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Dear Google: Please Take Feedburner to the Next Level

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.

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Comments

  1. diamondtearz says:

    um..word! I want them to grow that service to the level of an advanced newsletter management system a-la aWebber. I have subscribed to t=what visitors get from feedburner…not impressed.

    M

  2. Melissa says:

    Hear Hear! Can’t agree with you more.

  3. I really agree with this. It would make them so much better.

    I hope Google actually reads this and maybe takes the suggestions on board. Let us know if you get a reply?

  4. I really agree with this. It would make them so much better.

    I hope Google actually reads this and maybe takes the suggestions on board. Let us know if you get a reply?

  5. rHour says:

    Very nice suggestions Darren and we are having here a large list of problems. I hope Google will come up with appropriate solution. :-)

  6. I really agree with this. It would make them so much better.

    I hope Google actually reads this and maybe takes the suggestions on board. Let us know if you get a reply?
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  7. I still use Feedblitz for a few reasons:

    1. I wasn’t aware feedburner had a weekly email option. If it was there, I couldn’t find it. Daily updates are just too frequent for my followers, many of whom just use the internet once or twice a week.

    2. I like being able to ad email addresses manually. I do lots of seminars in which I collect attendees’ email addresses.

    3. The ability to send out a “flash” email–a quick email to all of my subscribers. I do this sparingly, but it comes in handy on occasion.

  8. BLOGERCISE says:

    Seems a good feature request. However I suspect it is more that no one has thought to do it rather than a block on future development. Something like that would be easy to do.

    Here’s hoping they listen.

  9. Jacob Share says:

    I made the subject line complaint to FeedBurner myself back in 2006. The lack of support for the RSS-to-email has been underwhelming but at least it worked. I’ve already moved on to Aweber and am planning to migrate my subscribers there as well.

  10. Mark Finch says:

    I agree! Feedburner is great, but there are many things that could be improved upon including the podcasting tools. It would be great to be able to directly link to the podcast the same way we can using Libsyn. That way there is a single url for every podcast instead of at least two if not more.

    I haven’t used the subscribe via email feature yet, but I did look at it. I just don’t have enough content yet to put it into use.

  11. Phil Hollows says:

    So Darren:

    So you want FeedBlitz, in a nutshell. We do everything you want (except for only triggering an update every # posts rather than on a timed basis).

    Let’s see.Daily? Check. Weekly and monthly? Check. Integration with Google Analytics? Check. Variable subject lines? Check. Incredibly customizable? Check. A new RSS Service that’s already better than FeedBurner’s? Check. Live support? Check. We even have a wordpress plugin that inetgrates newsletter signup with user registeration.

    And for those who use FeedBurner for RSS metrics, we have a service that brings our customization expertise to RSS as well. See http://www.feedblitz.com/rssfaq.asp

    Who uses FeedBlitz? Over 75,000 bloggers and new media sites like Gawker and Metacafe. See http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?customers

    Thanks,

    Phil Hollows
    Founder
    FeedBlitz.com
    Twitter: @phollows

  12. Nice post, keep posting and I will recognize it to my friends!

    Blogger Make Money

  13. Amit says:

    I spend over 3500 USD /month just to maintain my subscribers..

    Feedburner is free.. but i can’t use it because of same problem..

    i would love to move to feedburner.. if we have little bit more control on newsletter …

  14. Joan Nova says:

    Thank you for writing this letter. That has annoyed me as well BUT here’s another that’s got me crazed these days. I recently changed my own email address and went into feedburner to update my profile. I was immediately transported to google where I made the change. HOWEVER, google has not relayed that info back to feedburner and my a/c there remains with the old address. I couldn’t find an answer in google help and finally found a feedburner support forum that is apparently unmanned since all there are questions and no responses. I’ve checked for days.

  15. Dear Google,

    Consider this a signed petition from me. I agree with the content of this post and support Darren Rowse’ Article.

    Thanks you in advance for hearing our voices and more importantly.. Thanks for helping us to get the message of our blogs out in a more effective manner.

    Sincerely,
    Greg Nemer

  16. Michael S. Hyatt says:

    Google is clearly not listening. I have made the same complaints you have made and have never received a response. I got tired of waiting on them. This is clearly not a priority.

    This is exactly why I converted to FeedBlitz. It’s a night and day difference. The ability to control the branding—and the subject line is huge. I haven’t looked back once. And my users love it.

    I especially appreciate that there is a real human who gets back to your promptly with answers to questions.

  17. Kapil says:

    Let’s hope somebody from the Google-Feedburner team picks up this article soon.

