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FeedBlitz Publisher Survey

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Just a quick FYI that we're running a one-time survey and profile update of FeedBlitz publishers. There's a simple form to complete to update basic biographical data (all covered by our privacy policy of course), along with the chance for you to tell us more about what you want to see added or changed in the service. The results are confidential and, once the form has been filled, it goes away to its happy place and won't bother you again.



New Feature: Newsletters from Protected Wordpress Blogs

Friday, August 15, 2008

Good news for wordpress.com users who want to offer email newsletter (and IM and Twitter) subscriptions to their protected blogs. FeedBlitz can now access the RSS feed for protected WordPress blogs, provided that you give FeedBlitz a valid user name and password, of course.

FeedBlitz has long supported what's called HTTP authentication for password-protected RSS feeds, and this works well for sites that use it (TypePad password protected blogs, for example, can be accessed this way). But this approach doesn't work on wordpress.com blogs that are private, since WordPress uses a web-based login page to protect both the blog and its RSS feed. Before, FeedBlitz could only send a message relating to the login page itself - not useful. Now, FeedBlitz can authenticate via the web too. So wordpress.com users can offer their content privately online, but still offer an email service to users who log in and want to subscribe and be notified when new articles are posted. If a subscriber clicks through and visits your blog, they will still have to log themselves in to access the protected content.

Worth re-emphasizing, of course, that once FeedBlitz sends the content it's no longer secure - it can be forwarded around, copied and pasted and more. If you have a secure site, set the privacy flag on in its newsletter settings at the Newsletter Center, and enable the new NOINDEX feature to keep the content that FeedBlitz can now access (again, only if you give it the right credentials) out of the search engines. You give FeedBlitz a user name and password to accesss your blog during Newsletter setup, or on the security screen of the Newsletter Settings link in the Newsletter Center. If you're a WordPress user and already gave FeedBlitz a user name then you don't need to do anything - the feature's automatic.

Meanwhile, some readers will be wanting to know whether this means we can support Blogger's "Invitation Only" blogs. Sadly not, but not because of the login issue. Rather, taking a blog private on Blogger stops the RSS feed from being generated at all, so even after logging in there's nothing there for FeedBlitz to turn into a useful subscription update (oh, it sure looks like there's an RSS feed there, but accessing it gives the message "User does not have permission to read this blog" even when you're logged in and plainly do have permission. Bummer).

This has been tested for WordPress.com sites; it will probably work on self-hosted WordPress sites too, provided that there aren't any plugins messing around too greatly with the login page. If it fails to work let us know at the support address and we'll figure it out for you.

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Aug 15 Issues - updated

We seem to have a database problem holding things up; we're investigating.

Update: Everything was back on an even keel by 9:45 am eastern this morning; the web site is functioning normally and outstanding mail seliveries are being caught up pronto.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

One of the features I personally like about FeedBlitz is the automatic creation of an online preview of your newsletter. It show subscribers what a mail from you will look like, and so encourages subscriptions because now they can be confident that it's content they're going to like. There's even a call to subscribe right at the top. The preview takes into account all your newsletter settings, so if you only show the first 350 characters (say) from each post in your mail, then the online preview also only has the first 350 characters.

Now, if you the publisher has the online preview link on your site - and many (but not all) do - then the search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN et al.) will follow the link to the preview, index it and add it to their databases. This is what a search engine does and it's all automatic. Usually this is fine and desired.

But. An unintended consequence of this may be that your online preview appears before your own site in search engine results pages for terms you care about. You may not care about that (you might even think that that's good, I don't know), but if you don't want that to happen we've got a brand new capability to help you change that and restore the order you want to the relevant search engine results.

FeedBlitz will now add the relevant code to the preview to tell robots not to index your online preview if you check on the "NOINDEX" option in the second page of the Newsletter Settings screens. Once done, the next time a search engine happens by, it will see the tag and not add the page to its database (and it should, if well-behaved, remove any existing index also). So the FeedBlitz previews will disappear from search engines for newsletters with the option set on, ensuring that your FeedBlitz newsletter preview doesn't get in the way of your site. Since FeedBlitz doesn't control when search engines revisit links it may be a while (A few days or possibly weeks worst case) for the change to kick in, but kick in it eventually will if you change the option.

To set the NOINDEX option:

1) Go to the Newsletter Center for the site in question
2) Click "Newsletter Settings"
3) Click "Next"
4) Enable the "NOINDEX" check box
5) Click "Done" to save.

When you refresh the preview the robots "NOINDEX" metatag will be present on the page, ready to welcome the next visit from your favorite search engine's update robot.

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Join the FeedBlitz LinkedIn Publisher Group

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I've personally been a little neglectful of my LinkedIn network recently, something I redressed with a vengeance over the weekend. And now I've set up a group for FeedBlitz publishers at LinkedIn, so you can all network together and expand your personal networks by dint of having FeedBlitz in common.

So, if you're a FeedBlitz publisher and you'd like to join our LinkedIn group, follow this link.

