The shutdown of Google Reader last year made if painfully clear: there are no guarantees that free services will continue to be supported, even if they belong to large corporations like Google. Leadership changes, plans and priorities shift from year to year and some products will end up abandoned, even if they are very important to many people. That seems to be the case with FeedBurner as well; the API has been discontinued a while ago, they don’t have a blog or Twitter account anymore and some people started reporting disruptions in the service. One could say it’s surprising it lasted that long. In any case, I decided not to wait around for the service to be officially closed and to find alternatives for my blog.
There are three main tasks I used FeedBurner for: feed delivery and statistics, email subscriptions and social sharing. While there are plenty of paid solutions for the first two, blogging is just a hobby to me and I don’t have massive amounts of traffic, so it makes no sense to go for a paid-only service like FeedBlitz. After searching around, I settled for FeedPress, which offers a free version with sufficient features for my current needs.
Being a new service and much smaller than Google’s scale, there are a number of missing features compared to FeedBurner: for free accounts, statistics are limited to subscriber counts and the RSS readers used; data about the number of views and clicks on a feed item are available only to Premium users. You also lose the ability to add feed-flares to your feed – but both are features I rarely used and can easily live without. Blogger offers a limited replacement for feed flares in the settings, called Post Feed Footer, with the disadvantage that it’s only available when you choose full feeds. As a free user sharing new posts is limited to a single social network, which again is not a big issue because you can connect the blog or RSS feed with IFTTT and share pretty much to any service you can think of. The migration from FeedBurner went smoothly by following the steps in their tutorial. While it doesn’t mention Blogger specifically, there is an option for feed redirection in the Blogger dashboard: go to Settings > Other and paste your new FeedPress URL in the field Post Feed Redirect URL.
The thing that bothers me most about FeedPress is the low refresh speed of their feeds. While they claim on the site that feeds are usually refreshed at one-hour intervals, I often noticed new posts not being picked up by FeedPress hours and even a full day after being published on the blog. The situation has improved lately, but it’s still a huge difference compared to FeedBurner, which would refresh in a matter of minutes thanks to PubSubHubbub, or even my non-redirected Blogger feed, which I now monitor in Feedbin. FeedPress is also supposed to support this technology, but for some reason it just doesn’t work on my feed. This delay also affects Twitter publishing, so if getting your content to your followers as fast as possible is very important, you should probably consider an alternative – for example using IFTTT for social sharing.
While the free version of FeedPress can also send email newsletters from RSS, I had already created a MailChimp account before signing up for FeedPress, so for now I’m going to continue using it. Don’t get me wrong, MailChimp has a great service, but I feel it’s a little too complex for a small blog like mine – it even has support for conditional statements in the newsletter design. Something like TinyLetter would probably be more suited – if they would only support RSS… I migrated my email subscribers from FeedBurner following their instructions without any issues. You can link the MailChimp account to FeedPress, this way email subscribers will be reported in the FeedPress dashboard as well. Later I also replaced the FeedBurner subscription form with a dedicated page – the newsletter goes out daily at 1PM GMT, so check it out if you prefer this method of delivery.
Before finishing the article, I want to take a quick look at the subscriber statistics after moving to FeedPress. Just before leaving FeedBurner, I exported my all-time statistics and wrote an article about how they evolved post-Google-Reader. Not much has changed since – and in a way that’s a good thing, meaning that all previous RSS subscribers have been successfully moved to FeedPress. If you look at the graph showing the evolution for the past months you will notice that the numbers fluctuate wildly from one day to the next, as if hundreds of people are leaving, then returning; it’s probably a side-effect of reading through Feedly, who has been ignoring to provide subscriber counts in a standard format. It’s interesting to look at the breakdown per service: apparently Google Reader still has the biggest share with 64%! Actually I suspect that Feedly, when it’s reporting anything, it’s still identifying itself as Reader. The Old Reader has a surprisingly large number of users, while my favorite service, Feedbin, is bringing barely 1% of my subscribers – and it would be less if I would subtract myself from that number. As usual, people still prefer free services to paid one – and I can’t complain since I’m doing the same with FeedPress.