    I don’t know if somebody has experienced this. But is the RSS to email when I see the email in my Gmail inbox, I find the embedded youtube video missing. And this is not even replaced with a link to the original video online.

    I wish they could consider this problem too for their “To Solve” list.

  18. Kristin says:

    Hi Darren,

    Comments about Feedburner email follow, first off:

    Thank you very much for your site! I have been a member for at least a year and regularly recommend Problogger to anyone who asks for blogging tips. I have incorporated many of your suggestions and had immediate positive results. Thank you for all you do!

    RE Feedburner email: I made the switchover last February. I am happy with Feedburner but have the same issues that you mention: No option to automatically update the subject line (for this, I have to go back to the FB site and manually change the “email branding” line — which is no good as *new* sign-ups see a subject line and not my blog’s name.)

    Also, there are no comments incorporated. My solution here has been to copy comments box address and include the link in my post. This works fine, except when I forget to do so, in which case all comments come to my inbox — after readers hit return and send comments via email. (Also, when I forget to manually update the subject line, I receive a lot of comments from readers alerting me to this oversight, which generates more email.)

    One final thing that bugs me (!) is that any Google ads that I have, inside my FB email post, do not show up at the sites which syndicate my column. So that while the other blog is using my content, I am not “rewarded” for it. Even more frustrating is that the other blog (there is one that I have in mind!) regularly ranks higher than my blog (in fact, my blog doesn’t rank at all!) thanks to the content it is pulling from my blog. Grrrhhhh! I find it is not worth the time to hunt down these types of sites, or solutions to the problem — it usually ends up draining so much energy that is better spent creating content (I know, content that will be recycled elsewhere!).

    One tip I hope will help others, be sure to include your name inside your blog post. If the blog post is syndicated, chances are no one will know who wrote the column. My blog, French Word-A-Day, has a column called “A Day in a French Life” — beneath the title, I now add my full name. To all bloggers: be sure to claim your content this way!

    Finally, I try to make-up for the lost google revenue by adding Amazon recommendations within the FB email. When the content is syndicated, for some reason the Amazon links are intact (along with your associates ID).

    Sorry for the long-winded note. Merci encore! for your helpful site. Bonne continuation, Darren! and best wishes to all.

    Kristin

  19. Mayur says:

    I too agree with Darren’s request.
    Feedburner also need to fix the feed readers count issue.

  20. D says:

    Here, here. It is very difficult to find and sort info, really good info might I add, when the subject matter is the same. I totally 100% agree.

    I hope they listen to you!

  21. Kaushik says:

    We all use feedburner, but there is a fundamental problem that feedburner owns my readers, not me.

  22. Ryan Freed says:

    Great suggestion, I hope they improve the system.

  23. Jim Gaudet says:

    I am with you on this one… Let’s see some more from Feedburner…

  24. ramaraobobby says:

    I have been the same problem with feedburner subscribed email updates.
    Hope google considers your valuable suggestions and update the features accordingly.

  25. fas says:

    Such a easy solution to this problem. Google just need to work rather then concentrate on selling Adwords.

  26. John Pugh says:

    Amen. These small changes would only require a few lines of code, and would make Feedburner much more user-friendly. I tolerate Feedbuner, but we’ve seriously been considering the switch to Aweber for this exact reason.

  27. You are so right! This is so true. There are so many better options that could be made available.

    Nicholas Z. Cardot
    http://www.sitesketch101.com

  28. There are so many issues with Feedburner, but the email subscription is one of the major problems. I’d like to add an option to just have our post title and not the whole post included in our emails. I’d rather have my subscribers read my blog, not my emails!

    I am definitely sharing this post in hopes that changes will occur soon.

  29. I hope they will read your post and will take some concrete action on this. As this is very much true that feedburner is the great source of returning visitors.

    But this service can be much better if they will give it a proper look. Not only feebburner but I think blogger also need a change so that it can have professional look.

  30. Animatrick says:

    Hello Darren,
    I recently watched your video which is made for Google Adsense. You are speaking of Ad placement on two of your sites and great result you have and so on …
    but there is no a single Google Ad on your site. or your relation with Google is of something different.
    Best.

  31. Family Man says:

    I would love to see Google invest some time in Feeburner. They could really do a lot for themselves, and us webbies :)

  32. I absolutely love FeedBurner and am always happy when my favorite sites offer it.

  33. Phil Hollows says:

    @Kapil – embedded video players won’t show up in email thanks to virus writers. Most email clients treat active content – applets, script, activex – as potentially hostile and won’t run them. Solution is to embed a static image / and / or a link to the online version “if you can’t see this in your reader …” etc.

