my FeedBlitz frustration

Hi Phil:

I'm flummoxed by what seems like a big hole in our emailed alerts.

  • As of 4/2009, we have almost 700 neighbors who have opted in to get our newsletter.
  • Only a fraction of those subscribers connect with our site — evidenced by Google Analytics and FeedBlitz open analysis.
  • Further clues — I often hear from neighbors that they get emailed alerts only sporadically or not at all.

I get frustrated by these disconnects that I don't understand. So I've dug into my FeedBlitz data from the last 90 days or so, which encompasses 13 recent FeedBlitz mailings.

First puzzle — FeedBlitz's bar charts seem to count only the most recent opens. The bars for the latest mailings might be accurate — they seem to count total opens (including subscribers' multiple opens?). But the bars for earlier mailings are clearly off.


Using exported FeedBlitz data, I counted unique subscriber opens. My chart looks like this:


Per mailing, unique subscriber opens hover mostly around 250, with an occasional dip to 160 or so — that happened on April 8, and it's happened before. That was what prompted my emails to you in November.

But while the "opens" are fairly flat, our subscriber numbers keep climbing. So as a percentage of mailed messages, our "opens" have actually declined by more than 1/3 in the last few months.


In the aggregate, for 13 recent mailings, that's an "open" rate of only 38%. Pretty darn abysmal, don't you think? There's so much work that goes into our community project, but it feels like I'm trying to catch water in a sieve.


I realize there's a difference between delivery and email opens. And there's further attrition between email opens and click-throughs, which is the real goal here. But 38% (and declining) seems low.

  • Maybe neighbors sign up, then just ignore their emails.
  • Maybe our content just sucks and subscribers have moved on.
  • Maybe the tracking mechanism fails to log all subscriber opens.
  • But neighbors have sought this out, and few have unsubscribed.
  • And I hear plenty of anecdotal evidence that subscribers just aren't getting their emails. We discussed this feedback back in November.

I wondered if email providers might filter messages out as spam. So I grouped opens by major email providers, and there's some evidence of that:

  • 50% of my subscribers with Gmail accounts haven't opened any of the 13 mailings, 67% with Gmail have opened 3 or fewer of 13 mailings.
  • in comparison, only 9% of Hotmail users have opened none, and 33% have opened 3 or fewer.
  • The rank order seems to be MSN (best), Hotmail, Mac, Yahoo, Comcast, AOL, and Gmail (worst), with a pretty wide spread between them.
  • These are just the major providers — the rest were generally too few to sample.

From all this, here's what I wonder —

  • Do I simply have to live with these numbers, or is there something we can do to improve them?
  • Are these numbers typical of other FeedBlitz publishers (500-1000 subscribers)?
  • Here's the money question — Is there any evidence for how FeedBlitz stacks up to other alternatives in terms of its delivery success rate?

As you've suggested, I've asked many subscribers to add moc.ztilbdeef.liam|ztilbdeef#moc.ztilbdeef.liam|ztilbdeef on their safe list. I can't tell whether they do it, and I can't tell if it really works if they do. In any case, that's one more unfamiliar procedure for many, so I'd prefer not to focus on subscriber actions. I'm hoping for ideas I can implement on my end, or even better, on your end of things.

I know you're working really hard to grow FeedBlitz, and I'd love to grow this project with you. But I'm puzzled by these stats and feeling frustrated that so much work might be compromised by this seemingly simple matter of getting regular messages into people's inboxes.

Thanks for reading this through. Would you share your thinking with me? I'd appreciate it.

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