Google is no stranger to closing down services they feel have run their course, with Google Reader being a prime example. One popular service that has been on everybody’s “will they/won’t they” list for many years has been FeedBurner, a service that provides detailed statistics and tools for RSS feeds.
FeedBurner has received no updates in years and many of its features (such as its API and AdSense integration) have been discontinued. Many websites, such as 5by5 and 512 Pixels, have moved away from the service simply because all the signs point to it being shut down.
Earlier this year, a service called FeedPress (previously known as URI.LV) appeared with the aim to provide a worthwhile, and viable, alternative to FeedBurner. Let’s see how it compares, and whether it’s ready to take the RSS synchronization crown.
FeedPress is a far less complicated service compared to FeedBurner. The latter had a wide variety of different options, menus and features that weren’t quite as easily explained as they could be. FeedPress understands that for many, the main reason anyone uses FeedBurner is to determine how many people were subscribed to a particular RSS feed. Sites such as The Loop offer advertisers the ability to sponsor their RSS feed. FeedBurner would provide information about how many people subscribe, therefore helps in determining the cost.
But that’s not the only reason you’d want to use such a service. It’s also a way to make sure your feeds are fast and work good for your subscribers, and can also automatically publish your posts on social networks. FeedPress does all of this great.
FeedPress offers both free and paid-for services, the latter costing just $3 a month, but if you pay annually you get 2 months free. The free service provides all the features of FeedBurner as well as some features you wouldn’t get, such as useful diagnostic tools and plugins for software such as WordPress.
When you log in to FeedPress, you’re instantly greeted with a clean looking site that’s fully responsive, which looks great on a mobile device. The dashboard will display the number of subscribers for each of your feeds, along with a graph showing how the subscriber count has changed over time.
You can administer each feed, providing a more detailed graph with a breakdown of subscriber count and date. All statistics are calculated daily since a live subscriber count is extremely difficult to determine. Furthermore, you can view further information about your readers and their newsreader of choice in other sections of the statistics area so you can determine which news readers are most popular for accessing your blog or site.
In terms of feed ownership, FeedPress provides detailed instructions about how to redirect your feed without causing disruption to your subscribers. Indeed, one of FeedPress’ core beliefs is that your feed should remain yours, even if you move away from the service. Using the clever redirection tools provided means that your subscribers won’t be affected should you decide to either claim your feed back or stop using the service completely.
In my experience, the redirection feature works well but is let down by limitations of the way web redirection as a whole works. For example, if you click on an RSS feed in your internet browser and your preferred news reader opens and offers to subscribe to it, the redirection happens in the browser before the news reader opens. This means subscribers doing this will subscribe to the feed after the redirection occurs, negating the point of the redirection. Luckily, the premium service (explained below) works in a different – and better – way.
Beyond statistics and numbers, FeedPress can help promote your feed by automatically sending new posts to App.net, Facebook or Twitter.
Perhaps one of my favourite functions that FeedPress offers is a newsletter function. You can generate a subscription form and place it on your site so visitors can receive updates to your feed via an email newsletter. If you’ve been exploring the option of a newsletter for your site, this is probably the simplest way to do it.
Anyone serious managing their feed would probably be wise to move to the premium service. Instead of feed redirection, you are able to modify your domain’s DNS settings (should you be comfortable doing so) so that your feed remains on your domain, even whilst it’s passing through FeedPress. That alone is worth the $3 a month, but there’s a lot more.
Premium provides podcast functionality so podcasters with their more complex feeds can also take advantage of what FeedPress has to offer. Then, in the last few weeks, FeedPress has added Dropbox integration which will allow you to automatically save feed statistics directly to your Dropbox account. It works really well and it means you’ll always have access to your feed’s usage statistics as well as an archived copy should you ever decide to move away from the service. You’ll also be able to automatically share your posts on multiple social network accounts, and soon get email and push notifications about your feeds. It’s got everything you could want.
Overall, FeedPress isn’t just something you should consider switching to if FeedBurner were to shut down: it’s something you should definitely switch to right now if you’re serious about your site’s feeds. FeedPress offers more features, better statistics and social integration that FeedBurner does and because it offers paid-for plans, it has a viable business plan that should ensure its continued success and longevity. Best of all, you’d never be locked into it, since you can control your own DNS settings and move to another service — or self-host your feeds — without losing any subscribers, anytime you want.
I cannot recommend FeedPress highly enough, and for anyone still using FeedBurner, the time to switch is now.
An alternative to FeedBurner that's superior in every way and one that anyone currently on FeedBurner should switch to. Serious feed junkies will want to use the premium plan to use the much better feed direction and the really useful Dropbox support.9
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