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New Feature: Custom Subscription Filters for your Newsletter

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

FeedBlitz becomes even more Tagtastic!

One of the major features we introduced in last autumn’s major upgrade was our tag-based filtering technology. As a quick reminder, the tag features we introduced back then were:

  • Publisher tag filtering: automatically include or exclude a post from your email based on its tags.
  • Subscriber filtering: Subscriber-specific tag filtering.
  • Diagnostics: Show the discovered tags (among other things) in your feed.

No other RSS or blog to email service offers these mechanisms to automatically select your newsletter articles.

Recently, we’ve added tag-specific article search and the ability to clone feeds. One use of cloning is to combine it with tag filtering to create multiple subscriptions for different audiences from a single RSS feed.

Of course, to use all this cool stuff you had to know what tags you wanted, and you had to go into FeedBlitz to set it up.

As of today, there is a better way. FeedBlitz now lets subscribers and publishers set up tag filters dynamically, at subscribe time, without having to know and configure a priori what the tags are or will ever be. So now you can simply and easily create subscriber-specific, dynamic email subscriptions for your readers. You can now give subscribers significant choice over how and what they subscribe to.

It’s also really simple to use and set up, and (typically) doesn’t require any additional interactions with the FeedBlitz web site.

How It Works

We have extended the standard subscription URL (which is of the form http://www.feedblitz.com/f?Sub= ) with some extra parameters: include and exclude. For a practical example, consider Tom Evslin’s blog, Fractals of Change. Tom’s been blogging recently about all sorts of things, from voip to electric cars. Here’s how you apply these new filters to a subscription:

You can mix include and exclude tags. If the same tags are associated with a single post, inclusion takes priority and the post is served. The URLs and tags are case insensitive.

How to use it

So for publishers, this is great news, because now you can give your subscribers choices. And choice is good, right? Right! By working with your blog template, you can create a subscription link that says “subscribe to all posts about <tag>” – where you get your blogging system to replace <tag> with the tag associated with the post, create the appropriate subscription URL, and it all just works. Pop the link into your article or the sidebar for that category, done.

Better yet, this new feature also works with standard subscription signup forms you add to your web sites as well as the link-based sign-up technique above.

If you want to hide the tag filters, you can add the following HTML before the </form> tag:

<input type="hidden" name="include" value="voip">

This creates a hidden tag filter that will only send voip articles to your subscriber. Simply add multiple <input> tags (or use a comma separated list of tags as the value) if you want to add multiple filters. To specify an exclude tag, change the name of the field from “include” to “exclude” – same deal, it’s that simple.

Using this you can give your readers an interactive choice. Simply make the fields checkboxes or selects instead, such as in this simple example:

<input type="checkbox" name="include" value="voip">VOIP</input>
<input type="checkbox" name="include" value="ceo view">CEO View</input>
<input type="checkbox" name="include" value="energy">Energy Policy</input>

This generates forms that look like this:

CEO View
Energy Policy

You get the idea. Advanced users will be able to have a lot of fun on their sites with client-side JavaScript or server-side form generation to construct these forms on the fly.

What your subscriber sees is the standard signup process - simple. If they log in to FeedBlitz and look at their subscriptions, they will see any tags filters displayed on that page.

Gotchas and Traps for the Unwary

One teensy gotcha is that FeedBlitz only lets subscribers subscribe to the same feed once. So if they subscribe to your voip posts, love the content and try to subscribe to energy posts, FeedBlitz will tell them that they’re already subscribing to that feed.

So, to help ameliorate this, we’ve extended that screen to now offer the subscriber quick links to your blog, their subscription edit page for your blog (so the subscribes can extend their filters if necessary), and to all of their FeedBlitz-powered subscriptions. In other words, it’s not the dead end this screen used to be (and we’ve added links back to your site on all our other subscription transaction pages too).

So tag and filter away. Using this approach you can simply and easaily create hassle-free list segmentation, serving only relevant content to your subscribers. Subscriber-driven customized emails from a single RSS feed. Only from FeedBlitz.



Blogger julie said...

Hi - Wondering how this works with typepad. Are tags synonymous with categories so to filter out all posts categorized with a word I insert that category word into the tag filter?

Cheers - JoC

3:18 PM, November 07, 2007  
Blogger Phil Hollows said...

Yes: it works with tags, categories and labels (depending on what your systems calls them).

3:28 PM, November 07, 2007  

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