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?

10 Responses toFeedburner, You Cut Me Deep

  • Dave, as far as I know nothing exists in the way of competition (I do know of people who have discussed the opportunity for a business venture here, though). As a wordpress user, I always found the built in analytics to be more than enough for me.

  • Hmm, interesting way you talk about Feedburner’s statistics since I know exactly what you mean. However, I rarely look at their stats anymore. I don’t even look at Sitemeter, preferring the look and feel (and depth) of Google Analytics.

    The problem with monopolies that people trust is what happens if Feedburner goes belly-up tomorrow? What happens to the subscribers who may not be tech-literate enough to know what happened?

    Maybe bloggers and content creators would serve an active audience to change the structure of feeds whereby one can be syndicated to more than one feed, whereby if one goes down there’s a backup…and allowing users to subscribe to either feed depending on features.

  • I agree with everything you say about Feedburner (and what the rest are saying about Technorati). I think there is no good way to know who is reading a blog. You just have to have faith that people are.

  • Dave, I gave up on statistics ages ago. If it’s important enough, people will comment, or contact you by email.

  • I’m glad to know that I was not the only one experiencing challenges with Feedburner’s stats. I now just use it as a subscription tool, nothing more. Thanks for your post, Dave.

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