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Pheedo Added to Ad Integration

Monday, October 30, 2006

For publishers using Pheedo, FeedBlitz now lets you add your Pheedo ads to your FeedBlitz pages. To take advantage of this capability, you need to use (or set up) a Pheedo Ad Zone from your account home page (i.e. set up a Pheedo ad for a web site, not for an RSS feed). Once the Ad Zone is configured, copy the zone id from the Pheedo JavaScript (it's the string of text between the "zone=" text and the next ampersand "&" character). Then:
  • Go to your advertising configuration pages in FeedBlitz.
  • Select Pheedo Ad Zone from the ad network drop down.
  • Paste in your ID in the field below (don't include the "zone=" start text or ending "&")
  • Save!
You can see a Pheedo Ad Zone at work on the signup page for the FeedBlitz Coverage feed.


The FeedBlitz API

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In the announcement for FeedBlitz 2 I talked about the industry's first ever email management services API.

Well, here it is:


Now developers and partners can incorporate FeedBlitz into your site, service or application. We use the API to power the FeedBlitz 2 web site; now the majority of these capabilities are available via the API for you to use. If you come up with a cool mashup, let us know and we'll blog it!

The API enables secure, authenticated access to the following features, just as you can in the feedblitz.com GUI:

  • Your user profile
  • Your syndications
  • Your subscriptions
  • Your subscriber information
  • FeedBlitz's image verification service

We will add reporting metrics and other functionality to the API at a later date.

There are currently no restrictions on usage (# of hits / day etc). As long as you have a valid FeedBlitz login, you can use the API to manage and access your services.


New in FeedBlitz 2: Part 2 - AdSense and Visitor Tracking

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When you think about it, there are several pages in FeedBlitz that are really a part of your site, not ours. These are the subscription signup and landing pages. (By the way we've considerably reduced the amount of text and graphics on these pages, you'll be pleased to hear, making the whole signup process much, much simpler for users).

Now, if these are your pages, shouldn't you be able to track visitor activity like you do on the rest of your site? Yes, you should.

And if these are your pages, shouldn't you be able to add your ad network's ads to those pages, like the rest of your site? Yes, you should.

So, starting with FeedBlitz 2, you can serve your ads and analyze your metrics using your tools. It won't cost you a penny more - nor require you to share any revenues - either. Now you have the chance to monetize and analyze the landing pages we serve on your behalf.

Right now we're supporting:
  • Google AdSense
  • Google Analytics (aka Urchin)
  • Site Meter
  • AWStats

We'll be adding other services over time; if you want yours added please let us know! (Squeaky wheels will get oiled faster, if you see what I mean).

Google AdSense Integration

FeedBlitz can now add your Google AdSense ads (plus you keep ALL your revenues) to the landing pages. The ads are placed at the top of the relevant pages; you can see an example running now in the signup for this blog at http://www.feedblitz.com/f?Sub=84

To enable your AdSense content on your pages, you need to know your publisher ID. It's a text string that looks like "pub-1234567" where "1234567" is replaced by a long string that is your identifier.

To determine your identifier, go to https://www.google.com/AdSense/code#section=3 and copy your code. You may need to paste it into a text editor to get the code exactly (don't re-key - a typo will mean that someone else will get your revenues!). Just extract the "pub-...." text.

Then, go to www.feedblitz.com/f?lists and go to the Syndication Setup Advertising and Visitor Analysis menu for your content. Pick Google AdSense as your ad network, and paste your publisher id (no quotes!) into the box below and save it. Then go to your subscription page and you will see it in action.

Now, Google AdSense is a context sensitive program; it searches the text on the page to figure out what to show you. Since there isn't much context on these pages the results for the first few weeks may be iffy, but stick with it. We're using tags inside the page to guide the AdSense computers to the content that is specifically yours (your feed title and description), so after a while the ads shown will become more relevant to your readers.

[Update: At FeedBlitz 2's launch last week this was a premium-only service; we've enabled it for everyone now (well, I want you to find this so valuable you'll be able to fund an upgrade to one of our premium services...). So if you tried it and nothing happened, please try again...]

Visitor Tracking

Since we serve these pages on your behalf, how about adding them to your site metrics / log analysis solution? Right now we're supporting three different options (if your service isn't listed, write to us!). All these options are found on the same page as the ad network settings.

