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FeedBlitz Maintenance, Saturday April 28 9:30pm edt

Friday, April 27, 2007

FeedBlitz will be unavailable for up to half an hour on Saturday evening for some routine back end maintenance that we can't manage without a brief outage.

This post will be updated with more information as the maintenance proceeds; we're not planning on using all that time and so hope to be up and running well before 10pm.

Update: We started a little later than expected (9:45pm edt) and were back just before 10:15pm.

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Feature update: how to stop Twitter updates

Lots of people have been trying out our Twitter integration, but some have been struggling to unsubscribe from Twitter updates from FeedBlitz. Twitter updates are so small there's no room for unsubscribe links in the message. So instead, to change what is sent or unsubscribe, you have three choices:

  1. Stop following the relevant friend completely, or
  2. Update the FeedBlitz subscription to use tags to only send certain articles to Twitter, or
  3. Tell FeedBlitz to cut it out, already, and stop the subscription.
For (2) and (3) you need to use the FeedBlitz web site to manage your Twitter updates:
  1. Log in to FeedBlitz with your email address (if you only have a Twitter subscription with us you'll have to register).
  2. Go to your user profile and fill in your Twitter details there to link your email and Twitter accounts.
  3. Go to your subscriptions at www.feedbliitz.com/feeds, scroll down to the Twitter section and pause / delete the whole thing, or modify the tag filters.

Easy really. Just not particularly inutuive ... if anyone has any better ideas given the limitations of the medium let us know.



New Feature: Twitter!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

FeedBlitz has now enabled one-stop Twitter publication for our premium publishers, automatically enabling them to deliver their content to their subscribers using the popular social networking service. Every premium publisher’s subscription signup form now automatically allows subscribers to choose to subscribe to their newsletters either via email or via their Twitter account.

How does it look?

See for yourself! Here's how well-known venture capitalist Fred Wilson's subscription page now looks:

The password field applies only to Twitter. If a subscriber selects "Email" it disappears. The options have links out to the relevant sites to help users pick the right option. Twitter sign up is protected by image verification to stop automated spambot attacks, but because we need your password there is no need fur a second opt-in confirmation phase. If you have the ID and the password and they match, then you're definitely, well, you. The Twitter subscription is therefore immediately activated if you authenticate ok.

What is Twitter?

Twitter syndication from FeedBlitz posts the relevant entries to the subscriber’s Twitter timeline as “tweets.” The subscriber can then get SMS text or IM alerts, as will anyone following that timeline. Visit twitter.com to find out more about Twitter itself.

Why Twitter and FeedBlitz?

Using FeedBlitz to deliver Twitter notification, publishers gain:

  • A single newsletter update and notification service.
  • Reaching as many readers as possible.
  • The way they want to be reached.

Twitter enables publishers and subscribers to send small updates to their network via SMS text messages, instant messaging or the web - all supported by Twitter. By offering Twitter syndication to our premium publishers, FeedBlitz offers one-stop syndication and subscriber management facilities to publishers, regardless of how the subscriber chooses to subscribe. Better yet, newsletter publishers get the same comprehensive management facilities for Twitter as they do for their HTML email newsletters.

Comprehensive Publisher Feature Set

The Twitter feature comes with all the features a publisher needs, including:

  • Twitter Preview
  • Test message facility
  • Tag filtering
  • Subscriber management
  • Click through tracking
  • Subscriber management

Here's the preview for Twitter for FeedBlitz News (accessed from www.feedblitz.com/f?Feeds if you have got a Twitter subscription and have claimed your Twitter identity - see below).

If you use FeedBlitz (or FeedBurner) click through tracking, those clicks via tinyurl.com will be tracked as and when the user accesses them from Twitter, their mobile phone, or wherever. If you send a test message, the most recent three articles will be posted to your Twitter timeline. All other features, such as tag filtering, pausing and restarting subscriptions, deleting subscriptions, are handled via the popup menu for that subscription, just like for your email subscriptions. (To gain access to your Twitter subscriptions on the web site, however, you need to prove that you are the legitimate owner of that ID - more on this a little later.)

If you have Twitter subscribers to your content, they appear on your subscriber management screens with the small "t" Twitter logo (it's also the logo used in the subscription page you saw earlier). So they're easy to visually differentiate from email subscribers.

Twitter subscribers also benefit from getting their updates much faster – up to every 15 minutes, at no additional cost to the premium publisher (subscribers still have to pay their bills for the SMS text messaging service from their provider, not you (and not FeedBlitz!)).

