Feedburner, You Cut Me Deep

Joe Thornley wrote earlier this week about his disappointment with Technorati, the once-market-leading tool that has fallen out of favour. He also reached out and nudged a few of us to give our thoughts on "social media tools with which they once had a warm and deep relationship with that has now lapsed."

A bunch of other people have contributed their thoughts on Technorati and on other tools that have disappointed.

I could jump on the anti-Technorati bandwagon and point out all the flaws there. I agree with them — Technorati doesn’t just fail to offer the functionality of Google Blog Search; its own functionality doesn’t even work.

When I sort posts linking to my site by freshness, the one was:

Technorati screen capture - last comment 14120 days ago

That’s roughly 38 years ago, whereas Google Blog Search says it was this morning. Enough said.

Feedburner, We Need To Talk

If we’re on the subject of tools that need a little TLC, I could easily talk about Jaiku, Plurk, Pownce, SocialThing! (although I harbour hopes that that one will re-surface after its acquisition). However, I’m going to talk about Feedburner.

In case you’re new to Feedburner, it’s essentially a service that takes the RSS feed from your website and lets you analyze subscriber stats, make your site easy to subscribe to, monetize it through ads and generally do lots of cool things. It’s a great service in principle, and it’s pretty ubiquitous on blogs. Bloggers rely on it to the point that many integrate it into their site to show how many subscribers they have:

Unfortunately, like Technorati, the service frequently breaks.

Whereas I used to look to my Feedburner stats with excitement (I’m a big numbers geek) to see whether my posts resonated with people (hence my subscriber count would go up), nowadays I look more with trepidation, wondering whether the stats will work each day. 


Because Feedburner seems to randomly mis-count subscriber numbers, as this 50% drop on one Thursday this month shows:

Feedburner screen capture - nearly 50% drop in one day

What’s more, Feedburner’s numbers are virtually indecipherable. I still haven’t worked out why its "view" stats never matches the ones I get from my WordPress Stats plugin or from Google Analytics. Its "reach" figure, while a neat idea, makes no sense to me either. Why, when Google Analytics says I have hundreds of daily unique visitors and even more subscribers, do I have a "reach" of 70?

Joe asked us to describe tools with which we once had a warm relationship that has now lapsed. I would say moving from a relationship based on trust to one founded on apprehension, opacity and trepidation fits the bill.

Feedburner has a virtual monopoly right now – I know of no other tools that serve its funtion. As with Technorati, its failure to develop (after its purchase by Google) leaves an opportunity for another company to come forward and take its place. I know I’m ready to move on.

Do you know of any contenders?