1. Google Analytics ("Urchin")

Select Google Analytics as your metrics solution and enter your ID (starting "UA-") in the field. If you don't know your ID, follow the instructions at https://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=31845

2. SiteMeter

You'll need your SiteMeter codename - pick SiteMeter from the drop down and enter your code name into the form.

3. AWStats / Generic

If you are self-hosted or run your own log analysis not using a service, pick "AWStats" and specify a URL for FeedBlitz to fetch. You can see this file in your logs and use it to analyze visits from your FeedBlitz pages.


New in FeedBlitz 2: New Publication Options - Update

A quick update on part 1 - it is now possible for publishers to switch "email to a friend" and the comments links off. The options to do this are on your publication's menu at www.feedblitz.com/f?Lists under the Syndication Setup Tracking, Forwards and Comments option.

The default remains for these features to be enabled. If you disable comments, all comments features (view, track and post) are disabled.


New in FeedBlitz 2: New Publication Options - Part 1

Friday, October 20, 2006

Before going into the new publisher features in FeedBlitz 2, I wanted to credit our graphic designer for a great job on the new site. Kudos to Lauren Miller of MDesign (http://www.mdesignnyc.com/) for coming up with the new look. Thank you, Lauren!

Dashboard Changes

For everyone, the dashboard has been updated to include deleted items. Which means that, finally, a subscriber can reinstate a subscription by logging in, clicking the red X on their subscriptions table (or going directly to http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Feeds&State=removed ), and then clicking "Restart" from the popup menu. Subscriptions can only be restarted by the subscriber of course.

Dropped or removed items are shown under a dotted line in the relevant tables; they don't contribute to your "active" count. You must click the red "X" to view them.

New Publication Options

For publishers, there's a great deal to explore. We've added greater usability, insight and control to your options.

Starting at www.feedblitz.com/f?lists the long lines of mysterious icons have been replaced by a new set of popup menus invoked by clicking your syndication's name or the edit icon next to it. The two main menu areas I'm going to go over now are the "Syndication Setup" and "Diagnostics" areas.

The settings area splits the old syndication edit screen into logical groups, making it much less confusing (and much quicker) to change the one or two things that you want to (the while thing is presented at once, version 1-style, if you click the "advanced" menu option). For this post I'm going to look at a couple of them.

Time Zone Settings

New to FeedBlitz is the ability to set your time zone (it's in "The Basics" section at the top of the settings popup mnue). This is available to all publishers, and causes the standard daily update to run at 1:30am in the local time of the time zone selected (default is the current US Eastern). Choosing the time zone completely eliminates the annoying potential for day+ latency that cropped up if you just missed that day's FeedBlitz window, and / or allows your updates to be sent to your readers at a time that makes sense for them. (If you have Turbo, Turbo options override this setting and it is ignored). So for pretty much everyone not on the US east coast, this is a setting you should probably check out and change.

Tag filtering

FeedBlitz now pulls tags and categories from your feed and posts. It uses this information to automatically categorize the emails sent to your readers. You can also use tags to do more: include or exclude articles from the mailings automatically.

For example, you could add an exclude tag of "no-email" to your syndication in FeedBlitz, which will then prevent posts tagged "no-email" in the source from being sent. Or, you can define include tags for a feed that contains a mix of, say, professional and personal posts. So "work" might be included, which means that you won't send your business readers notes about your kids, pets or last weekend's limbo dancing competition.

You can specify multiple tags here, in which case ANY match works. If both an include and an exclude tag are found in the same article, FeedBlitz will treat it as included. But you can click the "Exclude if both" option on on the screen to reverse this behavior.

Using tags therefore gives you a great deal of automatic control over what does and does not get sent to your readers. Subscribers can set up their own tag filters as well, but they are applied after the publisher's filters are applied, to the articles that make it past the filters.

Better yet, in FeedBlitz 2, publishers can report on tag-based behavior in real-time (like all our other analytics) when click-through tracking is enabled. This lets you evaluate the success of your articles and how well your readers react to them by tag or category, which then lets you optimize your content for your audience as you learn more about them. if you can't measure, you can't manage. FeedBlitz 2's combination of tag filtering and reporting gives you many more options to control and insights into how your content is published aconsumedmed.

FeedBlitz's tag handling is a unique new capability in RSS to mail that we'll be extending in the future.


Talking of tags, take a look at the Diagnostics menu option for your published content. Clicking the "Diagnostics" menu option shows you the current feed as FeedBlitz sees it, including any tags FeedBlitz found. It also shows the date of the post, if present (US eastern). It's a great place to go explore your feed's metadata, and it's incredibly useful when diagnosing feed-related issues. This feature is so useful that I can't now imagine working without it.

