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Interview with Jake Parrillo/Eric Olson, Publisher Services FeedBurner
I really like what the FeedBurner team is doing. They have the right mindset about focusing on the customer and their needs rather than what they want to produce. I enjoyed listening to Steve Olechowski from FeedBurner at the Future of Web Apps and wanted to get with Feedburner for an interview. I was able to grab Eric Olson and Jake Parrillo from the FeedBurner publisher team. While I learned that they are Boston and Chicago sports fans, I decided to still continue with the interview.
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Click the start button below to begin the audio interview (or download the mp3):
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Below is a partial text transcript of the audio interview. Please listen to the audio for the entire discussion.
Allen: Can you provide a brief bio about each of you?
Eric Olson: I am Eric Olson – I graduated from college and started doing some vc analyst work in Boston where I was advising pension funds and endowments on their vc investments. Always had a passion for technology and wanted to start working at a technology startup. Luckily the FeedBurner team was willing to give me a shot and so I relocated to Chicago last year and have been on the publisher team since. We have went from 50,000 publishers to 250,000 in that time.
Jake Parrillo: I was born and raised in Illinois and went to school here. For the last 5 years I bounced around in politics and government. I was bit by the tech and feed bug. I joined FeedBurner less than a year ago and I have loved every minute of it.
Allen: What’s the web market in Chicago like? Do you think that SF gets too much play overall?
Eric: I came out here from Boston and Boston has a pretty good tech community. When I came out to Chicago I was pretty happy to find that Feedburner and 37Signals were both here as they are two huge players in this space. But also even older startups like CareerBuilder, Orbitz and PeaPod are also from Chicago. There are also great universities and great tech talent. A friend of mine Frank Gruber and I started up an event called TechCocktail to see what’s out there and showcasing some events. We have just completed our 2nd event and had over 350 people and showcased about 8 companies from here. We are getting the scene on the map. There is a good robust Web 2.0 scene here and it is good to see it getting some national press.
Jake: What Eric failed to mention is that Eric’s events are lots of fun.
Eric: I will plug the URL at techcocktail.com and hopefully we can get it out to some more cities.
Allen: What is FeedBurner?
Eric: FeedBurner is a publishers services working with Reuters and USA Today all the way down to the individual blogger. What we do is Feed Management. We are able to tell you stats on your feed which can give you a lot of insight in making decisions down the road. We also make your feed easier to subscribe to. We also have lots of tools to get people engaged in your content. We also have an ad network where we allow publishers to monetize their content as another revenue stream. We started it as a feed network and it has grown to a full advertising package including ads on your site.
Allen: How can FeedBurner help me? Why should I use it over just providing my own feed directly?
Eric: The major thing is that if you post your own RSS feed is with us we can tell you lots of analytics. With traditional analytics you will get hits on your feed. Hits on your feed don’t matter much anymore as services may hit your feed 10 times but represent 100 users. We have about 3000 feed readers in our database and we can tell you how many people have interacted with your content. Our stats gives you insights into what is working and what is not.
Allen: How does FeedBurner generate revenue?
There are a few different ways we generate revenue. The first way is the ad network – we have a dedicated sales team. We have a rev share model with our publishers.
The other way is that we have a couple of paid services. Publishers who are interested in a deeper level of analytics, they can pay for the TotalStats service. We have another service called MyBrand. MyBrand allows the publisher to retain their own domain name, so they can serve from feed.domain.com instead of using the feedburner domain name. Both services are only a couple dollars a month.
Another way is commercial publishing. We have a product called FeedFoundry for multiple feeds which allows you to manage hundreds of feeds at one time.
Allen: Even more importantly, what does it take to become part of your Ad Network? What are people making off that?
Really what we are looking for is to make sure that everyone is successful by balancing the number of advertisers with the number of impressions to deliver as we ramp both up. We really want to make sure everyone is successful on both the advertiser side, publisher side and our side.
Allen: What’s the technology behind FeedBurner? How do the feeds get burned?
We first start them on the stovetop, first they boil and then they burn. It is a self-service model. If a publisher wants to burn a feed, they head to feedburner.com and there is a little white box. Put in your feed url, check a couple boxes and off you go.
When you burn a feed, what we do is make a copy of your feed. We then can apply services to the feed. And then you might wonder how to get people from your original feed over to us, and it is 3 lines of code you implement and then everyone will be redirected to the Feedburner feed.
Allen: What’s the FeedBurner team look like?
Eric: Lots of fun and we have a good time. Office usually has rock music in the background.
Jake: It is a nice mix of normal folk, hipsters, democrats, republicans, indep., greens, we have them all.
Eric: At FeedBurner, the suburbanites and city rats co-exist together peacefully.
(Allen: they go on and on about the cubs and whitesox, I am not transcribing that!)
Allen: Let’s talk tips – what tips can you share on getting more people to signup to your rss feed? What promotional vehicles do you think work well? What tools do not work so well?
There are tons of things we can do for you at FeedBurner – we have the browser-friendly option which makes your feed look like a web site. The easier you can make it the better. We have a lot of people interested in our headline animator which scrolls your rss headlines in your email signature. I think that is a good way to push subscriptions.
We really wanted to create interactivty in the feeds so we created FeedFlare. FeedFlare allows you to do things like add an email link to your feed, a digg this button, netscape, etc. and these things will get your pages to more social services. You can also use our API to create other flare items.
Auto-discovery has become very important for IE7 and Firefox 2. If you don’t have it set correctly, people that don’t get feeds, won’t have the ability to subscribe to your content. One simple line of code in your head tag and auto discovery will be turned on.
We will also be publishing a FeedBurner Publisher Tips Blog launching next week. and we will be offering tips at least once a week with ideas and interesting things that people are doing with their feeds.
Allen: In your opinion, what are the top 2 things a blog must have/do to be successful?
The first key is to write quality content and make sure you are injecting your personality into it as well. We might be a little biased but you should promote your feed. Your feed subscribers will be your most loyal readers.
Jake: Blog about something you are passionate about. You can’t fake passion. If you think you want to be another gadget blogger to make money on Google Adsense it might not happen. If you find a topic or a content area that you are passionate about. Do it because you want to not just to monetize it.
Allen: Where is FeedBurner going in the next 1-2 years?
We have always prided ourselves on listening to our publishers and giving them the tools to do what they need to. As the publisher market changes we will be on top of it. We will continue to innovate to allow our customers to take advantage of what is going on in the web.
Allen: Which web apps do you use on a regular basis?
Jake: I live in my reader. I used to use FeedDemon and it was awesome, I also love NewsGator. I have just recently started using Google reader. Just call me Mr. Google. I am an AOL Chatter. We both use del.i.cio.us.
Eric: I have a MySpace and people can find me pretty easy on Google. My friends pushed me to get a MySpace page that points back to my web site. I like MySpace because I was able to touch base with people from high school and college. I love Flickr and can go directly from my phone to Flickr.
Allen: Anything else to add?
Eric: We are really happy with our users and love interacting with everyone and learning what they want to see in our service and how they are using our service.
Jake: Go Bears!
Well that concludes the interview with Jake and Eric from Feedburner. A big thanks to both of them and to Traci, the FeedBurner marketing guru. FeedBurner is a very useful tool that we use on CenterNetworks and I would suggest you give it a try too.
If you would like to participate in a conversation on CenterNetworks, or if you have any comments or questions, let me know.