PostRank.com is putting out a call to feed publishers for feature requests for a new service that will aim to replace the near-dead FeedBurner. The company's initial proposal looks far, far cooler than anything FeedBurner ever did - but after a Google acquisition turned Feedburner from every blogger's best friend into an unreliable annoyance, it's hard not to be cynical.RSS analystics service
Editor's note: During 2009 there have been some posts on ReadWriteWeb that didn't get the attention they perhaps deserved - because of timing, competing news stories, etc. So we're starting up our Redux series again, to re-publish some of those hidden gems. This is one of them, we hope you enjoy (re)reading it!
PostRank is one of our very favorite services on the web today. Give it any RSS feed and the service will give you a filtered feed of just the most commented on, linked to, saved and Dugg posts from that feed. It's really handy, so we're excited to see what the company can do moving more seriously into the feed publishing and analytics market. Can PostRank pull it off? Below we discuss reasons why they may or may not be able to do so.
The company says it "will be releasing a collection of products over a period of the next six months related to [feed analytics]: helping publishers and readers discover topic experts and measure their influence, engagement analytics (social media analytics), real-time tracking and other tools to help publishers and readers find and read what matters."
Can They Pull it Off?
The main asset PostRank has going for it is that there's a very clear value proposition. We've found that it takes one sentence to explain what this service does and nearly anyone who uses RSS immediately grasps the value of the application and wants it. That's quite remarkable considering how hard it is to explain most things about RSS.
FeedBurner got huge piles of users by saying "go through us and we'll tell you how many RSS subscribers you have." PostRank can tell potential users "go through us and we'll tell you what your hottest posts are, who the most loved writers are in your field, and what topics are burning up the charts." And hopefully, how many subscribers you have.
The Challenges PostRank Will Face
There are a lot of challenges that PostRank will face in trying to replace FeedBurner.
Will Google Reader, now the dominant RSS reader by far, report subscriber numbers to PostRank? FeedBurner requires RSS readers to report numbers daily, something that doesn't always work. Now that FeedBurner is owned by Google, will they hand over their huge part of the numbers to a competitor?
Far more processing power is required to count comments, inbound links, etc. for every blog post in an RSS feed. When PostRank came out with a Google Reader and Newsgator plug-in, for example, it limited its filtering to just the most popular 1,000 blogs on the web.
It's more complicated to evaluate "social media engagement" than it is subscribers, and evaluating subscribers is fairly complicated itself. How many people are still mystified by the way FeedBurner numbers rise and fall daily, or by the obtuse "reach" metric that FeedBurner now emphasizes? Similarly, PostRank appears fairly transparent on the surface, but a closer look at their metrics leaves us feeling more in the dark than we'd like to be.
It hasn't been a bump-free ride so far, either. Some issues encountered so far include; finding feed URL irregularities, catching strategies that didn't work out, and server troubles. As a result, we find ourselves contacting PostRank on a regular basis to report problems. We also subscribe to the feed of their GetSatisfaction forum and we know we're not the only ones. In their defense, the company has raised more money lately so they could be better prepared for the load. This author also used PostRank on a major public production for a large consulting client 6 months ago and that worked quite well.
Finally, will publishers trust another 3rd party feed publishing service to stand between them and their readers? Some blogs have reported no problems of late with FeedBurner, but a quick search on Twitter shows that many others have.
We're excited to see what PostRank can do, though. If you are too, then drop by the company's new Feed Analytics page and share your ideas and feature requests for a feed analytics service of the future.