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Fearless FeedBurner Migration - No Login Required

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In yesterday's post about setting up your RSS properly I talked about the risk of getting trapped with a particular feed service because your subscribers are subscribing to their feed URL on their domain, not your URL on your domain.

That's bad enough. What's worse in FeedBurner's case is that people may have set up their feeds years ago (or their web folks did), and they can't figure out how to access their feeds and metrics. Or, from worse to worsest (?), FeedBurner users can migrate their account to Google apps and suddenly find out that a perfectly good FeedBurner login no longer works - and can't be recovered. Not only are you trapped at this point, you have no recourse other than abandoning your feed, its subscribers and starting over. There's no corporate support for FeedBurner at all (but it's free so that's OK, right? Perhaps not...). End up at this point and you're well and truly up the proverbial creek. You're by no means alone in your paddle-less adventure, but that's cold comfort, I know.

This is a tragic turn of events for what was once a fun, supported (and supportive) service. I've written on the topic before, but as I try and provide a little help to frustrated users in the FeedBurner forums, it's sad to see so many people disappointed and frustrated by the complete lack of engagement from FeedBurner's owners. They simply don't understand why Google doesn't care about them (another instance of digital share cropping - what would happen if FeedBurner went away? Yikes...).

Sounds like an opportunity for FeedBlitz, right? Well, not so fast. People frequently can't log in to FeedBurner to use FeedBlitz's migration wizards, so they're stuck. Often, that leaves their readers sitting out there subscribed to a FeedBurner URL, with nothing that can be done by the site owner to access that audience and its stats.

Which means, as I said yesterday, that site owners have to get all those readers to resubscribe. It's the only way to get their readers off that FeedBurner URL, and the only way for the publisher to re-take control of their feed, their readership and their RSS metrics. Even with the pain and frustration many FeedBurner users are now experiencing, the fear of starting over and "abandoning" their subscribers is just too much. They give up, and resign themselves to putting up with it.  The fear and lack of access put even major bloggers on the back foot, and prevents them from making a switch they'd otherwise be more than happy to make. After all, their subscribers are their most committed audience, and surely far too important to abandon to the free but unsupported service that FeedBurner has become. It's a shame to see such confusion descend into lost hope, day after day. But that's what's going on.

Good news, then. There is hope.

As I alluded to yesterday, FeedBlitz does now have a way forward for people stuck in this scenario. It ain't pretty, but it works. Our approach assumes that you have control over the original feed that FeedBurner is polling, that you can use your blog's redirect features, and that you're going to try FeedBlitz out as a premium FeedBurner alternative.
  1. First, set up your own feed on your own domain, like I outlined yesterday, if you haven't already done so.
  2. If that is different from your FeedBurner original feed (our tech support can help you identify the URL FeedBurner is accessing), set up a permanent redirect from that feed to the new feed you set up in step (1) above.
  3. Then set up your FeedBlitz feed at RSS | New based on the URL you set up at (1).
  4. Set up a temporary redirect from your feed (1) to your new FeedBlitz feed (3), making sure that you have an exception defined so that FeedBlitz can access your source feed OK without going around in circles.
At this point you have FeedBurner - and everyone using it - redirecting to your new canonical feed on your own domain (good!), and you are then having FeedBlitz serve it for you. Which means that FeedBurner (or whatever you use) is, in fact, accessing FeedBlitz for your feed. This is the key part.

(Note that at this point we don't have to log in to Google at all, so even if you can't get in, you're golden.)

The bad news is that all the people using FeedBurner will still have to resubscribe. No avoiding that without login access. Simply asking them to do it in a blog post is unlikely to have any effect; people are lazy and - hey - the FeedBurner feed's still working (although it's a lot cooler now it's using FeedBlitz's feed goodies).

So here's the kicker. FeedBlitz has a new feature in its RSS settings that will try very, very hard to FORCE all your FeedBurner subscribers - at least the ones who are actually reading your old FeedBurner feed - to change their feed settings and resubscribe.

How? Well, when you enable the FeedBurner migration option at RSS | Settings, you can edit a fairly loud and to the point message (lots of bold text and colors) that says: We've moved, update your settings, oh faithful reader! OK, not quite so Jane Austen perhaps, but you get the idea. When the setting is enabled and FeedBlitz detects FeedBurner accessing your FeedBlitz feed (courtesy of the redirects you set up above), FeedBlitz does NOT send your post to FeedBurner (and by implication, on to every subscriber using it).

No. Instead, FeedBlitz serves the "resubscribe" message. Just to FeedBurner and its subscribers; everyone else gets your regular content. As long as you have that setting enabled in FeedBlitz it will continue to (loudly, persistently, consistently) urge your remaining FeedBurner subscribers to switch over. Not for only 15 days, but for as long as you have the FeedBlitz feature switched on. So people taking long vacations, sabbaticals or whatever will still get it. Everyone accessing your content via your old FeedBurner feed will know, in no uncertain terms, what they need to do. And they will be reminded, every single time you post, until they change.

So, although it's not as smooth as you might like, there's no need to access your old FeedBurner account to switch, which is a huge win. (If you can log in we have wizards to help expedite setup and email subscriber transfer). With this capability, FeedBlitz can basically push every one of your subscribers with a pulse over to your new core feed living at your URL on your domain. You don't need to delete your old FeedBurner feed either, which means all the old links in aggregators will work too. But everyone paying attention will quickly switch because they want your content and NOT an annoying message from the likes of us. As I said, pretty it is not. Effective, though? You betcha.

Sure, not everyone will come over. You're going to have a proportion of abandoned subscriber accounts, and so at the end of the day your numbers will start off being lower here at FeedBlitz than at FeedBurner. But what you gain is:
That first point is important. You can (should!) configure the message we send to FeedBurner subscribers to direct readers to the feed on your URL (remember we still serve it, because of the temporary redirect).  But you own those readers on your URL on your domain. Don't care for FeedBlitz later on? Well, switch the redirect off - done! They're still yours. They won't need to resubscribe again, because as far as they're concerned they're subscribing to the same feed.

At the risk of harming FeedBlitz's future revenue growth, you could in theory start a trial with us for the sole purpose of rescuing your feed from FeedBurner, and then cancel before the trial ends, planning on the migration message having moved anyone who cares across back to you by then. Obviously, we hope you'll stick around, but it's certainly something you could consider if you want to make that move and take back your feed. Our RSS only prices are just $1.49 a month anyway, so if you don't use our email services you're not going to break the bank if (when :) ) you choose to continue with us.

I hope this helps someone get out of the quagmire. Know that, if any of this resonates with you, at least you're not alone, and there is a way out.

If you're interested and would like help getting control of your RSS feed and your subscribers back, please tweet me @phollows or contact us via support at feedblitz dot com. We're happy to hear from you and will help as best we can, client or no.

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Blogger pomahony2 said...

Hello to FeedBlitz, About FeedBurner!
The other side of the coin, of this terrible situation, is the troubles that subscribers (readers) have.
I am a user/reader/follower of several blogs and I can not sign into FeedBurner to control my account.
I am getting the emails, but I can NOT go into FeedBurner to see all the blogs that I am signed up for.
If you find something that will help the average "user", not developer, Please expand your writing to include us, poor lost souls that we are.
Thanks, Pat OMahony pomahony2 at g mail (dot) com.

2:17 AM, October 31, 2011  

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