Talking of LinkedIn, a fabulous way to keep in touch with your LinkedIn network activity is to use FeedBlitz to mail you a daily update! This works for anyone, regardless of whether you're a FeedBlitz publisher or not:

1) Log in to LinkedIn.
2) In the left hand menu bar, click "Home" if you're not already there.
3) Click the iddy biddy orange RSS icon to the right of "Network Updates."

1) Go directly to http://www.linkedin.com/rssAdmin?display
2) Enable the feed for network updates if currently disabled.
3) Copy the RSS link.
4) Paste the RSS link into the form at the bottom of http://www.feedblitz.com/ and continue with the standard dual opt in subscription process.

You'll get a daily update of all your network activity directly to your mailbox, complete with table of contents and the usual FeedBlitz yummy goodness.

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Custom Domain FAQs

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

We've had some good clarifications, questions and concerns raised over the new custom domain name feature we've added; this FAQ addresses, well, the most frequent ones.

Q: Isn't it true that custom domains aren't really domains?

A: Well, yes, technically speaking, "custom domains" are actually subdomains of feedblitz.com, that's true. Our custom domains are like having a dedicated URL for your newsletter at FeedBlitz. They're just the same as having a blog "XYZ" at xyz.blogger.com or xyz.wordpress.com or xyz.typepad.com - all these XYZ's are subdomains of the relevant site (and, dollars to doughnuts, all these hypothetical sites will be run by different people writing about XYZ, whose names are XYZ, or who think that "XYZ" is just a darned cool name for a blog - and the non-uniqueness of "XYZ" is very important, so bear it in mind as you read on).

Q: Do I have to buy the domains you reserved for me?

A: No; we're simply giving you the right of first refusal. There's no obligation; your services will continue on as they do now. If you don't want anything we reserved for you, don't buy it. There can only be one xyz.feedblitz.com, however.

Q: Can I buy any domain?

A: Yes, as long as its available and it isn't being used to spam or abuse others. The fee is $9.99 per domain per year, or about 84c a month, or just under thruppence a day.

You can use the ones we reserved for you, others that are suggested at www.feedblitz.com/f?pl_domains but not reserved, or define your own in the slots provided.

Q: So, in theory, Time Magazine could buy newsweek.feedblitz.com?

A: You mean, just as they could - in theory - register newsweek.blogspot.com or newsweek.typepad.com or newsweek.wordpress.com or newsweek.biz (etc. etc. - you get the idea), if those names were available? Yes, in theory. But in practice they don't, of course, and even if they did what they can't do is use any of these - from FeedBlitz or any other service - to infringe Newsweek's intellectual property. If they did, then the domains would be removed ASAP by the provider once the good folks over at Newsweek got wind of it.

FeedBlitz will treat spamming on custom domains the same way we do those trying to abuse our mail servers: swiftly and with prejudice.

Q: But those blogging services have been / are being abused by spammers. Why are FeedBlitz custom domains going to be different?

Unlike the free blogging services, FeedBlitz requires a credit card to acquire the domain. You have to buy these things. It's therefore much more time-consuming to abuse FeedBlitz the way, say, Blogger is often prone to. It's a lot more expensive to do so as well and, because of the credit card requirement, the audit trail is deeper and subject to validation. TypePad is rarely abused by spammers for just this reason - you have to pay them.

Plus, if there is abuse, we'll kill the domain and block the user without hesitation.

Q: What happens if I don't buy a custom domain? Will FeedBlitz "sell" it and my good name to anyone?

A: If your reservation expires then it's removed from the database (you may see it suggested again; FeedBlitz recalculates suggested domains for you every time you visit the domain management page, but they're never stored unless you reserve or buy them).

We are not maintaining a "registry" of subdomains for resale (in fact, anyone discovered reserving domains for the purpose of reselling them to their "rightful" owners will be treated as a spammer - swiftly and with prejudice). We're not going to run out and say "xyz.feedblitz.com wasn't picked up - who wants it?" It's not what we do. Subdomains are strictly a usability and brand reinforcement feature for publishers which we think has value and is worth $9.99 a year.

That said, if someone else wants "xyz.feedblitz.com" and they're not infringing your intellectual property (i.e. copyrights, trademarks etc.) or otherwise libelling you, then they can have it - there's no reason not to. For example, your blog may be "xyz.blogger.com" but there will be others named similarly at other services (e.g. our hypothetical "xyz.wordpress.com" and "xyz.typepad.com") ; there may well also be offline "brick and mortar" businesses too - perhaps there's a bistro called "XYZ" just around the corner from you. They could all buy and legitimately use "xyz.feedblitz.com" if they wanted to. If you recall the first answer, "XYZ" is probably not unique to your site. Abuse will not be tolerated; but similarly we will not discourage legal, reasonable use either.

Q: How may subdomains can I buy?

A: There are no limits, but (again) we won't permit abuse of the facility. That said, there can only be one "xyz.feedblitz.com" - which is why we're giving current publishers first refusal now.

Q: Can I have fourth level and higher domains?

A: Sure. You could define "sales.xyz.feedblitz.com" and "marketing.xyz.feedblitz.com" for example, and associate different newsletters or landing pages with each one.

