I got into a twitter discussion yesterday with some people about turning off Feedburner on their blogs, since the rumors are Feedburner is going away (and even if it’s not, it’s been unreliable and is clearly not a priority for Google). I made a decision to turn off Feedburner over a year ago because I felt Google was going to do away with it at some point, and since then, I’ve seen nothing to indicate Google has plans to enhance the tool. It seems to be leaving it to slowly die of neglect. Because of that, I’m glad I stopped using the service, and I suggest everyone consider removing their RSS feeds from it while they can plan the migration rather than waking up one morning to unpleasant surprises and a crisis migration.
As part of that talk, I did some quick research on what needed to be done and I thought it might be helpful to others to put those notes online here. These notes are assuming your site is running with WordPress, but they should be generally useful for most sites on other platforms like Drupal.
There are three aspects of Feedburner that might impact someone trying to migrate themselves off of the service:
- RSS Feed
- Email subscriptions
Most users use Feedburner to redistribute their RSS feeds off their site. In return, they get some stats on usage, and Google spends some of it’s network feeding the RSS instead of it coming off of your site. Migrating from feedburner on your WordPress site involves changing your RSS links to point to your local feed instead of Feedburner, and then disabling Feedburner and having it point existing RSS subscribers back to your site.
The RSS feeds in your wordpress can be set up either by the use of a plug-in. The first step in migrating your RSS back to your local feed is to disable whichever plug-in you are using. (note: if you read this instruction and go “huh?” then you probably need to find a friendly geek to help you through this).
It’s possible that your Feedburner feeds were hard-coded onto your page, so you need to examine all of the links to see whether disabling the plug-in converted them back to your local RSS (the local RSS feed is typically a URL like <site>/feed). If you still see links pointing to Feedburner, you’ll need to dig into your theme files and find and change the hardcoded links.
Once you’ve taken these steps, all of your RSS links should point to your site instead of feedburner, and all new subscribers will subscribe to your local feed. Your existing subscribers are still subscribed to you via Feedburner.
To change that, you need to log onto Feedburner. There is an option to disable the feed. Feedburner will try to talk you out of it (of course), but if you insist, it will disable it, and for the next 30 days when someone goes to the old Feedburner link they’ll get a redirect pointing them back to your RSS feed. Most RSS readers are set up so that when it sees that redirect it’ll automatically update the subscription to use the new link directly.
So, once you’ve updated your site to stop pointing to Feedburner, and disabled the feed on the Feedburner site, you’re done. For the next month, when your existing subscribers pick up the feed, they’ll be automatically redirected to your local feed. It’s always a good idea to blog about the change for those users who’s RSS readers don’t follow the redirect properly, but it should be automatic for the most part.
Feedburner has an option to let users subscribe to your site via Email. If you use that, migrating the email off of Feedburner is going to complicate this, and you should do that before trying to migrate the RSS.
The bad news: you’re going to have to choose a new service to handle your email, it’ s not something you can (or should) handle on your WordPress site directly. trust me on this, I used to do email for a living. The good news: there are a number of sites that do this kind of email (but depending on the size of your subscriber list, it might cost you). Here are links to pages that explain this migration for a few services:
I’ve worked with aWeber and MailChimp in the past for various projects and both of them I’ve found are reliable and work well with good support. I haven’t worked with Feedblitz. you’ll need to evaluate these options and decide which one makes sense for you and what the costs are. All of these sites should be able to handle a migration from Feedburner.
This migration may take some time, especially getting your site updated. I’d suggest setting up and testing the new email setup and then updating your subscription pages, and then doing the Feedburner migration in three separate steps to minimize the possibility of chaos. One nice thing about migrating to a commercial emailer is that if you decide to do a site newsletter as well as a blog posting remaining setup you can integrate the two and do some marketing to get people on the e-newsletter.
The big loss in moving away from Feedburner is the loss of some easy statistics on how many subscribers you have. There aren’t any great options for replacing this, but there are a few things that might help. If you use Google Analytics (you do, right?), then check out this solution form ZoomMetrix. It looks like a nice solution, but the negative is that it’ll only work for new subscribers. There’s no easy way to add this tracking to existing subscribers.
The other way to get subscriber stats is to parse out your web site log files. There’s a project underway to build a script to create good stats out of an Apache log file; this is something I’m looking to implement for my site. Or you can do what I do, and mostly just not worry about it much. Seriously.
Hopefully, these links will help people looking to migrate off of Feedburner. If you have other suggestions, improvements, or corrections, please drop me an email or leave a comment.