Whirring Wide Web

Remember the thrill of the first RSS feeds? They turned the Web into a giant Cuisinart, slicing and dicing content every which way. Well, tiny Sudbury, Mass.-based FeedBlitz is setting RSS to puree. 

FeedBlitz essentially takes any syndication-enabled bit of Web content — blog, RSS or similar Web posting — and turns it into a form e-mail servers can understand. It then hosts the delivery of that content straight to an e-mail inbox. The service enables anybody, from a once-a-month blogger to a 500-posts-a-day integrated content service, to distribute their Web content via e-mail with a managed and legal list. FeedBlitz staffs the e-mail server, keeps content compliant with the can-spam Act, provides delivery stats, wrestles with ISPs and even provides an option that allows for audio playback of its e-mail, among many powerful features.

 “We see RSS as the ultimate means of distributing content on the Web,” said Phil Hallows, founder of FeedBlitz. “We let anybody who posts anything ship it anywhere online. Sort of like FedEx for RSS.”

FeedBlitz is attracting followers: The company passed 4.3 million users in December 2007 on roughly 192,000 Web publications, up from about 3.5 million just six months earlier. The basic ad-supported service is free. An ad-free version starts around $10 per month and goes up by number of users.

Industry reaction to the service is mixed. “For people who can’t or won’t run a feed reader, there may be some value in an RSS-to-e-mail gateway,” says Steve Webster, chief strategy officer at iPost, an e-mail marketing company based in Novato, Calif. “But we don’t see great demand for it.” 

I’ve been testing the service for a few weeks with my blog, It’s been reliable and flexible, if a bit clumsy. The interface is hilariously cluttered, and the design is, frankly, hideous. There is an almost comic disregard for current Web 2.0 design conventions: Far too many features are jammed into the same page. And the service relies on hard-to-follow pull-down menus that tend to bury important functions. Maybe it’s just a case of the barber with the bad hair giving the best haircuts.

But we’re talking an ugly old Cuisinart with high-tech guts. Underneath the grim exterior is an extremely powerful e-mail engine. Essentially any feature of my content can be delivered to almost any e-mail client software — including tough-to-please Outlook. And with a little tweaking, content syndication can rival pricier, white label e-mail marketing services. And the statistics engine and delivery features in FeedBlitz are a definite improvement over similar mass e-newsletter companies. I could see opens, forwards and click-throughs. Plus there were some very nice integrations with awStats, Google Analytics and other quant tools.

  “I do think RSS-to-e-mail is valuable,” says Robert Davidman, ceo of EarthQuake Media, a New York-based new media agency. While e-mail response rates continue to drop, Davidman says, RSS-to-e-mail adoption is climbing. “It’s got all the positives that traditional e-mail does not.”  Perhaps it’s time to give the new style
a whirl.

Next story loading loading..