Why I Have Given Up FeedBurner (and what I now use for e-mail subscriptions)

Why I Have Given Up FeedBurner (and what I now use for e-mail subscriptions)

What I used FeedBurner for

Since starting my blog I have been using FeedBurner to send out e-mail updates to my e-mail subscribers, and “burn” my feed, which allows subscribers to easily add my RSS feed to their own RSS reader.

However, Google has given us many signs that the end of FeedBurner may be near. In September of 2012, Google discontinued FeedBurner’s API (which allows third party clients/sites to grab and display FeedBurner statistics). The service itself remained running, but third party clients were no longer able to grab FeedBurner data. Then, this month, Google announced that they will be shutting down Google Reader, a service that is in the same ‘area’ as FeedBurner, in the sense that it has to do with RSS feeds. Google has made it clear that they want to cut down on the number of projects they support. Although Google has not said that they will be shutting down FeedBurner, all these signs lead me to believe that the end may be near!

Even though nothing is concrete right now, I think I just wanted to be prepared, and I didn’t really want to be at Google’s mercy. So, I decided to search for other options.

And so, I sought out a FeedBurner alternative

When searching for a FeedBurner alternative, I had one thing in mind: e-mail subscriptions. I don’t care that much about a service to “burn” my RSS feed, because my RSS feed exists already without any third party applications, and I don’t need a third party application in order for people to add my feed to their RSS reader (all they need is a feed URL—which comes with WordPress). But the one thing I absolutely needed was a way for people to subscribe to my blog via e-mail.

The sites I chose NOT to opt into… and why

I researched several different e-mail subscription sites, and I’ll explain why I chose not to go with those options.

JetPack — A WordPress Plugin

The WordPress plugin JetPack comes with an e-mail subscription service. People can subscribe to your blog and then WordPress.com handles the distribution of e-mails. But this plugin comes with several downsides:

Jetpack
  • The e-mail format cannot be customized in any way.
  • WordPress shortcodes and the_content filters do not show up in the e-mails at all.
  • You don’t get any statistics about your subscribers, other than the number that you have (but you don’t know how many have clicked on e-mails, or how many unsubscribed after each e-mail, etc.).
  • JetPack is known to slow down some blogs significantly. I have seen one blog first hand that had JetPack adding an extra 45 seconds onto page load time. To put that in perspective, most intensive plugins should add less than 1 or 2 seconds to load time.

So, assuming your blog doesn’t suffer from the last point (slowing down your site IMMENSELY), then JetPack does do the job, and it is free. But it’s not a realistic option for me because a big chunk of my post information (all the “book info” at the top of reviews, like title/author/publisher/rating) is added on using the add_filter WordPress function, which gets stripped from JetPack. Plus, I just don’t like how inflexible it is.

MailChimp

MailChimp is one of the most well known e-mail subscription/newsletter services. It’s certainly one of the first that springs to my mind when someone says “newsletter”. However, their price plans are not cheap for a “hobbyist” blogger.

MailChimp has one free option that allows for up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 e-mails per month. But I quickly determined that this plan would not work for me. I post almost every single day (sometimes more) and I currently have about 400 e-mail subscribers. At one post per day and 400 subscribers, that’s 12,000 e-mails per month. Now, I am currently within the limits, but this allows for ZERO maneuvering. As soon as I get new followers, I will no longer qualify for this free plan. So let’s look at the payment plans:

Monthly price $10 $15 $30 $50 $75 $150 $240
Subscribers 0-500 501 – 1,000 1,001 – 2,500 2,501 – 5,000 5,001 – 10,000 10,001 – 25,000 25,001 – 50,000
Send limit Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited

With my current amount of subscribers, I would have to pay $10 per month. But fairly soon, I would be slipping into the $15 per month range. Even the $10 per month option is more than I pay per month for my hosting. As a hobbyist blogger with zero advertising on her site (other than Amazon affiliate links, which give me next to nothing), I’m not prepared to double my current monthly blog spendings, just for the sake of e-mail subscriptions. Not when there are other, cheaper alternatives.

So, MailChimp was out.

Mad Mimi

Another one I looked at was Mad Mimi, but this had the same problem as MailChimp… or even worse. Their free plan allows for 2,500 contacts and 12,500 e-mails per month. The e-mails per month is 500 more than MailChimp, but I still run into the same problem… Soon, I’d end up having to upgrade. Their basic plan—at $10 per month—allows for 500 contacts and unlimited e-mails. But their second up is the pro plan, which costs $42 per month. I stopped reading after that.