Premium publishers now no longer have to decide whether to “microblog” on Twitter or to blog normally: Just blog, and let FeedBlitz take care of the rest. Indeed, by using tag filters, advanced users and subscribers can automatically choose which posts go to Twitter and which to email, all from the standard FeedBlitz syndication screens.

Now, given the 140 character limit of Twitter, FeedBlitz will attempt to include the article’s title, source and as much of the body text as possible, a long with a tunyurl.com link to the article itself (see the preview above for how it looks in practice). This makes for compact and easy click-throughs from mobile devices. About the only thing that doesn’t work is open tracking and custom templates, since open tracking relies on embedded images which Twitter (being text-based) can’t support, and templates don't work because it's just text.

So, because of the space constraints, Twitter is best thought of as a notification or alerting mechanism rather than a fully-fledged publication mechanism. At least for our purposes, anyway.


Twitter can sometimes – let’s be charitable – be really, really slow. FeedBlitz allows for sluggish responses when it posts to Twitter, so the updates should go through OK, even at peak times. But it’s not email: if the server’s busy or times out, we won’t go back and try again. FYI, Email is more robust – it will keep trying. So even if you use Twitter as a primary subscription mechanism, consider adding a normal email subscription as well for a daily digest you can search, categorize and archive.

Managing Your Twitter and Email Identities

Publishers and subscribers may link their email and Twitter identities from their profile page, allowing all your subscriptions – whether email or Twitter-based – to show up on the same subscription management screens. In fact, it's the only way to access your Twitter subscriptions on the web site.

To merge identities, simply enter your Twitter name and password to your profile. If they validate, your claim is successful and the accounts linked, unifying your views. Here's how the profile page has changed:

To claim your ownership of a Twitter identity in FeedBlitz, enter your Twitter ID and password here. If they validate then your claim will be approved and all the subscriptions associated with that Twitter ID will be visible to you on the web. So your subscribers using FeedBlitz ultimately benefit from a single location to manage all their subscriptions.

Next Steps

This is not a beta! But I expect this class of service to generate a lot of feedback and it may well evolve quickly over the coming days. Let us know what you think. And enjoy!

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Welcome, Jory!

In this morning's press release FeedBlitz announced the election of Jory Des Jardins to our Board. A press release is a relatively formal marketing communications instrument, and so I just wanted to take a few moments to welcome her more personally to the firm.

It's often a cliche to say how excited one is about a new Board member or executive joining a company; so much so that you're really not meant to say that kind of thing in this kind of news item. It's all too often so much yadda yadda.

But the thing is, see, I am excited about Jory joining. So to heck with the cliches! She is the ideal complement to Tom and myself and the others in the business. She's wicked smart, of course, a proven entrepreneur - all good things. Crucially, however, she also brings a whole new set of perspectives and values that Tom and I simply can't bring to the leadership of the company by dint of who we are, where we live and our collective experience and interests so far.

Bottom line, as a result of her joining, FeedBlitz just got a whole lot smarter, our perspectives broader, and our thinking bigger. And, as the release says, Jory has had a great deal of influence in our thinking and planning already. No BS. Jory is a pleasure to work with and it's going to be a fun ride.

So, welcome, Jory - and a huge "thank you" to Guy Kawasaki, who introduced us in the first place.



BlogHer Co-Founder Jory Des Jardins Joins the FeedBlitz Board

Des Jardins Broadens Leading RSS to Mail Provider’s Perspective with Expertise on Women’s Issues; Media and Silicon Valley Presence.

SUDBURY, MA — April 10, 2007 — FeedBlitz, LLC, the leading provider of RSS to email newsletter services, today announced the election of Jory Des Jardins to the Executive Board. Des Jardins is co-founder of BlogHer, LLC and an established marketer and writer in both the mainstream media and online. She joins existing Board members Phil Hollows, FeedBlitz’s CEO, and Tom Evslin, FeedBlitz’s principal investor.

“Jory’s election emphasizes FeedBlitz’s commitment to reaching new markets with innovative services,” said Founder and CEO of FeedBlitz, Phil Hollows. “She brings fresh insight to the company around both our personal and commercial customers – advice that is already yielding results.”

Along with co-founding BlogHer, Des Jardins writes on women’s business issues, marketing, blogging, and entrepreneurship for publications including, Fast Company, Inc., Corante, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and The New York Times. Prior to co-founding BlogHer, Jory was Director of Business Development at new media start-up MyPrimeTime and an editor at Time Inc and The New York Times Syndicate. She developed the blog network for the baby boomer media company ThirdAge.

“I was first introduced to FeedBlitz as a user and was struck by how smart it was,” said Des Jardins. “I come from a traditional media background and thought that this product could help bring both traditional publishers into the social media realm, as well as provide bloggers with a professional outreach platform.”

