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237% growth for FeedBlitz in 2007

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Now that was an interesting year.

The metrics show that FeedBlitz continued to thrive. Not only that, however, for in 2007 we continued to innovate both our service and our business model (as well as weather the occasional storm). In fact, if there were any constants at all for FeedBlitz in 2007, they were change and growth.

So instead of the usual monthly summary, this post is a quick look back at the whole year.

2007 Highlights included:
  • Introducing the first and only ad-funded free newsletter service.
  • Introducing of the first and only email newsletter advertising and monetization service.
  • Introducing the first and only newsletter service to enable distribution to the web, IM, Twittter and audio as well as email.
  • Simplifying our business model
  • Enabling all publishing features for all accounts, even the free ones.
  • Delivering branded subscriber interfaces for all publishers.
All good stuff. Now, regular readers will also know that I believe in being open about the challenges we face and using this blog to inform you all about what's going on and what we're doing about it. So, in that spirit, some of the larger bumps in the road we had to resolve in 2007 included:
  • Dealing with a couple of database meltdowns.
  • Reducing our circulation by eliminating an abusive publisher.

Yet, despite attempts to abuse FeedBlitz and the challenge of managing the message volume increase we saw in 2007, I'm delighted to report that FeedBlitz's deliverability has actually improved. Even though I say so myself, that's not a trivial achievement. It took (and continues to take) much time and effort, especially for a self-service web application like FeedBlitz, to keep the service as squeaky clean as possible.

Managing Spam and Abuse in a Self-Service Application

We serve over 50,000 publishers at FeedBlitz, and we do that by allowing each and every one of you to manage your accounts yourselves, without waiting for someone here to "bless" your list or deign to give you access to your subscribers. Same for your readers - they can do what they need to, quickly and easily, without our being involved.

Of course, a self service site like ours can be abused, risking a decline in deliverability. If we can't get the mail through for you, which is the whole point after all, then you have a problem - and we have two basic choices.

Choice one is to give up and go home. Even though a smaller competitor took that option recently - go figure - it's not an option we'd ever consider. What, FeedBlitz, give up? NO WAY.

So choice two is to get better. That's the FeedBlitz choice. We've always been strong on anti-spam, and have continually strengthened our technologies and policies in order to reduce the risk of spammers entering FeedBlitz. But it's also true that sometimes what we have had hasn't been good enough. When that happens, we take the only path we can. We get better. Quickly.

Nowhere has this approach been more vividly brought home than our dealing with abuse (i.e. spam). Which begs a fairly reasonable question: How can we manage to improve deliverability while making sure our self-service approach remains viable, available and isn't abused?

Since I haven't fully written about this before, I thought I'd summarize some (but not all) of the methods we've evolved over the last couple of years to prevent and detect abuse.

No-Compromise Prevention

  • We require image verification to stop bots.
  • We require online subscriptions to be proactively confirmed via email.
  • We don't allow generic or otherwise potentially suspect email addresses to be imported.
  • We zealously apply suppression lists.
  • We completely block lists, publishers and hosts that trigger our own spam filters: If we would flag your message as spam coming in, there's no way we will allow ourselves to be used to send it out.
  • No scripts permitted in outbound messages.

Rigorous Monitoring, Quick Reaction

  • We use third party services to monitor our deliverability and major blacklists.
  • We quickly manage any issues that are detected.
  • We maintain feedback loops for all major ISPs, bar one (simply for technical reasons).
  • We monitor core service metrics internally on all lists for all publishers every day.
  • We warn and even suspend lists that deviate from our internal quality guides.
  • We send service courtesy notes to subscribers during import to flush out poorly permissioned or abusive lists.

Over Compliance

  • Unsubscribe requests made online are honored immediately.
  • CAN-SPAM - check.
  • Complaints from ISPs received via feedback loops are actioned immediately.
  • Automated bounce handling to lighten your workload and keep your lists clean.
  • We maintain feedback loops for all major ISPs, bar one (simply for technical reasons).

Bottom line benefit: We take care of business. Your messages get through.

Models and Metrics

Meanwhile, in 2007 we updated our business model, updating our freemium approach to give equal access to all features for all publishers, adding advertising as an option. The effect of introducing ads, eliminating feature set disparities and introducing variable pricing has been striking:

  • Since we introduced ads into free newsletters in September, circulation has grown 73%.
  • Since we introduced subscriber-based pricng in October, circulation has grown 36%

2007 By the Numbers

A year ago, I was proud to be able to write about FeedBlitz's growth in 2006 - up over 760% from December 2005.

A year later, our growth continues relentlessy, and shows no sign of letting up. At the end of December 2007, circulation was 4,491,000 - up 19% over November 2007 alone, and up over 237% compared to December 2006. That's more than a three-fold increase.

FeedBlitz now:

  • Serves over 50,000 publishers.
  • Automates the production of nearly 200,000 newsletters.
  • Has an active circulation of 4.5 million.
  • Handles lists with circulations all the way up to over 200,000 readers.
  • Sends over 39 million messages a month (December).
Our busiest day in 2007 - in fact, our busiest day ever - was Tuesday, December 18, when FeedBlitz sent 2,136,587 messages. No wonder we had to upgrade our database server this year!

Change and Growth

More of the same in 2008? Predictions are always hard, especially when the future's involved, but let's see: More growth, no doubt. More change, you bet. More challenges? Time will tell.

But whatever happens in 2008, two final thoughts about the year just ended.
  • To the over three million subscribers who joined us last year: Welcome.
  • To the publishers entrusting us with their lists: Thank you.

And to everyone: All the best for 2008.


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Blogger Joan said...

Hi Phil,

Congratulations on your success with FeedBlitz.

I appreciate your continued efforts to improve and vary FeedBlitz's offerings.

My best,
Joan Hawley
Lazy Girl Designs

12:38 PM, January 07, 2008  
Blogger Joel said...

Great work, really appreciate the service you provide.

2:26 PM, January 19, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

Great info about your deliverability efforts. A couple of questions.

How do you measure deliverability?

What is your deliverability rate?

How do I know if my emails are going to the junk/spam folder?

How do I know if my emails are bouncing?

How do I know when my emails don't even get delivered because a major ISP is blocking you?

It seems your mailing model penalizes everyone if one publisher abuses the system by sending messages that are classified as spam - I guess I am assuming that you are sharing the same ip address across all publishers. Is that not the case or does it not happen often enough to be a concern?

You have a great service. I love it. Keep up the good work!

Philip Werner

8:32 AM, March 15, 2008  

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