FeedCat

Since creating this post, FeedCat has been suggested to me. It looks like they do free RSS feed “burning” and e-mail subscriptions. This might be a good option if you’re using Blogger and want to move away from FeedBurner and have no other option, but I’m personally not a fan. FeedCat has very little information on their site without registering and I find their interface clunky and unattractive.

But if you’re on Blogger and your options are more limited, this might be a good one to look into.

Long story short: these pay per month options are not good for me!

I simply could not find a reasonable pay-per-month service that worked for me. So I started looking for a better deal: one-time payment plans.

Introducing: MyMail — Email Newsletter Plugin for WordPress

This is a premium plugin that costs $25. This is a one time payment—NOT a monthly payment. Once you buy the plugin it’s yours forever. This plugin allows you to do two main things:

  • Create e-mail newsletters straight from the WordPress dashboard. You can essentially write up an e-mail and send it to your entire mailing list.
  • Set up an automated newsletter campaign that will e-mail your entire mailing list every time a new post goes up on your blog, and you can include that latest post in the e-mail (basically exactly what FeedBurner does).
  • Expanding on the second point, you can even create separate subscription lists that allow people to subscribe to certain categories of your blog. So people could opt in to receive only e-mails from a certain category (like Bitchin’ Book Blog or Reviews).

MyMail - Track Recipients
Track receivers, opens, clicks, unsubscribers, and bounces for each e-mail.
Image from MyMail

It actually does a lot more than this, but those are the key things for the sake of this post.

MyMail E-Mail Creation Template
MyMail E-Mail Creation Template
Click to Enlarge

You then hook up the e-mail settings on the plugin with your hosting and send e-mails straight from your web hosting account. But the great thing is that this is even more customizable than FeedBurner! I’m sure some of you have messed around with MailChimp and you’ve seen how you can customize the look and feel of your e-mail and add in extra text and notes with your e-mails.. this can all be done on MyMail as well! And, of course, you can import a file with all your subscribers! So, on FeedBurner, I can export a list of my subscribers, and then go to MyMail subscribers and import that list so that none of my subscribers get lost.

However, before buying and using this plugin, you should check with your hosting to see if they have any limits on sending e-mails. If you have hundreds or thousands of subscribers, you might be sending hundreds or thousands of e-mails per day. Your web host might not like this and could revoke your hosting account. Yeah, scary stuff. So make sure you get in touch with your hosting provider and find out if they have any limits or restrictions on the amount of e-mails you can send per day or per month.

Note: By default the plugin does filter out all shortcodes etc. from the post content in the e-mails. This also means all UBB book info will be stripped out. There is a way to change this though, which I did for my blog. I might end up posting a full tutorial on how to set this up…

Just to be safe, I signed up with Amazon Simple Email Service

Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) is a highly scalable and cost-effective bulk and transactional email-sending service for businesses and developers. Amazon SES eliminates the complexity and expense of building an in-house email solution or licensing, installing, and operating a third-party email service. Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES)

Basically, Amazon SES is a way of sending your e-mails through Amazon instead of through your web host. This is not a newsletter service. You can’t stick in an RSS feed URL and have e-mail subscriptions go out like FeedBurner. This is just an alternative way of sending an e-mail, and you’re meant to connect this service with the plugin I mentioned before (MyMail). If your host does have limits, you can use this Amazon SES service to avoid any scary “getting kicked out of your hosting account” scenarios. However, this is a paid service… BUT, it’s extremely cheaper than MailChimp or the other alternatives. Here is a price quote:

Email messages are charged at $0.10 per thousand. Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES)

This means, that for every 1,000 e-mails you send, you pay $0.10. So, for me, sending 12,000 e-mails per month (1 post per day to 400 subscribers), that’s $1.20. The MailChimp equivalent would be $10 – $15.

Putting it all together

So what does this mean? I paid a one time $25 fee for my MyMail plugin. I installed this on WordPress. Then, on the settings page, where I configure how my e-mails will be sent, I put in my Amazon SES credentials and pay about $1.20 per month in e-mail sending fees.

