FeedBurner Is Google's Biggest Screw-Up To Date

No wonder FeedBurner cofounder Dick Costolo left Google. After the search giant bought his RSS startup FeedBurner in 2007 — for a reported $100 million — it has since squandered it.

The idea was that by merging FeedBurner’s neat RSS tools with Google’s awesome infrastructure and ad business, Google could create a great service that helped publishers syndicate their content all over the Internet, while making heaps of money for everyone.

But that hasn’t happened, and FeedBurner is now one of Google’s biggest letdowns. Meanwhile, Costolo has a sweet new job, as COO of Twitter.

What’s the matter with FeedBurner? How about:

  • Ad rates are a joke. Google’s ads for FeedBurner on a leading technology news site earned the publisher about 20 cents per 1,000 impressions last month. That means for every 1 million impressions, that publisher earned $200. That is not enough to support a business, and not enough to encourage any publisher to value RSS or RSS advertising. (Now that we think about it, Google’s failure to make RSS advertising a serious business could explain their lax attitude toward the other problems below.)
  • FeedBurner has had a hard time keeping feeds fresh. While RSS is ideally a real-time service, important news feeds are often out of sync.
  • Stats — a big reason for using FeedBurner — are still primitive. There’s still no way to see FeedBurner stats in Google Analytics, or overlay Web and feed stats. They still don’t really tell you much about your subscribers or what they’re doing with your feeds. 
  • No meaningful new features.
  • Switching to Google’s infrastructure was sloppy. To manually keep feeds fresh, some developers “ping” FeedBurner. But when switching over to Google’s infrastructure, FeedBurner changed some things, which screwed up pinging for publishers.
  • FeedBurner, like many Google services, has no acceptable customer service mechanism.

Google could not be reached for comment. We requested to speak to a FeedBurner representative on Aug. 26 and have not yet heard back from the company.

Google could have been a leader here. Instead, it’s been a huge disappointment.

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