* Feed-To-Email With FeedBlitz

FeedBlitz let user subscribe to blogs via email. But it’s just OK.

Many people, including my wife, do not use Google Reader or other blog readers (a.k.a. feed readers, RSS aggregators). So after about 30 seconds of research, I decided to try FeedBlitz, which allows users to get blog articles by email and allows publisher to learn more about their readers.

I had previously been using a Constant Contact signup form on my blog, and I still use that on the Clock Tower Law Group website, but only for the LawLawLaw newsletter, which is published more or less monthly. My blog posts, on the other hand, are published more or less daily. Why not put both forms on the blog? Too much clutter. (I sense foreshadowing.)

According to FeedBlitz, about 80% of Internet users don’t use feed readers. I signed up as both a publisher and a subscriber, because I want to experience what my blog looks like in email with FeedBlitz. The verdict? FeedBlitz is just OK.

FeedBlitz has an unnecessarily complicated signup process for bloggers. It should go something like this: (1) enter email address, (2) enter feed address, (3) get HTML for signup form. But it’s much more involved than that. Check out the language on this page, which is supposed to help you decide which version of FeedBlitz to use:

“FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition is a superset of the Personal Edition’s Pro and Turbo upgrades.”

Yeah, thanks for clearing that up. So FeedBurner’s marcom materials basically need to be totally rewritten.

Now, on to how FeedBlitz emails look like. I opted not to put the preview link on the signup form because it’s unnecessary clutter. (More foreshadowing.)

Here, with my markups, is what a sample FeedBlitz email looks like. This is the FeedBlitz version of recent post about venture capital.

My one word summary of the FeedBlitz email: clutter. (Bonus points if you saw this coming.)

It’s (obviously) hard for me to write with a paining tool. So here are some detailed comments on my above scribblings:

  1. The “From:” address is feedblitz@mail.feedblitz.com instead of feedblitz@feedblitz.com. It drives me nuts when unnecessary third-level domains are used for email. I previously added “@feedblitz.com” to my spam whitelist. Then I had to add “.feedblitz.com” as well. This is a pet peeve, admittedly.
  2. The “Reply-To:” address is unnecessary when it is the same as the “From:” address.
  3. Blog categories are added as “Keywords” to the email header. They are not clickable, so this is neither (1) helpful nor (2) expected.
  4. Delete the “Here are the latest updates” line. It’s like “Welcome to my blog” in the the title of web pages. Clutter.
  5. I’m told there is “1 new article,” but I’m not told not since when.
  6. The date/time and byline of the article are both missing.
  7. In my original post, the bulleted list items are links. In the FeedBlitz email, bulleted list links are not clickable. The HTML for the links is completely stripped out. This is unacceptable and is a major flaw with FeedBlitz.
  8. My feed includes FeedBurner’s FeedFlare. Now it includes FeedBlitz – umm – flare as well. Plus there’s a “Rate It!” thingy of unknown purpose or origin. All of this looks busy and cluttered.
  9. The “More Recent Articles” is undated. Also the phrase “more recent” is confusing. It’s written as “more recent articles” but can be interpreted as “more recent articles” (i.e. more current than the ones you’re reading). I’d change it to “Recent Articles” and add dates.
  10. FeedBlitz is obsessed with calling these emails “newsletters.” Feeds by email are not newsletters! They are feeds by email. I have a newsletter, and this ain’t it.
  11. Footer could use some editing.

Maybe I should have researched feed-to-email blog solutions longer than 30 seconds.

2 Replies to “* Feed-To-Email With FeedBlitz”

  1. Hi Erik:

    Thanks for giving us a spin. I’d like to address your remarks,

    1) We use a mail.feedblitz.com as the delivery domain to facilitate automated bounce processing and unsubscribes. It greatly simplifies bounce management to do it this way and is fairly routine practice for exactly this reason. The sign up instructions for every subscriber also explicitly mentions the feedblitz@mail.feedblitz.com address serveral times (landing pages, activation emails) as the one that should be added to the whitelist, and even offers a vcard for you to download to make this even easier. It’s also in the knowledge base. You can of course upgrade and use your own email address if you wish.

    2) Not necessarily. We always add a reply-to address as well as a return-path to ensure that the right replies go to the right place. Experience has shown that you simply can’t give too much information in email headers in order to make sure that the right mail goes to the right place – and back again. It also doesn’t affect anything at all. If your email client displays both, even if they’re the same, that’s an issue with the client.

    3) Categories being clickable – or otherwise – is the responsiblility of your email client, not us. We add them to facilitate inbox organization, if your email client supports that. In Outlook, if you add the category column in your inbox, you’ll see them. Again in Outlook, you can group messages by category, which this feature enables. Seem harsh to blame us for something your email system does or doesn’t do.

    4) Customize it, then! This language works fine for 99% of our publishers and subscribers. Upgrade that give you total control over the layout are available and reasonably priced. The default makes it what email address is being used, useful for those who have multiple aliases that deliver to the same inbox.

    5) The basic service is daily – that’s the basic thing we do. Adding a date adds clutter which is unnecessary; articles are from yesterday according to the tiome zone you configured for your feed. If you want to add a date you can in the custom upgrade.

    6) See (5). You can add the author as well in the upgrade if you want to. Time representations tend to be very culture- and language-specific (e.g. MDDYY or DDMMYY?, Monday, Mon, Lundi or Montag? Reading left to right or right to left?). FeedBlitz serves publishers around the world using not only different languages but different (non-latin) character sets.

    7) Not so. FeedBlitz preserves all the links and images from a post when the whole post is sent, which is the default. You’ll see that in the post you mention that the link to the Top 100 articles is in fact there. It’s not possible to determine why the links weren’t in the bullets when the email was generated since we weren’t contacted at the time. I can think of several reasons why they’re not there (e.g. not in the source data when we polled the feed, privacy or some other local client setting electing not to render them). If it happens again contact support and they’ll figure it out. Perhaps the links weren’t in the source feed when it was read.

    8) *All* these options are configurable (off / on) in the standatd (free) service. We offer test features so you can see how an email looks so you can adjust these settings any which way you like. Perhaps another few seconds exploring the configuration options would have been worthwhile.

    9) Interesting interpretation (it’s obviously (to us) “more” as in “additional”). We’ll take your suggestion on board for the words, but I will say that adding dates does clearly add to the clutter, whereas the titles are clean and simple. Matter of opionion, of course! If you don’t like it you can change the configuration to remove the recap.

    10) For many bloggers, these *are* their newsletters. They’re news delivered by email, ergo newsletters. While you may be drawing careful lines of distinction between content, frequency and other attributes, the majority of our clients – and their subscribers – don’t. This is their newsletter, plain and simple. That’s what they call it and it’s how their subscribers think of it. It is what it is, like it or not. We use the terminology our users use.

    I think you’ll find you can easily tune this to be much closer to what you want in very little time if you explored (a) the standard configuratioin settings, and (b) considered one of our upgrades for much greater control and flexibility. It would have taken less time than it did for you to write the post!

    Phil

  2. Greetings Phil,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. Most companies don’t do this.

    My main point is that the default settings should make more sense and be less cluttered. You have obviously chosen a default template that you think works. I’m offering some suggestions for how to improve it. I could customize it, but the fact that it’s customizable doesn’t change the fact that the default looks cluttered to begin with.

    Regarding the bulleted items not being links, this looks like a bug in your code. You can see that the bulleted items are clickable in the original post:

    http://www.giantpeople.com/?p=790

    But they are not clickable in the FeedBlitz-rendered version.

    Regards,
    Erik

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