Other benefits

One of the biggest benefits of using a WordPress plugin instead of a third party client is that I have physical access to all the code that’s responsible for sending out e-mails. I can change anything I want in the code and I have complete control. I don’t have to worry about a third party service being discontinued, because all the code for composing and sending out newsletters is hosted on my very own blog, on my web hosting account. I love being in full control and not having to rely on a third party service that could be changed, disrupted, or discontinued.

Alternative to MyMail

MyMail does cost $25 and so far, I highly recommend it. But if you want a 100% free option, you could check out the Wysija Newsletters plugin for WordPress. It’s free, and it looks like it’s similar to MyMail. It also has over 300,000 downloads with an average rating of 4.9 of 5 stars! I can’t personally vouch for it though since I haven’t used it.

What service do you use for your blog’s e-mail subscriptions? Will you continue to use FeedBurner or have you switched to something else?

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I'm a 28 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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36 comments

    1. Well Blogger blogs come with an RSS feed, so you don’t technically need a website to “burn” your feed. But you do need something for e-mail subscriptions.

      But the problem is that I literally do not think there is a “permanently free” option out there other than FeedBurner (and a few WordPress plugins).

      I mean, you could use sites like MailChimp, but I pointed out how expensive it is after a certain point, and literally all the subscription services I found were similar to that.

      I guess in your case, it might be best to stick with FeedBurner and hope that they don’t shut it down (and if they do, cross that bridge when you come to it). Because I’m pretty sure that might be the only 100% free option out there right now.

          1. I’m not really sure. It looks kind of sketchy. For example, I checked out this page: http://www.revresponse.com/frustrated-feedburner-switch-to-revresponse-rss-to-email-tool and the “What would YOUR newsletter look like with our tool?” doesn’t recognize my RSS feed at all, which is worrying.

            Maybe you could check out FeedCat? Someone recommended it. My only problem with it is that there’s so little factual information on their site without signing up and actually registering your blog, which I don’t really want to do.

  1. Interesting. I have not heard of MyMail before, but it really sounds like a great alternative. We’ve talked about the headache known as Jetpack! While it doesn’t slow our site down (thank goodness), the email short code thing is annoying. Most of our subscribers are by way of email and like you, I’m not really worried about our feed.

    I’ll be on the lookout for your tutorial on changing that with MyMail before I decide to switch!

    Steph Sinclair recently posted: In 10 Lines: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    1. I’m working on a tutorial now. 🙂 And since you’re on a VPS you probably don’t have an e-mail sending limit and you wouldn’t need to use Amazon SES (but you should still ask your provider!).

  2. What about feedcat? It’s very far from pretty, but it does both RSS and e-mail subscriptions.

    For the time being, I’m using Jetpack, and I haven’t seen any signs of it slowing down my site, although I may be wrong on that.

    Thanks for the info – it’s always helpful, and I usually learn new things that I can apply to my own blog.

    1. If Jetpack works for you then that’s awesome! The only two problems are slowness (which only affects some people, so if it doesn’t affect you that’s great!) and the lack of customization. But I guess for a free option it’s pretty good.

      I guess FeedCat might be a good option for people who have no other alternative (like Blogger users, who have less free options). I really don’t like the way it looks though!

      1. I agree that FeedCat e-mails are not pretty. I hate that there’s no way to even change the font, but I had to have something and it was the first option I found.

        I might check out one of your other options later, when I feel like making some changes on my blog 🙂

        Lexxie recently posted: Feature and Follow #36
  3. Ugh why does Google hate us all so much?! *cries*

    Most of my subscribers are RSS based (I think) so I’m not too concerned about this. And for email subscriptions, I don’t have that option since I switched to WP….whoops! Looks like you’ve shown me something I need to fix, pronto! Lol

    If they remove Feedburner though, I’ll probably just switch to Jetpack cause I’m cheap 😀 lol

    Kelly recently posted: Book Review: Mind Games
  4. Oh I am totally going with MyMail once I have finally set it up correctly. I love how you can customize the mail and even include some older posts at the Bottoms. This finally seems like everything I ever wanted to have!! THANK you so much for all your mails and support, now I just need to get SES going.. ugh!!
    I’ll keep you updated! Thanks hon!

    DannyBookworm recently posted: That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard
  5. So far Feedburner is still sending out my emails daily. Though it’s showing everyone’s feed count at zero today.

    Since I’m on Blogger, I might move to Feed blitz, though I’m not sure if that entails changing my feed addy. I downloaded the whole FAQ last October and I have yet to actually read it.

