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Subscriber Import Policy Change

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A quick heads up: The subscriber import process has changed. As well as suppressing individuals who have been deleted (manually or via the bounced mail handler) or previously unsubscribed from the list you're importing to, FeedBlitz now also suppresses subscribers who have unsubscribed from any list you manage, regardless of whether it's the list you're importing into or not.

So, say you have two lists, A and B. John unsubscribes from A. You can now no longer add John via import to list B.

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...and we're back

Friday, June 22, 2007

After a nearly 24 hour restore process that wound up at about 2am this morning (watching paint dry would have been thrilling by comparison and, frankly, I'd have had much more sleep), we're back. We're ensuring that we get today's posts done before completing the catch-up from yesterday.

Things go wrong with technology, and the database failure we experienced was the culmination of a bad day of continued hosting service and connectivity problems - problems that ultimately led to our cooperative load balancing and recovery architecture overwhelming the database. We take daily backups and were able to go to that night's snapshot, so that worked out, but what we didn't know was that it would basically take a day to apply the backup to the database using the tools provided with the software. Clearly that's unacceptable and we're buying a much faster solution that, if and when we need to do this again, will get us going significantly faster.

Unfortunately, we didn't escape 100% unscathed - all the per subscriber open tracking data couldn't be recovered. There are some other issues we found affecting a very small number of publishers (< 20 ) whom I'll be contacting directly. Also, the tracking metrics for today and yesterday are also unhappy at the moment, so don't read too much into them for yesterday and today. The messages are going out as we get all this catching up done, it's just going to take a while.

So we're speeding the backup / restore side of things, and we're also in the market for a new hosting service. Mail me if you want the business.


FeedBlitz is Down - DB Restore Underway

Thursday, June 21, 2007

We're restoring from last night's (June 20) backup. It will take some time.


Intermittent WWW service June 15 7a-9:30a EDT

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hey everyone: one of our WWW servers decided to take an unscheduled break earlier today and was offline for about 2 1/2 hours. During that time you may have had intermittent issues with some images, logging in or some links. Although waiting a minute or so and trying again usually fixed the problem, we're sorry about the inconvenience. A couple of settings have been tweaked to avoid this kind of thing should it happen again in the future.


New: FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Today we have launched a brand new marketing communications service, the FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition. (We've also renamed our prior services as the FeedBlitz Personal Edition, just to keep things consistent.)

What is FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition?

Basically, it brings the personalization and customization features of traditional email newsletters, and marries them to the power and distribution of RSS-based systems. The best of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, all in one single service for simple management.

From a feature perspective, FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition does several core things that neither ordinary RSS to mail services (like the Personal Edition) nor traditional HTML email newsletter services alone can offer. Together, they're dynamite.

The Basics

FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition is a superset of Pro and Turbo upgrades for the Personal Edition. You can brand and manage your distribution schedule in Newsletter Edition as if you had these upgrades.

But there's much, much more...


Firstly, we've added subscriber data capture capabilities, so you can ask subscribers their names, addresses or whatever you want. This is standard stuff for corporate email newsletter mailing list services, but has been missing from RSS based services.

In fact, this is the big problem with blogs and RSS based systems. No personalization. It's Web 2.0 doing Marketing 0.1. What marketers have long understood is that the more relevant the content, the more likely you are to be successful. And that means using what you know about the recipient - their name, gender, location, purchase history, customer class, whatever - to tune the messages you send to them. To take a simple example, there's little value to mailing a prospect in Vermont about a seminar in Texas. Yet this is what RSS-based services force you to do - it's a one-size-fits-all approach that makes for disappointing returns and unhappy subscribers.

FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition changes all of this. You can capture subscriber demographics (and add some hidden secret fields of your own), and then use them to tailor the message sent. It can be as basic as "Dear Jane" as opposed to jane@doe.com - or you can apply conditional statements (i.e. if / else ) on both the content and the formatting of the message. Newsletter Edition publishers can even use the import process to define their custom fields on the fly.

In effect, FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition turns your blog into an efficient, effective and easy to manage lead generation machine.


How this solves our Texan seminar problem is that you can also use custom fields to pick the recipients, known as segmentation. Want to send an email blast about the seminar? Define the "South East" segment (and we'll save it for later reuse) and blast away. No rural mountain dwelling folk in the frosty north will be sent the message.

Cross-Media Support

OK, so most standalone email newsletter services can do that. But try getting your seminar information onto your web site - ugh. Can't get there from here. They stop at email, and you need to get your message out to everyone who might want it, no matter how they subscribe to your list.

But now you can, because FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition also enables you to support subscribers who use:

  • Twitter
  • Skype
  • AOL Instant Messenger
So now you can IM your newsletter, or use Twitter to get it to subscriber's mobile phones.

FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition goes further still. It will also automatically create a web page, an RSS feed, and an online widget with your seminar invitation. So you can also support casual web visitors and RSS aggregators, all with the same service. The widget lets you integrate the newsletter into your site with only a few moments' work. All you have to is send the newsletter and you're done - FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition takes care of all of this for you.

Better yet, if your subscriber happens to be reading using an RSS aggregator AND we get the right cookie from them, we'll tailor the RSS feed for them as well. So even the RSS feed can potentially be different (and therefore more relevant) to each individual subscriber.

One to one marketing meets Web 2.0 in the FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition.

And that's vital, because to reach all your potential subscribers you need to let them subscribe however they want. The under 25's are on IM or their phones; email isn't the primary communications channel for them. FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition now lets you reach them the same way you get to email users. All from a single subscription form, with no added effort from you.