The diagnostics area is where we moved the preview and test features, just in case you were missing them. They're joined there by three new options to enable you to understand your feed better:
  • Visit Syndication takes you to the URL you set for your feed; if you have a browser friendly display you will see it here.
  • Visit Parent Site takes you to the feed's home page (as defined in the feed). For example, the FeedBlitz Blog's RSS feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/feedblitz but "Visit Parent Site" for the blog takes you to http://feedblitz.blogspot.com/ instead.
  • Finally, View Source is for the techies, and displays the raw content in the browser, no style sheets applied. So if you're wondering how FeedBlitz found the tags it did in the diagnostics screen, this is the place to go.


New in FeedBlitz 2: Email Generation

Thursday, October 19, 2006

This is the first in a series of posts over the coming days on FeedBlitz 2. In this one I’m going to outline the end result - changes that end up in the emails sent to subscribers.

Updated Graphics

Most obviously for standard service recipients, we’ve changed the FeedBlitz logo top left to match the new site design. For sites publishing non-generic images in their RSS feeds (relatively few of you, it seems), we’ve also added your feed logo over on the right (Pro users get to do a whole lot more, of course, ranging from adding their own artwork, their own ads, removing FeedBlitz branding and generally changing the layout of the messaging).

Here’s a screenshot of how the top of TechCrunch’s feed looks now in a standard email, with the graphic changes highlighted:

Email to a Friend and Comment Integration

The next change is down at the end of each article. FeedBlitz now includes a “email to a friend” feature, where you can send a post off to one or more friends or associates. It’s protected by image verification to stop spambots from using it, and it allows you to add your own message to the email before it’s sent. When you use this feature, the recipient is NOT subscribed – but they are invited to in a note at the end of the mailing.

FeedBlitz also now supports commenting, whether from the RSS comment tag or the Well Formed Web (WFW) comment API. If the source content has a link to comments, it’s shown here as “View Comments.” If there’s a way to add a comment, we’ll add a link as well (TechCrunch doesn’t use this part of the WFW API, so we don’t show it).

If there is an RSS feed to track comments to an article - and TechCrunch has one for each article they post - we’ll add a link to it at the end of each article in the email. Clicking the link takes you through the standard subscription process, and adds that article’s comments feed to your subscriptions. For publishers, if a user starts tracking a comment feed from your syndication, we’ll automatically add it to your list of syndications as well (but we won’t automatically subscribe you to it).

Tags and Categorization

Now, like many bloggers, TechCrunch uses tags to manage their articles. FeedBlitz 2 understands tags from many sources, including iTunes and Technorati. When we send an email out with tagged entries, FeedBlitz adds the tags to the email’s envelope header. So if you have an email client that lets you view an email by keyword or category (Microsoft Outlook supports category views), you’ll see that your FeedBlitz updates are now automatically tagged with the publisher’s categories in your email reader – they’re self-organizing, in other words. There’s a lot more to tags in v2 than this, but I’m saving that for a different post! Meanwhile, here's a graphic showing the FeedBlitz forward and comment additions, and TechCrunch's tags used to categorize the email in your inbox (this is the source article I used for this illustration):


FeedBlitz 2 is Here!

We're delighted to announce the deployment of FeedBlitz v2, a major improvement at all levels in the leading RSS to email service. The new facilities are up and running at www.feedblitz.com for everyone to see.

A brief feature list is below; but what in many ways is more important about the new version is that it's designed to be enable FeedBlitz to become more than it already is. The key to this is the API (more on this later when I've the chance to relax a little). The new feedblitz.com is, in fact, largely built using this API - a process known as "dogfooding" in the trade. By "eating our own dog food" we prove that there is value in the API and that it works under stress (feedblitz.com is a fairly busy site). The API will also enable much more efficient and effective feature developments in the future, as well as third party integrations I can't even imagine yet. You'll see feature adds in FeedBlitz returning to their normal pace (if not better) as a direct result of this innovation. We're the only email service (to the best of my knowledge) to offer such an API.