    @Neil Matthews – FeedBlitz has autoresponders too.
    @Alanna Kellogg, @Michael Hyatt: Thanks :-)
    @Kristin @Judo Sohn Try us…

    If anyone wants to chat privately follow me @phollows on Twitter

    Phil

  34. Glenn A says:

    Of course you can go into Feedburner and change the Email Branding each time you post something. That is a pain and the real downside is when you forget and something goes out with the wrong subject. I do like one thing about that — the subject line and headline do not repeat each other, so I can use a more flashy subject line and a more accurate headline.

    I would like to see a simple way to insert ads for the email product only, instead of having that linked to the posted version, which doesn’t work for me anyway.

    Soon all things will be Google and when we cross them our web lives will be ruined.

  35. Melanie B says:

    Thank you Darren!

    Google, please innovate – I like you, I use you, I don’t want to lose you.

  36. tashfeen says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Feedburner’s email subscription service needs to improve! I wish Google had some competition in this field to remain motivated in evolving their hefty acquisitions *after* the deal is sealed. Oh well, fingers crossed…

  37. Darren, man I’m real curious to see how long it will be before Google DOES take some steps to improve it based on this post! :)

    I’m right there with you on all points for Feedburner’s improvement!

    TC

  38. JohnONolan says:

    Darren,

    While I agree with your points, and the feature requests which you made.. you have to remember that this is a free service. Completely fee. Google don’t owe anyone any development of any kind.

    Frankly if I were in your position running a blog/business of the size and scale that you do – I would LONG ago have transitioned my feeds to my own dedicated server and had all the functionality custom built to suit my requirements (as Smashing Magazine have already done). You can’t run a big business on free software and expect it to meet all your requirements.

  39. العاب says:

    I really see the reason for this complaint . The shot you’ve taken looks offpuuting! i certainly do not want to see my inbox crammed that way.

  40. bariles says:

    You literally verbalized the thoughts out of my brains! I hope Google takes these valid suggestions into consideration and immmediately put them to work.

    Now all we have to do is wait.

    Thanks for this. If put into fruition, my small group of subscribers (350++) would definitely be pleased.

  41. I think that would be a great help!

  42. I disagree and agree with the comment above from JohnONolan. For problogger you are on the money. His article does make a valid point however for the millions of others. I don’t purport that Google spend a billion on it to bring it up the richness everyone would like and not see any revenue out of it.

    Great article.

  43. Word, Darren! I’ve been wondering why Google can’t implement a function where the email titles are the post titles. It really isn’t helpful to have all the email subscription titles the same all the time.

  44. Agent 001 says:

    I also wants those features to be added soon. I hope they will add those features soon.

    I subscribe to my own RSS as well and when it is delivered to me, I do not like to see the same Subject line. My subscribers are unsubscribing. May be this is the reason.

    I also wanted the update frequency feature for long time. As FeedBurner didn’t had the feature, I had to decrease my blog posting frequency and bugging subscribers every day results in losing them.

    Darren Thanks. Did you contact FeedBurner through email? If you did is there anyway we can support you officially.

  45. Paul Derham says:

    I agree. These comments are becoming an informal petition. Perhaps do another post, and use your affiliates too, and a facebook group, and include a poll so it’s easier to add your name to the list of bloggers who are fed up with feedburner’s bugs. Let’s get a few more thousand people agreeing. It’s very un-google like to use a platform that’s so unreliable, and it drives people to Feedblitz and similar paid services which are currently far superior.

  46. Johann says:

    I agree, hopefully Google fixes this issue promptly.

  47. Traffghetti says:

    Darren, the thing, the subject line can’t have just one article because it’s possible to have posted many in the same day.

  48. Phil Hollows says:

    @Traffghetti – You’re right, which is why FeedBlitz lets you specify how subject lines should be built from your feed when there’s a single post in the email and when there are multiple posts. We also have email blasts, separate from your blog-based mailings, and manual article selection if you prefer to work that way instead.

    Phil

  49. Beth Whitman says:

    I change my email/subject title for every new post. If I’m traveling and have several posts timestamped, I simply create a generic subject but otherwise I use the blog title for every alert.

  50. Hey Darren,

    Frustrating yes… that’s why I’m glad that most of my subscribers are with Aweber which allows me to customize the subject line as I see fit… either a generic ‘latest posts’ or with the specific title of the blog post.

    Just wish I knew why the Feedburner stats went really wonky all of a sudden yesterday.. from 39K readers to a measly 1K. Ugh.

    Cheers,
    Ros