Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: CHANGING YOUR RSS FEED

RSS pedro

If you've been around Twitter or looked at your Google Reader this week, you've probably heard rumblings about Google shutting down FeedBurner. If you don't know what FeedBurner is (or was, or possibly soon won't be), it's the most popular RSS tool on the interwebs. RSS, or really simple syndication, tells your blog readers that you've published a new post. It's what publishes your links and content to feed readers, FaceBook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

FeedBurner is an excellent RSS service. First and foremost, it's free; it provides analytics, a subscribe by email option, podcast options, automatically feeds into social media sites like Twitter, splices information from multiple feeds, allows you to monetize your feed, etc. etc. HOWEVER, this summer the FeedBurner blog and twitter account were both shut down, and the FeedBurner API (application programming interface--basically all the analytic features FeedBurner offers) will be shut down October 20th (Google Developers).

Will FeedBurner be shut down entirely? No one knows. Google has neither confirmed nor denied the death of, or indeed addressed the issue at all. Some say Google gets too much out of FeedBurner in advertizing, and that it's too popular, for the site to go black. But overseas versions of the site, namely, did shut down without any warning in July, leaving Asian bloggers stranded without an RSS feed or a way to reach their subscribers (FeedBlitz Blog). Personally, I've suspected Google of wanting to kill RSS ever since they "redesigned" (if removing popular features and making something less user-friendly can accurately be called a redesign) Google Reader last year. Either way, the pertinent point is that FeedBurner no longer has any support for its users and is cutting down on services, making it clear Google is consigning the site to the internet graveyard. To be on the safe side, it's probably a good idea to start thinking about switching your feed.

For this Bloggiesta mini-challenge, your challenge is to switch your RSS feed from FeedBurner and notify your subscribers. Once you've finished, paste the link to your notification post in the Mr. Linky.

Step One: Do you have a FeedBurner feed?

You have to link your sites to FeedBurner manually, so if you don't remember signing up, you probably never did. But it's simple to double check: just mouse over your subscribe button. If text pops up saying, "Subscribe with FeedBurner," or if the link that shows up looks something like this:
your RSS is going through FeedBurner.

Step Two: Getting a new feed.

The Good News

All the popular blogging platforms--Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, etc.--have their own RSS feeds you can use for free. You can easily revert to the default feed in your blog settings (in Blogger, go to Settings>Other>Post Feed Redirect URL>Remove), and you're done.

If your site doesn't have its own RSS feed for some reason, then you probably don't have FeedBurner because it basically just redirects your already-existing RSS feed through its own API and services. However, if you would like an RSS feed and don't have one, you can create one manually. Sarah at Puss Reboots had a challenge for this during a previous Bloggiesta, and it's relatively simple. See Bloggiesta RSS Mini-Challenge for more details.

The Bad News

If you're looking for a free alternative with all the features of FeedBurner, there isn't one. Blogging platform feeds will not publish subscriptions by e-mail, offer analytics, push posts to RSS readers so your readers don't have to wait 10-12 hours to see them, or do anything else beyond publishing a basic RSS feed.

As far as analytics goes, you could rely on Google Analytics or another analytical tool in place of FeedBurner's API information. If you want e-mail subscriptions (and I can promise a lot of your readers do) you can set up a separate RSS-to-email service using MailChimp, which is free as long as you don't have more than 2000 subscribers or 12,000 posts a month.

If you want post splicing, monetization, push publishing, and other features, however, the best options I've found so far are:
  • FeedBlitz (Pay for service-I've heard this is also a pain to set up and expensive)
  • PostRank (Pay for service-haven't heard anything good or bad about it)
  • Mint (Pay for service-sounds very cool but pricey)
  • FeedCat (Free, seems a little sketchy)
  • FeedIty (Pay for service, with a free limited option)
  • RapidFeeds (Pay for service, with a free limited option)
I can't tell you what service you should use or what it's worth to you, money-wise. For one, I haven't tried any of these feed services; and for another I don't make money from my blog, so I'm loathe to spend money on it. If you do make money from your blog, though, especially with RSS feed ads, then you'll probably want a more sophisticated feed service. It all depends on what your particular blog requires.

If you want more information to help you make a decision, here are some good articles you should look at:
The last post offers more questions than answers, but the blogger has great suggestions and raises good points you should think about before you make a commitment to move your RSS service. As I've said, the wait-and-see decision is tempting but iffy, as FeedBurner could shut down unexpectedly. If you're frozen with indecision, to me it seems like the best choice is to switch to your platform's default feed; then at least your blog will have a feed when/if FeedBurner shuts down.

Keep in mind, too, that you don't have to delete your FeedBurner feed, even if you move to another service.

Step Three: Let Your Subscribers Know

Now that you've gone through that headache, you have to let your subscribers know to update their subscriptions. The easiest way to do this is through a post. You can find great examples at S. Krishna Books and Beth Fish Reads.

Notice both of these posts have the RSS links IN THE POST. Don't make it any harder on your readers to subscribe to your new feed than it has to be. Remember RSS or Atom feeds are links, and you can put a direct link to your new feed into a post the same way you would insert any other kind of link.

Some things to think about:

Email subscriptions

Don't forget to export a list of your e-mail subscribers. Then you can easily import them into your new feed or newsletter. Just click on your FeedBurner link and go to Publicize>Email Subscriptions>Subscription Management>View Subscriber Details>Export CSV.

Update links

You'll need to update your RSS button links, Networked Blogs feed, and any other site or service that uses your RSS feed. If you're anything like me, you've probably forgotten most of them, so this could take a while. Fortunately, this isn't something that has to be done immediately unless you delete your FeedBurner account (another reason to hold off on that for a bit).

Questions? Comments? Please share them and your experiences in the comments! And don't forget to link to your feed notification post in the Mr. Linky in order to complete the challenge.


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