So have fun exploring the new features of v2. Here are the highlights - I'll add more posts here to explain some of the changes in more detail.
  • Comprehensive REST API – enables data and functional integration by third party developers; a unique capability.
  • Completely new site look and feel.
    • Improved usability, e.g. popup menus and printer friendly options.
    • Improved navigation into FeedBlitz capabilities.
    • Simplified signup screens with reduced text and reduced FeedBlitz branding.
    • Better re-subscription handling.
  • Tags, tags, tags!
    • Comprehensive support for embedded tags and categories from RSS, iTunes, Technorati and more.
    • Publishers can include and / or exclude articles by tag.
    • Subscribers can include / exclude by tag.
    • Click through reporting by tag.
  • Management & Monetization.
    • New feed diagnostics options.
    • Open and click through reporting at the subscriber level for premium customers.
    • Auto integration of Urchin analytics tools in FeedBlitz landing pages.
    • Auto integration of publisher AdSense into FeedBlitz landing pages.
    • New real-time reports for premium users.
  • Publishing.
    • Turbo On-Demand lets publishers pick and choose the posts to (re)send at any time.
    • New “Turbo Express” for ping-driven delivery.
    • Time-zone selection determines poll time for standard service publishers.
    • Email signup pages now also function as RSS landing pages, styled using your “Pro” settings.
  • Email improvements.
    • Recipient emails auto-categorized by tag.
    • Forward to a friend.
    • Reply to author.
    • Comment.
    • Subscribe to comments.

There are feature adds for publishers at all levels of service, for subscribers, and for site developers. Emails sent out from tonight on will include the new features. Use the preview facility to see how they will look. Enjoy!


September Summary

A little later than promised in the milestone post, here's an update on September's activity here at FeedBlitz. Month end active circulation was just shy of 1,040,000, for a monthly growth rate of 26.5% Obviously September was a huge month, growth-wise, and while I expect the circulation growth to continue it will be at a much lower rate. With last month's large list coming in there are also large numbers of undeliverables to weed out; removing these has acted as something of a brake on circulation growth since then.

Anyway, according to the web site analytics, September saw 390,000 visits, actually down a whisker from August, and 1,013,000 visits, again a little off from the month before - but then there's a day less in September than in August, and if one looks at the daily averages September's web activity was, in fact, up slightly.

In the August summary I mentioned we'd had the largest mailout to date at over 300k pieces. These days, a typical nightly run is well over 450,000 pieces, and I expect we'll top the half a million mark soon.

An now, ladies and gentlemen: FeedBlitz v2. It's today - stay tuned!


Security Update

Here at the FeedBlitz blog I write about our successes and our service issues because I believe that, by being transparent to our ups and our downs as we grow, we build a better business that ultimately serves you better. Today, I’m writing to inform you of an issue that we take very seriously at FeedBlitz – your privacy. We strive to keep your email addresses safe and secure, to reduce the chances of spam and other threats.

Unfortunately, late on Tuesday night we were informed of an issue that had made some email addresses visible outside the service, due to a previously undiscovered flaw in the FeedBlitz software. The problem was fixed Wednesday, within hours of our being notified of the underlying cause, and we're taking other steps to further improve our security as we finalize FeedBlitz v2.

Now, we haven't seen or heard of any issues, but having discovered the potential for risk I think you should know about it. Meanwhile, you may have questions. I'm happy to take the time to answer them directly by email or in the comments below. Here are a couple to kick off with:

Q: Was FeedBlitz hacked?
A: No. We were not broken into, nor were we compromised by a virus or any malware. The issue was the result of a software implementation issue (a bug, in other words).

Q: So what caused the problem?
A: Without going into too many details, there was a previously unnoticed defect that could reveal subscriber addresses online if it happened to be accessed in a particular way. A third party found this issue and notified us.

Q: Is it only email addresses?
A: Yes - we don't store any other information (for example, premium customer credit card information is held by PayPal, not by us).

So there you have it. You know, sometimes I think that perhaps I err by being too open on this blog. So one thing I'd like your feedback on all this is this: is there too much information in the blog, good and bad? Not enough? Or is at the Goldilocks point - just about right? Is the balance OK, or skewed too far one way or the other? Let me know...



Delayed mailout Oct 4th

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Apologies for the delay yesterday; we finally wrapped this one up shortly after 6pm eastern. What happened was not the usual wacky feed problem; instead, it was a database performance problem that was tied to a particular query that had been running just fine, thank you, up until yesterday.

To fix it, we've brought forward elements of FeedBlitz v2 into the current production system. The changes manage this particular query in a more scalable, less-resource intensive way, making this set of interactions considerably more robust (and, post v2, ready for significantly greater stress).


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