Q: Can I buy using PayPal?

A: Not at the moment, no, unless you have the PayPal debit card, which I think will work.



New Feature: Private Label Custom Domains

Monday, August 04, 2008

Last week I gave our premium publishers a few days' head start on a new capability to be announced this week. It being next week now, time to take the wraps off Private Label Custom Domains.

Custom domains are fully functional micro-sites from FeedBlitz that make life simpler for your subscribers by simplifying access to your newsletters and associated functionality online, and reinforce your branding via the domain itself and your custom template.


And a quick heads up here - if you haven't already heard from me about this, you will. Reason is that we've reserved domains for all our existing publishers, but these reservations all expire on August 10th. It's only fair and just that everyone has the chance to lock in their own brand names before they expire (and are available to all and sundry), even if they're not subscribing to this blog.

Simplify Access for your Subscribers

OK, so what do custom domains do? Well, they're URLs (here's one that's live right now: http://weathersnob.feedblitz.com/) that you define that map to your brand, site, publication and more. They can be set up with a variety of default actions, such as:
  • Offering a subscription form for a specific publication;
  • Displaying an online preview for a publication with a link to subscribe;
  • A subscription form for all your online publications;
  • Online subscriber preference centers for your publications.
By simply having a single domain that sets subscribers on the path to subscribing to your content using an easily remembered, consistently branded web address, you build on the trust they have in you as well as making signing up simpler. These custom domains are also great to include in email or IM signatures, for example, or to have added to your business cards.

Intelligent Design

All the pages on your custom domain are constructed and maintained for you by FeedBlitz automatically, saving you thousands over the equivalent cost for a web site developer to add similar functionality to an existing site.

Better yet, FeedBlitz will figure out the domains that fit best for you - and their default actions - automatically. They can be viewed at any time at www.feedblitz.com/f?pl_domains. Don't like what we picked? That's OK! You can define your own instead.

Secure Your Brand

One other benefit of a FeedBlitz custom domain is that it's yours: nobody else can take it while your account is in good standing and you're not violating any third party's copyright. You can protect your good name as well as making life simpler for your subscribers by reserving the newsletter domain that matches your brand, name or company.

If you're an advanced user, you can also modify your DNS to map a FeedBlitz custom domain to a subdomain on your own site via a CNAME record.

Just $9.99 per domain per year

FeedBlitz domains are available to any FeedBlitz account holder (not just premium publishers) for just $9.99 per domain per year. For well under a buck a month per domain you get branded pages, simplified subscriber access and brand security.

Go to the private label domains page now to see the reservations we've made on your behalf, and activate the ones you want before they expire or are taken by someone else. At the very least, go grab the one that maps most closely to your blog's name.

Managing Private Label Domains

As well as using the links above, you can always get to your custom domain page visa your Newsletter Center using the custom domain link or the "www" icon which has been there since last week.

So that's it for now. Those reservations will last until 11:59pm eastern on August 10th, which is fast approaching. Don't procrastinate! Get going!

UPDATE: FAQs on the new custom domains feature are now available.

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July 2008 Monthly Update

Sunday, August 03, 2008

My, it's been a long time since I've written a monthly update. Yikes! So time to catch up and kick things back into gear here.

In the last six months (yes, it really has been that long), FeedBlitz circulation has grown by nearly a million subscribers, or about 20%. That's actually a little less on a month by month basis than least year (on average), but that metric doesn't tell the whole story.

What has changed significantly over the last 6 months is the volume of messages FeedBlitz sends. back in October last year, FeedBlitz sent 32 million messages. In January, that figure had risen to just under 42 million messages. Last month, July, FeedBlitz sent 65.4 million messages, up over 50% in the last six months; in other words publishers are using FeedBlitz much more than before.

And so a lot of what we've been doing here is working on scalability - the ability to have our technology handle that kind of growth without going belly up. This work is what's taken the bulk of the time over the last six months, and what has kept me off air, as it were, for much of that time. Improving scalability has not been without its challenges - it's one of the toughest things to do in a 7x24 service when one gets to a certain size - and we've had moments where various elements of the infrastructure have shown signs of strain. I'm happy with the overall progress that's been made so far, although we're always looking for ways to improve further.

Not that we've been totally stuck down in the bit mines, mind you. Thanks to generous publishers in the FeedBlitz network, we now have translations on the principal subscriber pages in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Dutch. We've added MSN and Yahoo to the instant messaging options available to all. New capabilities to the template editor. And more to come later this week.

Finally, what with being so busy and all, I've been neglecting the stats update at the feedblitz.com home page. So that's changed too. There's the familiar circulation number, the newsletters number (which is more conservatively calculated than before, excluding active newsletters that don't have any current active subscribers), and a new metric: the number of active publishers. Currently standing at over 63,000, this small army of publishers - corporate marketers, media companies, bloggers and more - use FeedBlitz to automate, customize and manage their online email newsletter marketing, with nearly 100 subscribers each.

So now all I have to do is tell everyone else what this is all about.

But not now. Stay tuned...



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