Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Goodbye, Feed My Inbox

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{UPDATE} see the comment on this article from Feed My Inbox co-founder Nick Francis – in which he explains a lot more about the service (many thanks Nick).
___________

Bread of heaven, bread of heaven
Feed me till I want no more;
Feed me till I want no more.

I was a customer of Feed My Inbox. It did (and for a few weeks more, still does) a useful but unglamourous service, which is take an RSS feed and turn it into email. This was great for sites that either publish now and then, like this blog, or for daily summaries of news. I even had a sign up box on this blog, recommending it.

But the service is closing down. On the homepage, the company says:

After much consideration, we have made the difficult decision to shut down Feed My Inbox over the course of the next couple of months.

Long story short, we failed to generate enough revenue to sustain the business long-term and justify the time necessary for ongoing support, maintenance and feature development.

We wish it turned out differently, but our team learned a great deal over the last 4+ years. Thank you for being a customer.

I don’t know much about the company, but I do know that it was a small outfit – perhaps just four people. I learned this from digging around on Brightwurks, which is the site owner. The company was private, so there aren’t any numbers to digest, but in one blog post the company mentioned 175,000 customers.

What isn’t clear is whether these are paying customers or not. It operated on a freemuim model – the basic service of 5 feeds was free, and then you paid for additional premium features and more feeds, starting at $5 per month.

As far as I can see it, the problem with Feed My Inbox was three-fold.

1a) Freemium doesn’t work unless you have massive scale. Because, unless you provide a killer app, most people will just stick to the free version. And then if someone offers a similar service, you are stuck – it’s hard to change the barriers between services without annoying paying customers, or attracting new ones.

1b) Freemium is a bad model for development. Paying customers fund the growth in non-paying free-riders, with the hope that some of them eventually turn into payers too. Very little of the revenues from paying customers is ploughed back into improving their service.

2) Email is a cluttered mess. There are too many newsletters, bills, updates etc, nevermind all the crap emails that people actually write, nevermind the spam. So adding to all that isn’t particularly appealing to lots of people who are already swamped.

3) Hello social media. Facebook and Twitter are far better places to follow or like stuff you are interested in, making email seem a quaint, antiquated way of getting updates. That’s without considering RSS readers like netvibes or Google Reader.

So that’s it. But you can bow out gracefully, which is the case here.

The Feed My Inbox team have put together a very helpful page of tips on other services and ways to migrate, which I think is above and beyond. Can you imagine a bank doing that? But thanks to them, I am now using blogtrottr.com, and have a sign up form on the blog for that service, and the whole service seems very good.

I just hope it lasts. It’s free.

7 Comments

  1. Great article, Rob. We really appreciate your business as a Feed My Inbox customer. I co-founded Feed My Inbox and can help to fill in a few of the gaps for you:

    I have two co-founders, so three people on the team.

    I’m a big believer in freemium as a viable business model. However, less than 1% of our customers were paying, which isn’t good enough for this business. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to startup economics, but the business would have worked in the 4% range.

    We never went all-in on the business, with regard to focus, marketing and feature development. Quite frankly, we never saw the customer traction/validation we needed in order to make the economics work. This market wasn’t large enough to build what we consider to be a big business. There was no way to really know except to build the product and see.

    Contrary to what we hear quite often, this business can’t be ad-supported. Ads in emails are incredibly tricky, and the clickthrough rate wouldn’t have been nearly high enough to bring in meaningful revenue.

    Regretfully, we also saw what you mentioned. Social media is overtaking the traditional RSS feed … modern browsers don’t even support RSS feeds anymore, which is pretty frustrating. Services like Feedburner are fading away. We can probably agree this isn’t a growing market.

    About 18 months ago, we launched a new product called Help Scout (a simple help desk). Feed My Inbox gave us a lot of ideas on how we wanted small businesses to be able to support customers. The market is huge, the business economics make sense and we’ve been able to build a team dedicated to creating great stuff there. So for us, that was the last straw. We no longer have the time to keep Feed My Inbox going.

    We’re all sad to see FMI come to an end, but I’m glad you’ve enjoyed using the service. You and thousands of other folks helped my co-founders and I learn a lot about building web-based products and I thank you. :-)

    • I really like your service. As an iphone user and a busy student, I found it very inconvenient to check RSS feeds on computer, and checking it via email was really easy and fast. I appreciate the work you have done and I wish you all the best in your new business!!

      PS. Am I the only one who sees the post by the cofounder?

      • I really enjoyed getting the e-mails in real time for the catastrophe information I was following on Cal Fire and Inci Web…helped me with my job watching for wildfires in CA.

    • Hi Nick,

      Would you be interested in selling the domain feedmyinbox.com ?

      Best,
      Gerry

  2. Hello Nick,

    I thank you so much for the FMI service. Sad to see it is closed down now but it has been a very very useful tool for me. I used it to track investment and property forums threads to catch up on some specific discussions. I set up my gmail to have tagging rules and multiple-inbox view (left column is my main inbox and right is my feeds from FMI) so that all the feeds coming in will be listed separately without cluttering up my main inbox. that solved the problem of being swamped as mentioned by Rob above. While social media is a good way of tracking site updates, but it also has a element of distraction, which is the reason why i stuck to FMI.

    Anyway, I wish you every success in your new ventures. Thank you, your team and FMI have been very helpful!

  3. Good informations. Thanks

  4. hey great post thank you.

    New service which also allows email feed subscribe is twoggle.com (also a blog directory)

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