Update: I recorded episode 278 after posting this blog post. Click here to listen.
I typically get between 40 to 100+ emails each day with quick questions. However, today may just break a record. This morning, I returned from my walk only to find an unusually high volume of emails, Twitter notifications, Facebook messages, etc. It seems that something had happened with Feedburner stats and a lot of people are worried.
One email has the subject “Feedburner Disaster” and reads, “I’m sure you’ve been inundated with e-mails about feedburner, just wanted to state another case where a feed (mine) has gone to zero subscribers. I really look forward to any info you can share on this. There’s a lot of grim predictions going around about feedburner and I know that you will give us the facts. Thanks!”
One of my friends on Twitter wrote, “Feedburner is broken this morning and gettin' me down. Cliff? Ideas?”
Another email says, “I keep hearing rumblings about Feedburner going away….. How will this affect our Podcasts? Any thoughts?”
The first thing I did was to log into Feedburner to check my own feeds. Sure enough, as you can see in the image below, it seems that Feedburner is reporting that all my podcast feeds have zero subscribers.
The next thing that I did was to look at the actual feeds themselves to see if the rss feed content was there, along with my podcast media enclosures. I have confirmed that everything looks fine as far as that is concerned.
The next thing I did was to go in and generate a brand new Feedburner Feed, from scratch to see if I had any problem getting a new feed set up. This process continued to work flawlessly and I have confirmed that I can subscribe to this new feed and all the media content can be delivered to any podcatcher out there.
My consulting/coaching clients, my Podcasting A to Z students, and all those who have gone through my video tutorials know that I have always warned against following Feedburner stats. If you want to judge the size of your audience, do it by the number of people who are actually downloading each of your episodes. By doing this, you'll also capture that group of people who are clicking the play button right from your website.
Media hosting services, like Libsyn and Blubrry, have built amazing algorithms that are great at giving you a more accurate picture of the number of unique downloads you get to each of the episodes that you put online. While this post is not about stats, there are a number of other amazing things that these media hosting providers can tell you about your audience.
Back to my thoughts on Feedburner. Here's the deal. I recall people worrying about the use of Feedburner as far back as 2005. There certainly are some potential challenges to allowing a third party service to manage something as critical as the main connection between your audience and your content.
However, there are potential challenges with allowing a domain registrar to manage your dns records, or allowing a hosting company to manage the service patches on your web server. There are also potential challenges to allowing a web based company to manage all your email accounts in the cloud. The list of potential challenges of trusting any technology is quite long.
Since 2005, I've had my sites hacked due to a certain web host's security flaws. I've seen my own media hosting company have an issue where my media files were not being delivered due to technical issues on at least ten to fifteen occasions (Usually never more than 1 to 5 hours at most). There have even been at least one or two times where I can recall that Gmail was unaccessible, worldwide, for more than an hour.
In all the time that I've used Feedburner, I've only had one single issue. That one issue is that they have a file size limit of 512K for the original xml file. This has been a known limitation that I've had no issue working around in all my history with podcasting.
Back in the early days, we had only a few options to choose from. We could hand code our own xml files (I know many podcasters who still do this today). We could use stand alone software to build our xml files. Or we could use Feedburner to make the setup of an rss feed with iTunes tags as easy as possible. There were a few other options back in the old days. However, many of them caused more issues than they addressed.
Today, there are a number of other options for creating an rss feed that works well with the Apple Podcasts Directory. One of my favorite plugins these days is the Blubrry PowerPress Podcasting Plugin. It is possible, today, to use nothing more than WordPress and this plugin to get your podcast up and running.
There have been enough times where I've attempted to use the channel or category podcasting options for clients and ran into an issue where feeds would not generate properly because there was another plugin that conflicted with PowerPress. In all fairness, the conflict, in each of these situations, was due to the result of poor coding on behalf of the other plugin causing the conflict.
However, I know far too many people who use these offending plugins and as a result, I have opted to continue to teach a method of setting up a podcast that has not, YET, failed me. That method includes the use of Feedburner.
Now the “anxiety” over the thought of using Feedburner heated up quite a bit when a competing 3rd party rss feed service, Feedblitz, wrote a blog post with the misleading title, “FeedBurner Shut Down: The Facts – and Tales from the Front Line.”
On July 26th of this year, Feedburner had made a decision to shut down its Twitter account, an account that it had not posted to in over a year. That same day, they also announced that they were shutting down their AdSense For Feeds blog, a blog that they hadn't posted anything to since October 2010.
Up to today, it was pretty easy to pass off what Feedblitz has been doing as nothing more than using scare tactics in an attempt to get you to switch over to their service for the management of your rss feeds.
I certainly have my own reasons for using Feedburner and my decision to do so is not born out of ignorance. But I do agree with the heart of the message that Todd Cochrane shared when he blogged about this issue. He wrote, “If you were ignorant enough to use FeedBurner in the first place, don’t be foolish and switch to a service that is crying wolf and suggesting Feedburner is going away!”
As of today, Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 11:10am Eastern Time, I still do not believe that Feedburner is going to shut down. I have confirmed that they do seem to be having a technical issue with their stats reporting. However, at this time, I see that content delivery is still 100% functional.
It is possible that I could be proven wrong. However, I am not yet convinced that the sky is falling. My own prediction is that the stats issue will be fixed within the next 24 to 48 hours. If this is true, I still urge all podcasters to ignore Feedburner stats.
If at any point, Feedburner stops updating our feeds, which would halt the delivery of our content to our audience, for more than 24 hours, it is at that point that I would begin to have anxiety over this issue.
I will admit that today's event, and the reaction to it, does cause me to think that it's time for me to build a contingency plan. It is likely that if I am ever forced to make a change to my method of building an iTunes optimized rss feed that will work in every situation, I will tend to lean toward utilizing or creating software that would allow for the manual creation of an rss feed, outside of WordPress.
This is going on my “Project List.” However, unless I become convinced that the Feedburner Sky really is falling, this would be something that I would have custom built in 2013. Only time will tell if I need to bump it up on my list of priorities.
For those who are experiencing a great deal of anxiety over this Feedburner stats issue, I suggest not losing too much sleep over this and see if your feed stats are back up by Monday.
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