FeedBurner Shut Down: The Facts – and Tales from the Front Line

Since Google shut down the @FeedBurner Twitter account and the FeedBurner blog about 5 weeks ago, much has been said in some quarters about whether and when FeedBurner might (or might not) be being shut down.

The aim of this post is three fold:

  1. To properly enumerate and explain the facts about FeedBurner’s status as we currently know them;
  2. To curate industry comment around the web regarding the shutdown;
  3. To showcase the options and benefits of switching to FeedBlitz to directly replace your RSS statistics and FeedBurner email services.

I’ll periodically update the post here (and link back to it) as and when. If you have any comment or posts you’d like to have added to this page, email me directly phil@feedblitz.com and I’ll add the links.

Update 2013-03-21: FeedBurner is AGAIN reporting zero subscribers for all feeds

Update 2013-03-13: Google kills RSS aggregator, Google Reader. Read FeedBlitz’s analysis here.

Update 2012-10-02: Google announces the end of AdSense for Feeds, effective December 2nd, 2012.

Update 2012-09-24: FeedBurner metrics started to return. Google is backfilling stats from the 18th through the 24th, and we estimate they should be complete for most FeedBurner users by the end of September 26th, US eastern time. This means that FeedBurner users can now switch in a more orderly, planned fashion if they wish to do so.

Update 2012-09-23: FeedBurner metrics have been at 0 for all feeds since at least Sept 19th (earlier for some). The stats outage continues and counters remain at zero for all FeedBurner users. No updates from Google have appeared since 9/21.

Update 2012-09-20: Link to case studies added.

Update 2012-09-07: Link to more information about FeedBurner.JP added.

FeedBurner Shut Down? The Facts

As previously announced by Google, the FeedBurner API has been deprecated and will be SHUT DOWN on October 20, 2012. Or in about 6 weeks time, as I write. This does NOT mean that FeedBurner itself will go away on that date; but at that point programmatic access to feed metrics – a feature that’s been around for over six years! – will be gone for good.

The FeedBurner Twitter account was formally abandoned on July 26th, 2012.

The FeedBurner blog was formally closed the same day.

Unnoticed by many, but still very significant, is the news that the FeedBurner.JP domain was abandoned / lost by Google at the end of July 2012 without warning or notice. Podcasters and bloggers whose feeds were served at feeds.feedburner.jp have lost their audiences for good and, it seems, have no migration path out and no way to access metrics or email subscriber information. As far as their subscribers are concerned, they all just disappeared overnight. The FeedBurner.jp domain is now parked, and being used to serve ads by its new owner; here’s how the old domain looked (note the official Google login screens).

Google has also announced (2012-10-02) the end of AdSense for Feeds, the ad program whereby FeedBurner RSS publishers could earn from ads placed in FeedBurner RSS feeds.

For the record, Google has NOT said that they are shutting down FeedBurner.

However, despite all the uncertainty caused by their actions, including the shut down of FeedBurner.jp, Google has NOT said they are NOT shutting down FeedBurner either.

There is no support for anyone from FeedBurner / Google (this isn’t new, but merits repeating).

FeedBurner Shutting Down? Analysis and Industry Reactions

From my perspective, shutting down a service’s API, abandoning one of the service’s domains (stranding its users), and shutting down the last vestiges of service-to-user communications channels are not the actions of a business owner that sees FeedBurner as being a core asset that can be expected to continue. Since I run a competing service, I obviously have some interest in persuading you, Gentle Reader, of my position. So obviously, you might want to retain a certain cynicism here.

That said, the signoffs from the blog and the Twitter account seemed to me to be pretty final. They didn’t hint at “great new things coming, watch this space.” They didn’t hand the reader off to an alternative news source. They just said: We’ve got nothing else, thanks for hanging around, buh-bye.

Yikes.

It seems to me, then, that there is considerable doubt as to Google’s commitment to the service (they haven’t added any features to speak of for 2+ years now).

Worse, the treatment of asian FeedBurner users at FeedBurner.jp seems to make it absolutely clear that Google can and will abandon sites and users with extreme prejudice. (I’ve asked Google’s press office for comment about FeedBurner.jp; there hasn’t been a reply so far). So if “they’ll never do it” is your default line of thinking – well, perhaps you should think again. They already did do it. Just to people you don’t know on the other side of the planet.

Here are some other industry reactions to recent events:

FeedBurner Problems

There have been many incidents over the years – old posts randomly mailed out to subscribers, for example. If your feed gets “too large” it will simply freeze up and not update, so your subscribers don’t get your latest posts.