    Or if Feedburner is still working for RSS, I might use Mail Chimp and start doing emails three days a week to stay under the limit. Do people really need to get an email from me every day? Probably not.

    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted: Blog Tour: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
    1. Jen – I work for FeedBlitz and we have had a heap of new subscribers since folks read posts like this. We think FeedBurner will get killed off sometime soon.

      You don’t need to change your feed address with FeedBlitz.

      I hope we can welcome you soon.

  6. I think it’s funny that all the “Oh no the sky is falling” feedburner/RSS posts never once mention podcasting. If you’re a podcaster, email doesn’t cut it. Sure.. lots of people suggest various alternatives, but of all the ranking content, I have yet to find a single one that makes a really good case for a solid alternative that is reasonably priced, much less free – and not one of them mentions podcasting.
    Also.. whats the deal with requiring a website URL? It isn’t even asterisked.. is this just an attempt to data mine or what?

  7. This was SO helpful. I’m in the process of setting up a new blog/website, and wanted to integrate an email list from the beginning as an experiment, but did not want to pay a monthly fee, and the options looked dismal. I’m so happy I stumbled upon this, so thanks!!

  8. Great information!, Ashley.

    I must say you are so young but at the same time so talented!

    I share with you the need to be as independent as I can be from third party services.

    But, relying on your shared hosting service to send e-mails is NOT being independent. You might need a VPS for this (and pay $400+ a year)

    So, this combination of WP plugin + Amazon service seem as great option to look up.

    Keep the good work!

    Regards,
    Pablo

    1. Yeah, in most cases shared hosts actually have a hard limit on the amount of emails you can send. So exceeding that could result in you violating the terms of service.

      Amazon SES is so cheap though, at only $1-$2 per month. Plus, sending mass emails is exactly what it’s intended for!

  9. Thank you so much for your excellent article! I’ve been looking for good alternatives to feedburner and MailChimp and Aweber prices looked pretty terrifying. You offered several great and cost effective solutions! Exactly what I was looking for! Thank you!

  10. When Google Reader got removed I, too, got to thinking Feedburner won’t be so far behind. I went with Mailchimp but yeah it’s def. not free. I use it for both XR and XBT though so I consider it a business expense (I at least get a tax break lol). But then I send usually 3-4 emails a week to my 1300 tour hosts, plus the one RSS email a day to my 4-500 (not sure lol) subs on XR, so having 2 uses from it probably ends up being more worth it for me. I do love the service, too – how it works to send newsletters etc. I definitively didn’t like the alternatives I had found back then (not a fan of Feedcat either and I’ve heard shady things about putting spam on people’s sites). I had not heard of Mymail though I’ll have to go take a look see. Would Amazon SES be better than just using Gmail? That’s what I use for my main email and I send a lot of tour/book events emails to large lists. I’ve found Gmail gets spammed a lot less than sending through my own mailing server so I stuck with it.

    1. Well Gmail has a sending limit of 500 emails per day, so that probably wouldn’t be an option for you. So Amazon SES would definitely be better!

      It’s worth pointing out that I don’t actually use MyMail anymore. I had a bad experience with the plugin breaking during the WordPress 3.9 update and none of my emails would send. The developer was completely unresponsive for like 2 weeks and all the customers were pissed. He did eventually come back and I think he’s available now, but it was too much time for me to go without emails, you know?

      So now I use a plugin I made myself and Mandrill for the actual email sending.

  11. Hi Ashley, I bookmarked this page a while ago hoping to actually implement what you suggested but it looks like you have some new updates. What do you recommend for 5000 email subscribers from Feedburner? I really need to get out of Feed Burner. In your last comment, you mentioned you made your own plugin and Mandrill. Could you provide some suggestions please?

    Thanks, JK

    1. Hiya,

      Well MyMail and Amazon SES or MailPoet and Amazon SES would suit your needs perfectly fine. I just made my own plugin because at one point MyMail stopped working and the developer was MIA for several weeks. That annoyed me and I was sick of relying on someone else’s code.

      But the MyMail developer did eventually come back and start replying to support tickets again. So either that or MailPoet would probably be a fine option. You’d just need to connect that to a third party service to send the actual emails (like Amazon SES). You can’t expect to send out emails to 5,000 subscribers through your web host.

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