You may have noticed on Saturday (3rd November) that you FeedBurner feed counter was reporting a much lower level of subscribers to your blog. Here at Newsniche the counter dropped by nearly a hundred subscribers.
FeedBurner blame Google for the glitch as the Google feedfetcher bot had gone out on Friday night and was up late Saturday. This was probably due to drinking too much GoogleJuice the night before, those bots can't hold their drink. As a result none of the Google Reader subscribers were reported in the stats for Saturday.
Google Feedfetcher drops ball
At the time like me you may have worried even panicked when you saw a massive drop in subscriber numbers. If you have more than one blog then you would have figured out the drop was across the board and due to some glitch.
These sorts of glitches although usually temporary can cause a webmaster a lot of unnecessary stress. These things happen, my advice is don't hit the panic button, do a little investigating then report it if needed. More often than not these things are temporary. I have learned by experience if you do too much tinkering thinking it's something you have done you end up making things worse. All you need to do now is explain to your advertisers why your stats dropped.
RSS is now one of the most valuable metrics on the net. Increasing your RSS subscriber count is a measurable way to show the popularity of your site. As RSS is an opt in way for readers to view your site contents, they can easily stop being a subscriber at any time.
It shows how far RSS has come when John Chow and Shoemoney start a competition to see who can get the most new subscribers in a month. Notice how it wasn't a competition to get the most traffic or the most subscribers to an email list but who can get the most RSS subscribers.
Why RSS subscribers
John and Shoe are both canny marketers and know the value of RSS. RSS is a transparent metric that shows a loyal readership. If a site starts to slide in it's content then readers will no longer subscribe. They would rather gain an RSS subscriber than an extra visitor.
Whilst the challenge is a bit of fun there is also a serious reason John and Shoe have gotten together to run this little competition. At the end of the competition they will both have a larger loyal subscriber base. This competition has gained them a large number of new subscribers which generally means more revenue for them.
Bloglines have unveiled the new beta version of their web based RSS news reader. The new version allows you to create a start page where you can drag and drop your favourite feeds onto so they appear when you first log in to Bloglines.
Other changes include a smaller font to display news items, new view tabs on the top right of the page and a round corner border around news items in the reading pane.
It looks like Bloglines have taken a leaf out of Google Readers book for their new beta version. I've posted a very small screenshot of both readers together so you can see what I mean. The web2.0 finger seems to have been pulled out amidst fears Google is stealing the position of premier RSS reader.
The changes they have made are an improvement over the original but they seem to be playing catch up rather than innovating. They seem to have removed the RSS subscriber count when you view a feed which I hope is not a permanent move. A nice addition would be to see a post frequency icon of some kind for each blog so you can see how often a feed is updated.
Every webmaster wants to get more subscribers to their RSS feed. The FeedBurner RSS reader button has become a icon of your sites reputation, the more subscribers you have the more likely other readers will judge your blog to be worthy.
Over at Marketing Pilgrim they are running a competition to increase their RSS subscriber base. All you have to do is subscribe to their RSS feed and wait for a special message that they will publish at the end of one of their posts only visible in their RSS feed.
Winning RSS subscribers
By the end of August (2007) they will publish the secret message and you have to email them. I guess this is so they know you are still subscribed. They will pick a winner who emails them.
At the moment the prize is $300 but if they get 10,000 subscribers before the competition closes they will double the prize money to $600. As I write they have 5772 readers.
This is a great idea for attracting new subscribers. Firstly it's really easy to enter but what is clever about this competition is that most will probably forget about the competition and stay subscribed. This also means that the few that will email them when they get the secret RSS message will have great odds of winning.
The champions of feed management FeedBurner have announced that their Pro service is now free. The basic service they offer was already free but they have added the previous pay for Pro service to everyone.
FeedBurner Stats PRO
FeedBurner Stats PRO allows you to see the estimated reach or number of active subscribers. You will now also get stats for item views and clicks.
The other service that you also now get without having to pay id the MyBrand service. The branding option allows you to use a feed URL with your domain name rather that the standard URL that uses the FeedBurner domain.
I am sure this move whilst not ground breaking will be appreciated by their user base.
Google's strategic take over of the internet continues hot on the heels the YouTube buyout comes the news the Google now own FeedBurner.
FeedBurner manages some 600,000 RSS feeds that are read by 2 million people everyday. That's a lot of eyeballs and that is one of the main reasons why Google have made the purchase.
What does this mean for FeedBurner users
At the moment nothing will change. FeedBurner is just a cog in Google's plan for internet domination. Google didn't have a foot in the RSS door so why not buy the market leader , plus it will make a niche partner for Google feed reader.
Long term it looks like FeedBurner will be a channel for advertising to be integrated into their Adsense and Adwords systems. This will probably mean it will be easier for publishers and advertisers to use RSS as an advertising channel.
Over at Frantic industries they have produced a list of the top 40 most subscribed to RSS feeds.
Feedburner is an RSS feed manager that provides users with statistics on their RSS subscribers. These stats are also available to the wider public via the feed counter that the RSS publisher displays on their website. If you sign up for Feedburners API then you can programmatically access Feedburner stats.
Jerome Bertrams founder of FeedYes has just let me know that he is auctioning off his site. FeedYes allows you to create an RSS feed from a site that doesn't have an news feed.
I hadn't heard of Jerome's site until he emailed me so on your behalf I took a quick peek.
HTML to RSS
The site is simple enough to use. You start off by entering the URL of the site, enter a tag, select your language and the click the button. The software behind the site will do it's best to create a feed from the links and headlines it finds on the site.
This sort of RSS tool is useful for keeping up to date on sites that do not already have a feed. FeedYes will probably work best with blogs due to their logical structure.
If you are interested in buying the site (you will need deep pockets) there is a page set up for you to make a bid.
Mark has come up with some PHP code as he was worried about depending on a third party and Feedburner benefiting from your content being indexed. This means that your content show up on search engines such as Google but for the Feedburner site. Although on the plus side if you have a site low in the SERPS then you content being indexed higher in the ranking albeit for Feedburner could get your site a little more exposure.
Here is the code Mark has used.
$ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_USERAGENT, $useragent);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $feedburnerfeed);
$data = curl_exec($ch);
You can get the full instructions on how to use it at his site. There is also a comment by the Feedburner CTO stating that the stats will not report desktop clients correctly.
If you use Feedburner to manage your RSS feeds then you will have noticed a significant leap in RSS subscribers. This is because Feedburner can now report on Google Feebfetcher, the bot that grabs RSS feeds for Google Reader and for the Google personalized homepage.
Who's the RSS daddy
It appears that many web publishers have reported a significant rise in reported RSS subscribers. Although not initially that significant it does show one trend that Bloglines may find disturbing. Google Reader is now the most popular Feed aggregator surpassing Bloglines as the previous favourite.
Looks like Google have been waiting for just the right moment to allow Feedburner to start reporting on their numbers. It certainly looks like big G has been waiting until their reader has become established.
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