Is Feedburner Still Relevant?

Filed as Features on June 29, 2010 12:09 pm

This is a guest entry by Jean-Baptiste Jung from Cats Who Blog.

Feedburner, the popular RSS tool, is used by many bloggers to serve feeds to their readers, but also in order to know how many people are currently subscribing to their blog using RSS. Despite the fact it can be easily hijacked, RSS subscriber count is one of the ways used to measure the popularity of a blog.

Back in 2008, Feedburner was bought by Google. It sounded interesting at first, but no significant improvements were made to the service, and shortly after Google took ownership, a major problem occurred, and millions of blogs saw their count dive from 5000 to 500.

Since last month, I have seen my subscriber count going up and down every day and show unrealistic numbers.
Look at the screenshort below:

On June 12, CatsWhoBlog had 1,730 RSS readers. Three days later, it had 1,110. And on June 21, according to Feedburner, only 437 were still reading my blog.

I first thought it was an isolated problem, but all my other blogs had similar issues. CatsWhoCode.com had 9,900 subscribers, and in a day, jumped to 19,000+ readers. This was flattering, but obviously unrealistic.
Several days later the feed set back to approximately 10,000 readers. And two days ago, it fell to approximately 5,000. In one week I have “lost” 13,000 subscribers!

The alternatives

Although Feedburner is obviously the most popular service of its kind, many other tools, both free or paid, are available. So should you switch to one of these?

Feedblitz

Feedblitz is probably the second most known “feed burning” service. It’s a paid service (depending on your number of subscribers), but most people I know who use it are happy with it. It offers feed management, email newsletters, surveys, autoresponders and more.

RapidFeeds

Another interesting feed service, RapidFeeds allows you to password protect your feeds, schedule them, and delivers an “in depth” tracking of your feed distribution. The service is free for one feed, but in order to get feed tracking, you’ll have to upgrade to the basic plan, which is currently $4.49 per month.

Feedity

Feedity offers different plans, including a free option. Paid plans start at $39 a year. Feedity is a great tool if you want to combine feeds, but feed tracking isn’t any better than Feedburner.

Should you continue to use Feedburner?

Over the past few months I have noticed that a few popular blogs stopped displaying their RSS feed count. A few others mixed their subscriber count with Twitter followers and Facebook fans (For example, Envato sites did it) and display the total number of all people who subscribe or follow their blog, nevermind if it’s on Twitter or by RSS.

I personally think about doing something similar on CatsWhoCode.com and CatsWhoBlog.com. If you’d like to do the same on your own blog, a cool tutorial is available.

This is a guest entry by Jean-Baptiste Jung from Cats Who Blog and Cats Who Code. To read more about guest blogging for Splashpress Media sites, please read the My Blog Guest – Splashpress Media guest blog partnership announcement.

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  1. By Franky Branckaute posted on June 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm
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    Great post, Jean-Baptiste. Feedburner has been in an eternal state of hibernation ever since the Big G. acquired the service and over the last weeks the Google Feedfetcher stats have been more unpredictable than a politician in the last weeks before elections.

    I do personally think people are blinded too easily by numbers and pay too much attention to showcasing numbers, or stats even. We have removed most counters, also because of these issues, but mainly because they add little value and should not be the reason why readers subscribe.

    But it is time for someone new in the game and it would be awesome to have another service to the alternatives because so far none has really convinced me. I hope that who ever takes up this task will immediately make it a premium service and provide real value.
    Numbers though will always rely on Netvibes and Google Feedfetcher being reliable and trustworthy in the results they return. Now it’s an entirely different story though.

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  2. By Norcross posted on June 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm
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    I’ve stopped using it on new sites, but I’m kind of stuck with those I have. Personally, I see no reason not to use the built-in feed from your platform, whether its WordPress or something else.

    Reply

  3. By Jean-Baptiste Jung posted on June 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm
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    @Franky: Thanks :)

    @norcross: You’re right, I’m wondering if I should get rid of it for good as well.

    Reply

  4. By DB Ferguson posted on June 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm
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    I’ve been using Feedburner since Day 1 of my site, and I also notice the wild fluctuations. I know one of the major variations is LiveJournal. I have about 150 subscribers through there, and sometimes they show up on my RSS count, sometimes not so much. My fluctuations can be as wild as 900 to 1400 in a week’s time. Due to the fact that my site is not revenue driven, I don’t worry about the count. It’s more for my own edification than anything else. However, I have moved my RSS count widget to the foooter of my site instead of the top fold where it lived for years.

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  5. By Steven Finch posted on June 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm
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    It has pretty much become pointless. It fluctuates too much and the analytics in the service just simply isnt good enough.

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  6. By Taeke Reijenga posted on June 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm
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    Take a look at http://treehouseapps.com/styling-feedburner-count/ for a WordPress solution that calculates a five day average to minimise the ups and downs, works like charm!

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  7. By Franky Branckaute posted on June 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm
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    Steven, got an alternative?

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  8. By Steven Finch posted on July 3, 2010 at 5:20 pm
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    There arent any real great alternatives.

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  9. By Matt Dunlap posted on July 14, 2010 at 10:49 pm
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    @Franky, but even with a 5 day moving average if you never really know what your baseline is, the average is useless. The main point with feedburner is the data has become useless and untrustworthy…

    Does anyone know if Google analytics can track feed usage?

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