Feedburner has become a ubiquitous part of every blogger’s arsenal. Over the past few months, before I actually got this blog up and running in May, I found Feedburner mentioned in every tips and tricks list on creating a successful blog. The Feedburner redirection plugin for WordPress appeared in almost every list of most important plugins, and there were reams of material on when to and when not to show your Feedburner reader count on your blog. So the question is, if it’s so important, why look for an alternative? After all, everyone uses it.
My main reason would be that I’m not comfortable with giving up the control and hosting of one of the most crucial parts of my blog, the RSS feed, into the hands of an external service. Not when I can be self sufficient in this. And I’m not the only one who shares that view. More recently, rumours were circulating about the possibility of Google aquiring Feedburner. While this was just more tech news to some, the prospect excited some people due to the possibilities of Adsense being integrated into feeds. As always it also filled others with dread about the growing Google monopoly over online services. I guess if you are one of those people, that would be another reason to find alternatives to the Feedburner service, because yesterday the rumour was confirmed. Google has indeed acquired Feedburner for an undisclosed amount, and now everyone is talking about it. For me, however, the main impetus is that it’s a challenge, and I love trying to solve these little technical conundrums.
My first step was to figure out what functionality needed to be replaced. The main one would have to be feed statistics. Most people sign up for Feedburner purely to see that wonderful number of readers widget/chicklet in their side bar. Then there is the ability to let people sign up for email updates on the blog, and last but certainly not the least is feed advertising. Advertising inserted into feeds is the new and growing segment of blog monetisation, and Feedburner has been offering this service for a while now.
I looked around for these three specific requirements and my first hits were actually alternative services to Feedburner. None seem to cover all the options, but if the aim was to purely move away from Feedburner specifically, you could always use Zookoda to manage your email update subscriptions, or you could use Fedafi for the tracking and advertising functions. Since I was looking very specifically for hosted WordPress solutions, I moved on and this is what I found.
The Feedstats plugin is quite simple and effective and it does just what it promises – it provides daily statistics about visitors to your RSS feed.
I have tried out this system on this blog and the results are actually quite helpful. Hits on the feed urls are reported based on the calendar date. These hits are then plotted on a simple bar graph which lets you see traffic trends for the recent past on your blog.
The feed statistics become available on a new tab under ‘dashboard’ in the WordPress administrative back-end. I’m sure these statistics are rudimentary compared to what Feedburner dishes out. There are currently no fine grained stats about which readers are being used etc., but I have found them to be quite adequate to keep track of general trends in feed readership. That’s all I want of it and that should suffice for most bloggers.
The Subscribe2 plugin has been around for a while and has changed hands a few times along the way. But it has always been growing from strength to strength, and it is now a very mature solution for readers to subscribe to email updates of your blog.
The latest version of Subscribe2 at the time of this writing is v2.35. It allows both WordPress registered users and anonymous users to sign up their email address for updates from blogs. This ability for the general public to signup makes this an ample alternative to email update services.
Advertising in RSS feeds depends on an external advertising service, so this functionality cannot be completely fulfilled by any hosted plugins or software unless they allow direct ad sales by the blog owner.
But if you’re not into all that negotiating and sales, Feedvertising from the people at Text-Link-Ads provides the ad management services that you require to monetise your blog RSS feed.
There you have it. By using the above three solutions in conjunction, you can come very close to replacing all Feedburner functionality on your blog. It gives you the satisfaction and security of knowing your feed is being served off your private server without too much outside contribution or interference. And you also get full access to your data and your subscribers.
If you know of blog feed related alternatives I haven’t mentioned here, please leave a comment below and share the information.