Saturday, April 24, 2021

In search of subscribe-by-email

Mail pieces on a clothes line
EDOARDO TOMMASINI

The impending demise of Feedburner's subscribe-by-email service (July 2021) has many of us weighing our options.

The service is a valuable way to connect with regular readers. Its loss will further erode what is left of Blogger's frayed social layer.

This service is sometimes called RSS-to-email or feed-to-email because it uses your RSS feed to email your posts to readers who request them.

Think, then act

The first step for me when planning a technology change is to specify the features I absolutely require. 

In addition, I want to map out things like desired-but-not-required features, and pricing.

My requirements are not yours! Popular blogs that earn money may benefit from advanced features available from pricier plans in ways that small blogs like this one would not.

Use your requirements to evaluate and screen the different RSS-to-email services on offer.

Opt-in and sender reputation

Emails from Feedburner are very likely to be delivered and not shunted to spam filters. Feedburner has an excellent sender reputation because of its opt-in system.

Only readers can add themselves to the Feedburner service. The list grows organically when readers request a subscription and then confirm it in response to an introductory email. 

This service consequently does not work as a platform for spam. Also, every email has an unsubscribe link.

Emails sent from opt-in services are likely to have very good sender reputations, that metric that internet providers use to filter spam from email.

I consider opt-in, and the reputation it engenders, to be absolute requirements.

User experience and ads

Ideally I would be able to design the emails that are sent and mark them with my own colors and typography. 

However, I do not absolutely require that. Nor do I object to branding from the provider ("an Acme™ email!") if it does not fight with my content.

I think, though, that I will draw the line at advertising inserted by the provider.

I might reconsider that after assessing the options and the actual experience (for instance, if the ads are unobtrusive). 

Nonetheless, at this point I'm considering ad-free to be a requirement.

Automation

I want to be able to manage my list of subscribers. Still, I'd like the acts of adding subscribers and sending emails to take place without my intervention.

Capacity

Whatever the offer is, it needs to be able to accommodate the size of my subscription lists, the frequency of my posts, and the number of my blogs. 

There should be room to grow, too.

Price

I am a cheapskate who has been spoiled by Blogger, where everything is free. I hope to find a service provider with a free tier that meets my requirements. 

If I can't, price will be a factor.

Generally I am seeing pricing schemes with a big price gap between the free services and the least-expensive paid options. The difference goes from a cost of $0 to (typically) $120 per year with no intermediate step. 

Presumably that reflects the marketing priorities of these services, but I find it daunting.

More user experience

It would also be great if the emails came from me, somehow, and also if readers could communicate with me by replying to the email. But I'm not so in love with that feature set that I would pay for it.

Import privileges

I'd like to be able to import my existing subscribers into the new service. However, I am not sure what this does to sender reputation, which is my first requirement.

Other features

The other features that some platforms offer are less important to me, but might be valuable to you. These include

  • advanced scheduling options
  • A&B testing
  • support
  • pop-ups (which I hate, personally)
  • integrated campaigns and tracking

It would not surprise me to discover that I have omitted something important, but this is what I am thinking about now.

After you

It's normal to want to resolve this quickly, but in this case I will be hanging back and learning from "early adopters" of these different options. 

If you have anything to report, please do!


8 comments:

  1. I've gone all in on MailerLite and find even the free option (under 1000 subscribers) ticks most of the above boxes.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, John. MailerLite is certainly on my list. Q: Do any of your blogs have the subscribe option available? Am thinking I'd like to see what it is like from the user's POV.

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    2. Yes! If you go to my blog at https://www.wildabouthoudini.com you'll see my "Wild About Harry Weekly" newsletter subscribe button the right. I will be sending out my second newsletter tomorrow. Subscribe today and you'll get the full experience. :)

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    3. Thanks, John. Straightforward confirmation-opt-in process.

      I notice the background color of the confirmation pages match your website, which is a nice touch.

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    4. Thanks. Matching colors no problem as they offer lots of ways customize. I can also embed that subscription box into my main blog page or inside individual posts, but it's a little big so I'm okay with sending people to a standalone page. With the paid plan, I believe I can use my custom domain on that page. Paid plans also offer a pop-up option.

      You should have received a free preview newsletter just for subscribing. That sends automatically.

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  2. Recently I helped my wife editing one of her old posts. It was a post for blogging contest in the past.

    Now I realized that Blogger has changed a lot that it becomes more difficult to perform some tasks.

    I think what the users actually need the most is only the responsiveness of the editor so we can write using mobile phone, not more change than that and no need to fix something that is not broken.

    Beside the responsiveness of the editor, I would be happy to have more default themes. No need hundreds, 5 or 10 new default themes is enough I guess.

    Now the subscribe-by-email feature will be stopped, I wonder what will happen to Blogger in the near future.

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    Replies
    1. Are you pleased with the responsive back end that was introduced last year?

      Blog from your phone was touted as the big benefit of that whole exercise.

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    2. In term of text editor on mobile, yes, I think it is better, because in the past I need to zoom in zoom out the screen when making a post on the mobile. However on the desktop, I feel it become more difficult. I know not everyone like WordPress gutenberg text editor, but the transition from desktop to mobile feels smoother.

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