About FeedBlitz

FeedBlitz, LLC was founded in August, 2005 to provide a service to enable marketers, publishers and bloggers to make more effective use of RSS and other blog-based technologies, helping subscribers get the information they want in the format they want. FeedBlitz converts RSS and blog updates into email newsletters delivered daily to subscribers' inboxes. It manages subscriptions, circulation tracking, real-time analytics, and email autoresponders, and is compatible with all major blogging platforms and services.

More information is available at http://www.feedblitz.com/.

About BlogHer, LLC

Founded in February 2005 by Elisa Camahort, Jory Des Jardins and Lisa Stone, BlogHer LLC's mission is to create opportunities for women bloggers to pursue exposure, education, community and economic empowerment. The BlogHer Community (www.blogher.org) is the Web’s number one guide to blogs by women, where 60+ editors write guides to the hottest blogging by women in 20+ popular topics. In 2007, BlogHer will host the BlogHer07 Conference in Chicago (July 27-28), an event that has become the place for men and women bloggers of all stripes to learn and network. The company’s latest initiative is the BlogHer Advertising Network, BlogHer's first qualified, targeted environment for contextual advertising showcasing more than 160 women bloggers across multiple verticals, including parenting, food and lifestyle. For more information visit http://blogherads.com.

More information is available at http://www.blogher.org.

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New Feature: Unsubscribe Survey

Monday, April 09, 2007

There are two aspects to improving your circulation: adding new subscribers and, often neglected, reducing the number of subscribers who leave. But how do you do that? In order to reduce subscriber attrition you need to know just one key item: why they're leaving.

FeedBlitz can now tell you why. The unsubscribe process now contains options for your readers to tell you why they're checking out. The survey is optional - the default is basically "not telling" - but for those that do change that option there's good information to be gleaned that you can take action on.

Firstly, if you are getting the subscribe / unsubscribe email notifications (the default), the reason for leaving is now in the email message (so it makes sense to open these notifications now if you weren't before).

We also have a new unsubscribe report to aggregate all your unsubscribe survey results. To access your unsubscribe survey results go to www.feedblitz.com/f?lists and invoke your syndication's popup menu. There's a new option here: the unsubscribe survey.

It generates a report that might look something like this one:

You can also get to these analytics by drilling down on the "unsubscribed" values in the subscription activity report.

Looking at the data, if you see "unknowns" they likely predate the survey's implementation across the board. Of the meaningful results, which is what you'll see going forward, there are a few that you really need to watch.

Updates Too Frequent

You may be aggravating some of your readers by causing daily emails. If you see many of these, don't stop posting: instead, consider offering a weekly alternative by cloning your syndication and setting up weekly delivery.

Updates Not Timely

Your readers want your content more often! Post more frequently or consider offering a daily version if you're only running weekly or occasional "on demand" updates.

Offensive Content

Say something too controversial? Use an inappropriate or off-color adjective? A rash of these may indicate your content is straying too far off-topic or your tone needs changing.

ISP Requested Removal

The user hit the "this is spam" button on their mail client. We get these reports from major ISPs and unsubscribe the relevant user. If you see many of these the cause may be the same as "offensive content" above, or may indicate a list quality problem. Take appropriate action quickly.

Subscribing Using a Different Method

Hey, you didn't lose this one after all! They're just getting your content a different way.

So take a moment to check out your unsubscribe reports. It's actionable data that you can quickly use to retain your subscribers and increase their value to you.

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PayPal Evaluation Problems

Folks, there's a known issue at PayPal (not us) with premium service evaluation sign ups. If you have a mysterious blank / retry screen after you log in to PayPal when you try to sign up for a premium service, please contact support for a workaround.



Quick FeedBlitz Update

Things have been pretty busy around here recently and I've been remiss in posting updates for both February and March. I don't currently have the circulation metrics for the end of February or March either, and I'm afraid I'm not going to go back and mine them from the database. They're all up on the prior month of course (current April 9th score: 1,773,615), and so we're back at our steady-state circulation growth of 5%-7% per month after January's 16% bump.

March on the whole got to be bumpy in the second half. Following the hardware failure mid-month we have a number of scale-related issues in the last week that caused problems with a number of mailings. These took us more time than usual to fix and, with hindsight, I messed up in not blogging about it at the time. My bad.

That said, all is now hunky dory, with the exception of making the knowledge base consistently available. That ought to be done this week.

Better yet, we have some very exciting news coming up ... it's going to be an interesting week. Stay tuned!



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