July 03, 2007

FeedBurner: From Fee to Free: Should We Flee?

For the majority of 2007, I have been a subscriber to the premium versions of a few Web widgets, including FeedBurner, for RSS distribution and optimization, and SiteMeter, for visitor tracking and trends. The few bucks a month out of my pocket are typically well spent, first to gauge my curiosity, and second, to provide real data on what's working with the blog and what's not.

Not too long ago, Google acquired FeedBurner, putting the popular application under the company's corporate umbrella. While I haven't yet seen any impact due to the change, today we learned that all those premium services, which I had valued at $4.99 a month, are now available for the low, low price of $0.00 a month, courtesy of Google.

While I can't argue with the price, it not only makes me feel like I was paying something for nothing, but any time you give a product a price of free, it suggests it lacks value, and raises the concern that the product may not see the level of innovation and support it might receive if it were to generate revenue. Why would Google take its engineers time to optimize something that doesn't inherently drive cash into the account after all, instead of focusing on AdWords?

Therein lies the detail. If Google is controlling the distribution of the blogosphere's RSS feeds through FeedBurner, and the reading of those RSS feeds, through Google Reader, there's nothing to stop the company from capitalizing on that monopoly and slapping RSS ads everywhere. After all, who doesn't love an ad-supported free service? That's how television has worked for a century!

I wish I could say I'm ecstatic that I'm no longer going to be billed by Google. Those 5 bucks a month will get me one more 25 cent can of Diet Coke on a daily basis each workday, after all. But I just wonder if we'll be as ecstatic about the move once the full picture is revealed.

For more discussion, see:

Insider Chatter: Free FeedBurner? The HIGH Price You Pay
ParisLemon: FeedBurner Pro and MyBrand Made Free By Google
WebProNews: Google Feeds Free FeedBurner MyBrand

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