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Feature Update: Partial Feeds, now with extra Pictures.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Without getting into the full / partial feed debate, which in (more or less) plain English is about whether you send the entire text or just a summary to the subscriber, suffice it to say that FeedBlitz (like many other services) has always offered the ability for publishers to limit the amount of text sent in each article. So if, say, you want only the first 500 characters of each post to go to subscribers, then you could configure FeedBlitz to do just that.

So far, so good. Now, in order to calculate the number of letters in the article, FeedBlitz (and, again, like the other services out there) stripped out the HTML tags from your post in order (a) to make counting a whole lot easier, and (b) to make sure that when your post was truncated, it wasn't truncated in the middle of some piece of HTML code, which would play merry havoc with the display of the rest of the newsletter.

The net result is that links and images are stripped out of truncated posts. Effective? Sure. Dull? Well, since all the interesting stuff was taken out, yes. And you know what? It's always ticked me off. I've always had this feeling that we could - and should - do better.

Fast forward to this week. We're working with a very large prospect whose business I aim to win real soon now. They happened to mention that it was disappointing to see their thumbnail images disappear from their otherwise very nicely formatted emails we were showing them, and could we do anything about that? And as I was writing the email back saying "well, no not really," I had a change of heart. It's always bugged me, fixing it would help win the business, and any fix would benefit everyone else using FeedBlitz's truncated post facility.

Long story short, problem solved.

From tonight on we're preserving and displaying images that appear before the cut off in truncated posts. The result for publishers using post truncation is much more visually compelling newsletters, greater reader engagement, and so an improved chance that the reader will start reading and then click through to the rest of the article.

Enough talk. Lets let the pictures speak their thousand words. I'm going to use Joel Makower's environmental business blog "Two Steps Forward" (Preview, subscribe) to show the difference (and no, he's not the prospect I referred to earlier; I'm just feeling extra green today).

Before:



After:




Same content, same layout - the articles are still truncated, the custom call to action is still there, and the subscriber still has to click through to the site to read it all. But boy, isn't the second one just a whole lot more interesting? This capability will be running in tonight's (Friday, 11/2) runs.

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