Blog-Optional Workflow

FeedBlitz Personal Edition needs a blog or an RSS feed. Fine for us bloggers, but a real roadblock for the other 90% of the world. When your solution starts with: "first get yourself a blog" it's an issue, largely for three main reasons:
  1. Corporations worry about IT and control issues.
  2. Blogs are scary things that aren't yet fully embraced by mainstream corporations.
  3. The workflow is exactly the opposite to how most email newsletters are produced.

The solution to all of these is to avoid requiring a blog. FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition can use a blog or RSS feed, OR it can be set up to accept directly entered articles - no RSS or blogs involved, thank you. This solves objections #1 and #2 because there's no blog. And because the workflow is the same as for legacy newsletter services - first construct your articles, and then publish them to your list - there's no issue with objection #3 either. As far as the user is concerned, it feels like an email newsletter service.

But, because this is Web 2.0, FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition automatically creates an RSS feed from your published articles. Which enables all the IM and social media distribution we mentioned before. FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition really is the best of both worlds (and, indeed, a bridge between them). We even allow you to create your articles via IM or email! But I'll save that for a later post.

So, if you're a power blogger, you can power up your blog to use the personalization and customization features. If you are using a separate newsletter service, you can bring your list over and get much greater distribution from a single service for about the same price.

What Else is New?

We're introducing SpamAssassin reports for all premium customers, so you can see how "spammy" your messages are looking to independent filters. We track the score for each message you send, so you can see how the score changes over time and manage it appropriately.

We have replaced PayPal with a new provider, Authorize.Net, so anyone with a Visa or MasterCard can sign up on our site without having a PayPal account. Better yet, you can change the billing details online too, much simpler than before. If you're using PayPal that's fine - it still works. New signups will simply use our new service.

Publishers (both Personal and Newsletter) now have a publisher dashboard that looks a lot like the Subscriber Center (actually it's the other way around, but that may be too much information). Big friendly graphics and setup wizards make the service much easier for occasional users to manage. The power user menus are still there, but the default is now towards easier use.

And the cost?

Newsletter Edition isn't free. It's based on the average number of active subscribers in the prior billing cycle (month). Pricing starts at $1.49 for less than 10 active subscribers, and grows with your list size. There is, of course, a 14 day free evaluation period, so you can go ahead and kick the tires, no hassle.

In fact, if you're running a smaller list and really want to upgrade to Pro or Turbo but didn't because of price, sign up for Newsletter Edition - the entry level pricing is much lower.


There's a lot more to talk about, but at least I hope I've convinced you that FeedBlitz Newsletter Edition represents the best of the old and the new, a great way to link between them, and the only service you need to send targeted messages to any and all of your audience.

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New Feature: The Subscription Center

Monday, June 04, 2007

FeedBlitz has long been a publisher-centric service - but a significant amount of the value we deliver for publishers is in treating their subscribers well. As a result, we provide extensive capabilities to subscribers online, including the ability to manage their own email addresses, delivery preferences and the ability to add independent subscriptions.

The thing is, of course, is that powerful features can come at a price: complexity. In particular, for most of FeedBlitz's subscribers who only have one or two subscriptions, the whole GUI was overkill. We needed to simplify tasks at feedblitz.com for ordinary subscribers: those readers who aren't bloggers and who aren't likely to be interested in syndicating their own content.

What they need is our new Subscription Center - a radically simpler, easier to use, subscriber-centric view onto a single subscription at a time. It's accessible via the "My Account" menus of course, but more importantly we've added links in the outbound messages which take the subscriber directly to the relevant page of their personal Subscription Center.

Subscribers can easily access their profiles from here, quickly add a new subscription, as well as explore and understand all the options they have for each individual subscription. Power users, however, fret not: the existing menu systems are untouched and aren't going anywhere. We're just not requiring them any more.



May 2007 Monthly Update

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The big news for us this month was subscriber growth. We left April with an active circulation of 1,868,702; in May we not only passed the 2 million mark but ended the month with a circulation of 2,523,249 - that's 35% growth in just 31 days.


Unsurprisingly perhaps, web site metrics were also strongly up: May saw over 575,000 visits (up nearly 19% over April's 484,000) and 1,473,000 page views (up nearly 14% over the prior month's 1,294,000).

Last month I introduced a new set of metrics to add more perspective. Here are April's numbers again:
  • Total messages sent: 16,820,525
  • Average messages sent / day: 560,684
  • Peak daily messages sent: 727,143 (April 10)
We blew these away big time in May:
  • Total messages sent: 22,005,020
  • Average messages / day: 709,840
  • Peak daily messages: 1,246,772 (May 31)

Not all was goodness last month; while we were growing like crazy an apparent hardware issue at our hosting service took one of our servers down; not good news. This placed considerable strain on the remaining systems which, frankly, showed - mailing and web site performance crawled. We've been doing some work since to reduce the impact of this kind of failure in the future. The large increase in circulation has also seen some changes in how some larger users are using FeedBlitz's facilities: we're going to take that into account as we move forward too.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we introduced new features and updated others, including:

So if you haven't yet checked these out, do, because June is going to be a very exciting month for us and new capabilities. Better get ready...

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PayPal Signup Problems ....

Friday, June 01, 2007

PayPal's subscription signup servers are, once again, broken. Sorry; nothing we can do about this: the problem is at their end. If you're trying to sign up, please contact support and we'll get you going as soon as we can. Meanwhile, the work we started with a different provider last time this happened is nearly ready and will be deployed in the next few days and we'll be clear of them for new users.

Update June 2nd: Seems like they're back up and running now. Upgrades should now work.

Update June 29th: We have a new payment service for all our new premium accounts! We take Visa or MasterCard, and no more visits to PayPal (or anywhere else) are required. If you're using PayPal to pay for FeedBlitz upgrades now that's OK - you don't need to change anything, we will still charge you via PayPal until you start a new upgrade.



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