them off my blog and will find another way to send newsletters.

    Zookoda was an excellent program but is is now nothing more than a P.O.S. Would not recommend them to my worst enemy.

  29. John Mettie says:

    Well, the site still does not work right. I received this email from Zookoda Support: Ticket Number: 1263

    Support Response
    Hi John, Thanks for reaching out to us. Our team has determined that the issue is with the page timing out very quickly, we are researching a resolution and are looking to implement a fix as soon as possible, though I have no ETA. We greatly appreciate your patience in this matter, thank you! Zookoda Support

    Comment
    I came back today to try and read my list and I still receive this error The request has exceeded the allowable time limit Tag: cfmail The error occurred in C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\zookoda\zoo\application.cfc: line 128 126 : 127 : 128 : 129 : Error: #arguments.exception.rootCause.Message#

    130 : Detail: #arguments.exception.rootCause.Detail#

    ——————————————————————————– Resources: Check the ColdFusion documentation to verify that you are using the correct syntax. Search the Knowledge Base to find a solution to your problem. Browser Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; Alexa Toolbar; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30) Remote Address 76.183.181.128 Referrer Date/Time 18-Oct-07 08:03 PM Stack Trace (click to expand)

    Kind Regards Zookoda Support Team

    All in all, it is not looking to good as I see other posts here mentioning cold fusion errors. I told you, I broke the website.

  30. Justin says:

    Glad to see I am not the only one, I have been up almost the past 36 hours straight, trying to upload my opt in list. Big suprise, Coldfusion error and then can’t even pull up the site for a few minutes afterward. Whats the ETA on getting these issues resolved. Popping the error into google shows there are attainable fixes for this error. I love the site, from first impressions, but the errors are killing us. If this was resolved I would be definitely referring business their way.

    -Justin

  31. Johan says:

    I am now using http://www.feedburner.com because they can schedule deliveries, upload emails etc. Johan

  32. John Mancini says:

    I am having a big problem with feedburner to which I can’t get any answers. They are randomly my last with old posts. Subscribers are getting ticked and dropping. No one at feedburner responds. The response form isn’t working. Nio one appears to be monitoring the forums. It won’t let me deactivate my email list!

    Any suggestions??

  33. I will give feedburner 4/5 as you said, the only thing that I didn’t liked about it was not allowing to import the subscribers. I hope if they do that they will be 5/5. I use feedburner for feeds, email subscription. Here is my blog http://naatmad.wordpress.com

  34. I’ve been using a wordpress plugin to send blogs to email….and had to hack it in order to customize the email format. In all, the emails have the same theme and more importantly the same links as the website, however due to the large volume of subscribers my whole sitevgoes down for a little while when it emails out a new post. I migrated to feedburner, but it does’t seem to have the email customization I want. Maybe I’ll try Zookoda.

  35. Couple of later comments about Zookoda:

    1) Zookoda is shutting down Dec. 2009. Makes everything else kind of irrelevant. See email below from support.

    2)Zookoda can no longer import email lists. It’s one at a time.

    3)The length of a Zookoda post is limited to 1400 characters.

    I’ve invested 3 hours in learning their system (not intuitively obvious) – I had everything figured out and a beautiful template – now I have to start over. I use Feedburner for new subscribers and PHPList for old ones (or subscribers that I add manually). I just cut-and-paste the html into PHPlist, its not a big deal.
    _____
    Hello!

    First and foremost, we want to thank you for being a loyal part of the Zookoda family!

    Unfortunately, we have some sad news to share with you. Zookoda will be closing its doors officially on December 1, 2009. Until that time you may continue to schedule and send broadcasts as normal. Be that as it may, only a very limited customer support team will be available to service your needs from this point forward until the close date.

    Again, we value you as a customer and we do wish that we could keep our service open to be of help to you. Sadly, in these trying times it is not something that is economically feasible for our organization. We have hopes to be able to bring back this service at some point, yet we have no estimated timeframe for execution.

    Until then our Zookoda friends, we wish you the best of luck and hope that the future brings you great times!

    Thank you,
    Zookoda Support

  36. Matthew says:

    To be honest I’ve only used feedburner and I must say that it is a great tool, especially being free. With regards to aweber, I do know some people that use their product and none of them complain about it. They are all happy with aweber and I am currently considering signing up with aweber.