FeedBurner Rick Klau interview Part 1

A couple of weeks ago we had a discussion about FeedBurner and accuracy with statistics. The readers had some very good questions and requested an interview. Rick Klau took some time out of his busy schedule to answer those questions. I broke the interview into two parts, the second half will post early tomorrow morning. But it doesn’t end there. Rick and I will also be doing a podcast covering even more. So if you have questions or feedback, speak your mind. When will the podcast be released? Details forthcoming. Without further ado…here’s the interview….

Will Feedburner ever make an application that can be installed and used on the blogger’s server? I have reservations about a third party having access to my stats and user information.

Not at this time, no. Because we iterate the product so quickly (often with multiple new features released in a week – see our most recent Hackathon as an example of these kind of quick releases), delivering FeedBurner as a service made the most sense. As far as access, publishers own their content. FeedBurner never rents, sells or does anything to our publishers’ feed content that the publisher doesn’t explicitly activate.

How much information is being collected and how much of this is passed on from the FeedBurner to the blogger?

For our feed analytics service, we collect IP address, user agent and polling intervals, and use our algorithms to calculate how many individuals that represents in a 24-hour cycle. For publishers who request it, we capture item views (via an embedded gif in each feed item) and clickthroughs. For all of this data, it’s captured anonymously – most RSS feed readers don’t support cookies – and it’s all passed along to the publishers. We do not disclose this information to a third party unless the publisher takes explicit steps to make their information public via our Awareness API. For site stats we collect unique visitor, page view, and click activity (inbound referrals and outbound clicks). This is all shared with the publisher, and is not disclosed to any third parties.

Are bloggers able to inflate their stats?

As we’ve discussed in the past , we capture subscriber data from web-based aggregators by looking at the user agent string that’s passed by the aggregator. A while back, we saw a few cases where it appeared that someone was spoofing this user agent field to inflate their subscriber data – we’ve implemented some countermeasures (which, for obvious reasons, we don’t elaborate on) so that this is no longer doable. More recently, there have been cases where the aggregators themselves had issues with their reporting (see below re: Pageflakes). When we discover these discrepancies, we will work directly with the aggregator in question to both remove the offending data from our reports as well as resolve the discrepancy so that our publishers get accurate information.

Does Feedburner scripts track people across sites?

No.

If I use a JavaScript blocker (NoScript for Firefox) does that block Feedburner scripts? As work I cannot take any chances.

Yes.

Many times I can’t read the feed because it gives me an error. The blogger’s site is up, FeedBurner is up, but I can’t read the feed. I get a blank page. Why does that happen and what is being done to minimize that? It happens ALOT.

Without any more info, this is impossible to isolate/address in the abstract. We maintain a number of reporting services to ensure that our feed servers are as available as possible; you can see one public monitoring service here which also lets you compare us against a number of other blog services. That said, should anyone ever experience a problem accessing a feed or managing their account, they should contact our support team at feedback@feedburner.com and we’ll respond immediately.

I see a lot of ads in feeds. Are all the ads work-safe? Can any blogger have feeds in ads?

Over a year ago, we launched the FeedBurner Ad Network, an optional service that allows bloggers to monetize their feed and site content, if they so desire. Ads in feeds are inserted inline with feed items, and site ads are inserted below posts. All ads are work-safe, insofar as we’re building a brand advertising network, with blue-chip advertisers like Sony, Blackberry, Microsoft, Jimmy Dean, Sarah Lee, and hundreds of others. Participation in FAN is open to anyone who wants to participate, though we do try to balance inventory (i.e., available impressions in feeds and on sites) with supply, which means that at times we may decide to delay someone’s participation in FAN if we have more publishers than advertisers in a particular channel. Finally, and perhaps most importantly from the publisher’s point of view, every ad that you see in a feed or on a site was approved by that publisher. Unlike other ad networks which give you no insight into which ads are served, with FAN, you get an e-mail notifying you of new campaigns, and you then get to approve or decline the ad – which you can do based on the creative, the economics, or the fact that you don’t like advertisers with the letter ‘y’ in their name.

Does FeedBurner provide a one-place stop for making money by blogging? Also is there criteria needed to access the revenue services?

While we think we’re a terrific option for bloggers who are interested in monetizing their blog, I don’t think we’d ever say we’re the only place you should go. Different blogs cater to different audiences, and each niche has different strategies that make sense for revenue generation. That said, we think we’re a great complement to other services – we see a number of our publishers using AdSense, for instance, to provide contextual ads in addition to our demographically-tailored ads, and certain niches do very well with affiliate programs. The only criteria we apply for FAN applicants is to establish that the content they’re producing is their own (i.e., they’re not republishing someone else’s content and attempting to monetize it), that their content is likely to be aligned with the channels we’ve created for FAN (like Arts & Entertainment, Digital Culture, Travel, Consumer Electronics, etc.), and that they have enough of an audience to justify advertising.

Part 2 coming tomorrow….