But perhaps the most important aspect of FeedBurner’s services is subscriber statistics: How many readers you have on your feed (and Feedburner-powered email list), and how they’re accessing your feed. A feed’s circulation (equivalent to an email list’s size) and its reach (the RSS equivalent to a mailing’s open rate) are vital to many bloggers. Why? Ego aside, the number of subscribers to a site is important when promoting the site to potential advertisers, sponsors or acquirers. The number of RSS subscribers to a feed is often a core element of a site’s media kit, and is an essential component of revenue generation. The larger your audience, the more money you can generate from your site.

So consider this tweet from Danny Brown, who made the switch from FeedBurner to FeedBlitz a couple of weeks ago:

“Feedburner had missed over 8,000 RSS subscribers in my case. Feedblitz offers superior counts and analytics”

While the testimonial is nice (more here), the big point is: FeedBurner missed 8,000 blog readers. EIGHT THOUSAND. That’s huge for a service whose raison d’etre is accurately counting readers. Unfortunately, Danny’s experience is not unique by any means. Here’s a similar quote from a recent article by Cecily Kellogg:

“I’ve been frustrated with Feedburner for years. I’ll check in and find, randomly, that suddenly 700 subscribers have vanished. They usually mysteriously return in a few days, but recently I lost over 1000 subscribers, and they have not come back. Now, while it’s entirely possible that 1000 people decided to all up and stop reading my blog in the same day, it seems pretty unlikely. “

There are other issues as well. One close to my heart as an email guy is that, unlike FeedBlitz, FeedBurner doesn’t remind people who don’t complete the opt-in sequence to join your list. You have to figure out how to do it yourself – and then do it, every day, day in, day out. So your list isn’t growing as quickly as it should be. That’s pretty important, isn’t it?

FeedBurner Closing? Evaluating Your Risk, Planning Your Actions

If you use FeedBurner for your feed and email subscriptions, it’s kinda scary. Google has taken actions that appear to indicate that FeedBurner has no long-term place in Google’s future.

Depending on your set up, you might be wholly depending on FeedBurner to reach all your subscribers, or only somewhat. How important your list and your subscribers are really affects the planning you need to be doing now in case things get ugly. Based on the FeedBurner.jp abandonment, there may be little to no official warning of any shut down.

Of course, FeedBurner is free. Paid, professional email services exist that can take your email list. We all price fairly similarly, although features and functions differ, but you should prepare yourself for a little sticker shock if / when you transition. On the other hand, how important is your blog to you and your income, and getting reliability, deliverability and tech support when you need it? What’s that worth to you?

If you need reliable RSS serving and metrics to help you monetize your site, you will need a replacement RSS stats service. Your web site analytics package – such as Google Analytics – can’t close the gap. Web analytics packages don’t understand feed readers and can’t tell you how many RSS subscribers you actually have; it’s why FeedBurner’s stats exist and are loved by marketers (well, if they were reliable, of course).

In an ideal world your FeedBurner subscriber services – RSS, stats and email delivery – would be delivered by a single, drop-in replacement service. No matter what, you should take steps to take ownership of your feed away from feeds.feedburner.com and onto your own domain (you can let FeedBurner or FeedBlitz serve it using plugins, CNAME DNS tricks or other redirection magic).

If you use FeedBurner now and are worried, you need to figure out your transition strategy for BOTH your RSS and email subscribers (if you have specific questions about FeedBlitz, BTW, please don’t hesitate to contact us at support@feedblitz.com – we’ll be more than happy to advise you as best we can).

Benefits of Switching to FeedBlitz – How, When and Why to Switch From FeedBurner

I recently wrote a guest post over at socialfish.org that discusses this – click here to read it. If you’re interested, click here to access the FeedBurner Migration Guide that takes you through the process of migrating to FeedBlitz, step by step. FeedBlitz is the drop-in replacement service for FeedBurner, with tools and capabilities specifically designed to ensure that no interested FeedBurner subscriber is lost or left behind.

For analysis of some of the success stories and quotes below, click on FeedBurner to FeedBlitz Migration Case Studies.

If you’re interested in how FeedBlitz’s capabilities can benefit your RSS feed and RSS-powered email list, check out this FeedBlitz knowledge base article.

We also have third party resources who will be more than happy to help you transition from FeedBurner to FeedBlitz. Email support@feedblitz.com for information about our transition support service partners.