Phil Hollows, founder and CEO of FeedBlitz LLC, announced today that I made an angel investment in his company and have become a board member. Phil’s done a great job with the company so far: almost half a million people use FeedBlitz to get email updates from their favorite blogs and websites. FeedBlitz is the largest service of its kind. I’m looking forward to helping FeedBlitz expand its service to content publishers and to its readership.
In technical terms, what FeedBlitz does is convert RSS feeds to opt-in email. It manages the creation of the email from an RSS feed, the signup and opt-in process, and customization both by the publisher of the content and by the reader (subscriber) who is receiving it.
In business terms, what FeedBlitz does is make the content of RSS feeds accessible to the great mass of web users who have no idea what RSS is and couldn’t care less about the technology but do want to receive content they care about in a form they do understand – email. Most real people don’t know what a feed reader is. In fact, not many people have a clear idea what a blog is (although almost every web user has heard of blogs).
Looked at another way, FeedBlitz makes it easy for non-techy producers of web content to make that content available to their readers (subscribers). The technology is hidden inside FeedBlitz where it belongs and the benefits of wide distribution are available to the publisher. Moreover, FeedBlitz works hard to make sure that it cannot be used for spam and that the spam-filter providers know that FeedBlitz email is email that readers want to receive. This solves a problem that web publishers often have in reaching their readers with a newsletter: even though the reader has subscribed to a newsletter, it ends up lost in a spam filter.
FeedBlitz work on a “freemium” model: basic services to publishers and subscribers are free – actually the basic service are pretty advanced. Publishers can purchase even more advanced services and a high degree of customization.
Free subscriptions are available to any website which has an RSS feed whether or not the publisher has made an explicit arrangement with FeedBlitz. For example, many news services have RSS feeds on various subjects even though these services don’t call themselves blogs.
So why did I invest in FeedBlitz?
First of all, because of Phil Hollows. An angel investment is usually as much an investment in a person as in a business. I first met Phil when he hustled to save me and a bunch of other bloggers from problems with a previous service that we used to convert our posts to email. We were trying to cobble together fixes on our own and, all of a sudden, he was there with a better capability than we had before and the conversion capability we needed to move our readers from the old service to his new one. Phil has made almost constant improvements in the service both from a publisher and a subscriber point of view. He has great energy and a great customer service sense.
Second of all, because the service is already well-positioned. Nearly half a million readers and growing means it’s past the initial bump which most web services get just by starting up. Alliances with TypePad and FeedBurner make it easy for new publishers to join. A track record of reliability and innovation is convincing to new publishers.
I use FeedBlitz for syndication of both Fractals of Change and hackoff.com. Fractals of Change is simple; hackoff much more complex because readers can select the frequency with which they receive updates. (You can sign up for email versions of either one of them here).
Third of all, because the service has huge potential. All web users are content consumers and many are content providers. Few web users know anything about the technologies involved in a subscription service. FeedBlitz hides the technology and delivers the content in the familiar form of email – accessible from a computer, a PDA, or an increasing number of other devices.
Fourth, because the service already has network value. This is a web 2.0 service not only because it is blog-related but also because there is significant valuable information in patterns of subscription. Without violating reader privacy in any way, FeedBlitz’s FeedAdvisor tells people what other blogs are subscribed to by people who read some of the same blogs they do. I think that dynamic peer clusters may become the replacement for traditional media gatekeepers. A recommendation from our friends (even if we don’t know who our friends are) is a great way to find out what new blogs or websites to try.
It’s just coincidence that the announcement of my relationship to FeedBlitz is almost two years to the day after the sale of ITXC, the company Mary and I founded. I’m through being a CEO – I’m primarily a writer these days. But I’m glad to have this somewhat more active role in all the exciting stuff that’s happening on the Web.