Feedburner and FriendFeed: FailBurner

FailburnerFeedburner is probably one of the most-used services available for bloggers. Its RSS analytics, promotion and advertising features have made it a staple of many peoples’ blogging toolkits.

FeedBurner was also a first mover in the market, enabling it to attract a large number of people before viable competitors appeared. Thanks to its purchase by Google, it has been able to take advantage of the powerful Google Analytics system to enhance its statistical reporting.

That’s fortunate, because the team at FeedBurner seems to be doing everything in its power to alienate its users.

Inconsistent Reporting

On one hand you have the random blips in FeedBurner stats, where they tell you that half of your subscribers have disappeared overnight. That alone would be a significant issue for a service providing analytics – for sites publishing those numbers (especially those using those numbers to sell advertising) consistency is critical.

This problem is just that, though – a problem. Frustrating and unacceptable, yes, but still a problem that gets fixed.

Contrast that with the latest silliness.

FriendFeed? Huh?

In the last week, FeedBurner users may have noticed a significant jump in their RSS subscriber numbers. For this site, my total subscribers increased by 25%. On another site of mine, they jumped by 1860%.

This wasn’t caused by a technical problem. The reason for this is that FeedBurner now counts a person’s FriendFeed subscribers in their blog RSS subscription count.

Personally, I completely agree with David Spinks’ take on this. The fact that I subscribe to someone’s FriendFeed doesn’t mean I subscribe to their blog. It means I subscribe to their FriendFeed.

To me, this completely undermines the relevance of FeedBurner’s subscriber numbers. I get essentially zero referrals from FriendFeed, but this site now apparently has another 600 subscribers.

Communications fail

There was no direct communication to users around this change. The only reason I found out was because I noticed the big jump and looked closely at the stats. Where’s the option to turn this off? Where’s the communication with FeedBurber users?

Frankly, this could be the last straw for me. I’ve used Feedburner for several years now, but given that Feedblitz is taking a run at FeedBurner, they finally have a competitor. I may give FeedBlitz a try.

What do you think about this change?

  • I think David’s post was right-on and you reiterated it: just because you subscribe to someone on Friendfeed doesn’t mean you read their blog. Heck, with all the noise on Friendfeed it would be hard to even see when they post something, since it gets lumped in with their Twitter, Facebook, Delicious or Flickr updates. And with Friendfeed now allowing direct import of those you follow on Twitter, it makes the numbers even more bogus. I certainly don’t subscribe via RSS Reader to the blogs of every single person I follow on Twitter.

    The lack of communication from Google/Feedburner is perhaps the most vexing issue. The change should have been communicated and the option to turn off the Friendfeed import should be the default option.

    So often, people end up continuing to use a platform with poor service out of habit or because there’s no real alternative. But this type of action from Feeburner may be what it takes to really get bloggers to reevaluate and move to something else.

  • Meaningless change for me, considering FeedBurner has always counted bots among subscribers, not only people. FeedBurner includes unverified email subscribers, too. So how is this FriendFeed move different? You’re still seeing higher numbers than physical verified people.

    Moreover, Dave, it’s like Twitter follower numbers. You’ve twittered for a while and I’ll hazard a guess 25% or more of your followers are inactive accounts who joined and followed you once upon a time and then no longer use it and never unfollowed you.

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Be more concerned with the frequency of time between post submission and syndication.

  • Pingback: amymengel (amy mengel)()

  • I think the move accurately reflects “reach” which is what these stats are supposed to communicate. RSS is useless if you’re actually measuring subscribers. I mean, it has it’s use, but RSS is a syndication mechanism and a much more appropriate metric is reach. Friendfeed Subscribers are part of reach. I agree with the change myself.

  • Couldn’t agree more, Dave. I also syndicate my blog to my facebook profile where I have over 1000 friends so, by this poor logic, shouldn’t that be another 1000 blog subscribers?
    This makes no sense and really undermines their service. I also most certainly agree a little notification from them would have been nice. I can’t very well count on Dave Fleet to update me on all the changes to the services I subscribe to, now can I???

  • Failburner does make me feel far cooler about myself though. My count when up something like 300%. Woot! You are right the program sucks though.

  • Pingback: ScottMeis (Scott Meis)()

  • Thanks for the link love and glad you agree Dave. Feedburner seems to have done very little right…I’m down for a change already.

  • Pingback: craigritchie (Craig Ritchie)()

  • Pingback: Rebecca_M (Rebecca Atkinson)()

  • Pingback: fowgre (Greg Fowler)()

  • Pingback: Scribnia (Scribnia)()

  • Pingback: mikeschaffer (mikeschaffer)()

  • Pingback: michelfortin (Michel Fortin)()

  • Pingback: Do We Even Need FeedBurner Anymore?()

  • So now I know why my subscribers jumped so much but my page views didn’t! Basically the Feedburner number is meaningless. Kind of like Technorati authority number — a quaint reminder of the past.

  • It is optional, you don’t have to give Feedburner your RSS feed at all, and you don’t have to use the same one.

    There are plenty of methods to create an extra RSS feed, maybe as a separate Feedburner feed.

    I agree with Aaron to some extent that it is a measure of attention, though as I suggested over a year ago, when it does get implemented it should somehow reflect active users.

    I don’t think Feedburner has measured exact subscriber numbers for a long time – as an example there used to be a jump in numbers if your feed was shared in Google Reader.

    For many blogs the real attention is in email lists and twitter followers, or even Facebook.

  • Pingback: 21 Tips for Getting 500 Subscribers in 90 Days with No Blogging Experience - Free Pursuits()

  • Pingback: Feedburner and Friendfeed - Taking all credibility away from Feedburner's readership chicklet()

  • And now.. the friendfeed numbers are gone from the statistics. This is very good – philosophically, but ego-centric clients go ape-shit.

    Feedburner is a pox on Google’s brand until they figure something out. No support. No consistency. I expect more.

  • And now.. the friendfeed numbers are gone from the statistics. This is very good – philosophically, but ego-centric clients go ape-shit.

    Feedburner is a pox on Google’s brand until they figure something out. No support. No consistency. I expect more.