I looked at FeedBurner a year and half ago, but dismissed it at the time as I saw the service's outages as an unnecessary dependency - if it goes down, my feed goes down with it. To cap off my doubts at the time there was a significant outage just as I was considering. (As Kevin Burton points out and based on his smart suggestion, FeedBurner is now solving that dependency issue).
In mid September of 2005 I decided to revisit the FeedBurner option. I was really impressed by the subscriber experience (usability, options) it provides and the metrics reporting (I'm a bit of stats freak) and other features.
A big motivation of mine has been move to FeedBuner to ensure I can still reach my readers even if I move from this blog or start blogging elsewhere (in addtion or instead of). I can also add more specific feeds (remixed, topic or media-specific, etc). Conversely, FeedBurner allows redirects from their feeds in case I ever want to move from their service to another feedgen service. The feed therefore has become 'mine'.
So I gave it a shot. Since creating the FeedBurner feed, I've gained 400 net-new subscribers (circulation) of the new feed - this is plus whatever I had gained prior to September (I estimate there are around 700-900 subscribers to my other 'old' feed. (If you think you're one of these subscribers - and you will be if you subscribed before Sept - please update with the new feed, thanks).
What I find really interesting is the ability to see which items interest my subscribers and understand how Itemviews (number of times an individual content item has been displayed in a feed reader) drives clickthoughs. Here are the past month's top 10 items:
On average, each item is generating around a 16% clickthrough rate (FeedBurner's clickthough definition is: requests from individuals and bots for a specific content item's original linked content from the feed), not including the 1st item).
The first item is an anomaly (Rank 1 - How to make your own web mashup). The anomaly comes courtesy of J Wynia's OPML Sampler (I blogged about this a while back). Because FeedBurner's Itemviews records referrer tracking, I am able to understand what was causing the skewed number for that Rank 1 item. I can see where the feed is being resyndicated and republished beyond individual feed reader applications (in this case through OPML Sampler around 700 times). Since J Wynia hasn't refreshed OPML Sampler, this Rank 1 item will continue to be Rank 1, so I can at least dismiss this item as an anomaly.
I'm also able to see the distribution by feed reader. Bloglines takes the lion share (31%), Followed by NewsGator and FeedDemon. This has remained pretty stable. The Bloglines number is confirmed by Bloglines owns stats for the FeedBurner feed - exactly in fact. My old feed shows 208 Bloglines subscibers (one reason why I estimate around 800-1000 subscribers total to the old feed).
I've also been tracking my non-FeedBurner stats. In December the blog got around 290,000 pageviews and around 190,000 RSS views (the equivalent to FeedBurner's Itemviews - these are of the old RSS feed, not including FeedBurner stats).
Notice how closely correlated the RSS and pageviews appear to be.
Note: even though FB RSS itemsview aren't counted in the above graph, RSS is still growing according to these numbers either a) because subscribers are still finding the old RSS / Atom feeds or b) the FB pings to the original feed are accounting for the growth I'm seeing from these other stats I get - I'm not sure either way.
As I'm doing this analysis it seems FeedBurner is missing some depth in the reporting tool. Right now, the item sats only let me see the top 30 ranked items. I'd like to see all of them to get totals. Also, an export function similar to that provided for the circulation would be great too
Tags: RSS, FeedBurner