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FeedBlitz

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.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference FeedBlitz:

» FeedBlitz takes Angel Investment from duncanriley.com
Feedblitz, a Web 2.0 startup that converts RSS into email alerts, has announced theyve take Angel Investment from Tom Evslin. To quote Evslin on Feedblitz: In business terms, what FeedBlitz does is make the content of RSS feeds accessible to th... [Read More]

» What's in a word? Freemium from Content Matters
A couple of months ago, Fred Wilson blogged about his favorite business model, where web companies provide free use of their basic service, then offer premium versions and add-ons, available for a fee. As Fred pointed out, many successful companies [Read More]

Comments

Kare Anderson

Tom
Kudos!

Almost certainly I am among the least tech-savvy of your readers and yet represent the prime market for Feedblitz - and am an ardent fan of their tehcnology and their customer service.

About a year ago I began searching and subscribing to blogs, along with using the google alerts & other tools to conduct research for my speaking, writing books and my Say it Better newsletter.

As simple as Feedblitz is to use, I had some minor troubles (of my own making) when I started using it. they were great! Helped me right away, writing back in friendly, plan language all three times.

Now, whenever I want to subscribe to a blog and they do not have Feedblitz (that's been over 60 times now), I ask them to add it... and the range of responses are from "Oh sure" to "What's that?" to something like (cleaned up version) "You are way too dumb for our blog."

Yet I speak about 5 times a month and my ezine has 38,000 subscribers in 26 countries, and I've been writing about social networking and blogs, and I know from their feedback that you are spot-on re their preference for the easy way....

Why read about RSS when we just want to subcribe? Next month we are changing my newsletter over to their widget... blog as ezine.

Now that I've provided strategic communication coaching about 42 companies that are springing up in this Power of Us" arena of new media I am clear there is still a big gulf between many of the geeks and the rest of us, and an amazing community of generous bloggers around the world who are willing to share their expertise - and it feels to good to tout those traits from the platform.

Just in our tiny village of Sausalito we have people as diverse as John Battelle and Brad Inman (his TurnHere launched today)

Idea: the association meetings industry could be a great place for Feedbltiz to target to rapidly reach leaders in different industries and professions. Kare, author, SmartPartnering

Tom Evslin

Keizo:

Thanks for the comment. It's really all about choice.

As you suggest, a reader of just one or a couple of blogs usually finds it simpler to set up an email subscription since he or she already understands email. A reader of many blogs will usually - but not always - find it easier to mange his or her blogs in a feed reader.

Some subscribers to many blogs prefer email even in this case because they like to use the search and foldering capabilities of their email client or so that they can read blogs when offline or so they can get new posts on a Blackberry.

Clearly no one right answer. I think bloggers should give their readers a choice and FeedBlitz is a good way to deliver the email choice for those who choose it.

Keizo Gates

Hey Tom,
From a blogger/webmaster standpoint this seems like a great service to get more eyeballs, but from a user standpoint doesn't it makes more sense for people to use a real rss reader? Personally I don't like to mix website newsletters with emails that require me to respond and am much happier reading news in NetNewsWire; I have no reason to further clutter my inbox. The problem as I see it is that no one ever explains what RSS is good for so like you said, most people don't know and don't care. Every website that uses it explains what it is, but 99% of people write off 'a way to distribute web content' as something for websites and not themselves. At least this has been my experience and when presenting it to users on my site I try to explain why rather than what: http://www.ocpaddler.com/rss .

On the other hand, my experience probably isn't typical and many people might use RSS just for a few websites in which case email or feedblitz is pretty good solution. Or maybe I underestimate the ease of setting up filters after which email and a newsreader start to look pretty similar. Anyway, just some thoughts.

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