On January 20, 2021, I wrote about updating my RSS feed to use FeedBurner. As I wrote, “MailChimp was not sending emails with my posts.” Unfortunately, FeedBurner will no longer send out emails to subscribers. So, I figured out the problem my Jekyll blog was having with Mailchimp’s RSS feed campaigns, I reconnected Mailchimp and Jekyll, and I integrated Mailchimp with MemberSpace (my membership platform).

Problem: Feedburner Will No Longer Send Email

On April 14, 2021, I received the following email from Google alerting me that starting in July, FeedBurner will no longer send emails to subscribers:

FeedBurner Changes

I started looking for alternatives to FeedBurner. (For example, I considered BigMailer, but integrating it with AWS gave too much friction. Also, I noticed that MemberSpace’s guides for integrating with an email newsletter use Mailchimp as the example, and I didn’t want to translate those examples to another app.)

Solved Mailchimp and Jekyll Connection

I’ve been using Mailchimp for nearly a decade. RSS email campaigns worked smoothly with my WordPress blogs, but MailChimp was not sending out daily emails with blog posts from my Jekyll blog. MailChimp was teasing me because it was showing a preview of my email campaign, but it wasn’t sending the emails.

After searching online, reading Mailchimp support documents, and experimenting with different settings in both Mailchimp and Jekyll, I realized that I needed help to figure out what was causing the problem.

I strongly believe in getting the diagnosis correct before attempting a remedy. So, I decided to contact Mailchimp’s support. I learned that I learned that after 30 days Mailchimp now charges for support from a human. I opted to pay $9.99 for one month to get chat support:

Mailchimp Support Pricing

Mailchimp’s support was very helpful. They determined that the problem was that Mailchimp was not seeing any posts as new:

After looking into this, I see that none of the posts are new enough. The most recent posts were on 5/20 at midnight. But since we look 24 hours back from the send attempt time. So it looks like this campaign has never sent before so we’re only looking for posts from the last 24h because it’s a daily send.

I discovered two ways to solve my Mailchimp-Jekyll connection.

Solution 1: Weekly Emails

Mailchimp’s support suggested first solution. I can change the email campaign to send weekly:

It’s not possible to adjust the past 30 hours since we’re only looking for posts for the past 24 hours because it’s a daily send. Another option is to set it weekly for one send, ,then it would send from the last 7 days. Then from there it could be set back to daily and it would always send what was posted since the last send, no matter how long that is.

I tested weekly emails, and Mailchimp sent them as expected. (I’m still not sure how the suggestion in the last sentence would work.)

Solution 2: Fix Post Date

After chatting with Mailchimp’s support, I examined my RSS feed (using RSS W3C feed validator) again. I realized that Jekyll was setting my default publish time as midnight:

RSS Jekyll Pub Date Default

Since Mailchimp looks back just to the previous 24 hours for daily emails and the campaign is schedule to be sent the next morning, it was not seeing posts that I published the day before as “new.” Fortunately, Jekyll allows me to set the publish date and time in the front matter. I tested this by adding the following line to the YAML front matter of an earlier post (Added Related Posts):

date: 2021-05-20 21:05:00

I examined my RSS feed again, and confirmed that the new entry the post’s metadata changed the RSS feed’s pub date:

Jekyll RSS Pub Date Manual

With this simple change, Mailchimp saw the post as “new” and sent out the daily email as expected.

Going Forward

Going forward, I will use Solution 2. I will manually set the publish date and time for my posts by adding an extra line to the YAML front matter.

Integrated Mailchimp & MemberSpace Using Zapier

After getting Mailchimp to work with Jekyll, I integrated MemberSpace and Mailchimp.

I created a total of 3 MemberSpace-Mailchimp integrations using Zapier:

I followed two MemberSpace guides:

MemberSpace doesn’t have a guide for creating a zap when members cancel. But I contacted MemberSpace’s support, and they were very helpful, even though “the setup of the triggers in Zapier would not fall under [MemberSpace] support scope, since they all deal with 3rd parties that [MemberSpace has] no affiliation with.”

Three things to note:

  • MemberSpace is integrated with Zapier, but the Zaps that are necessary are multi-step and require a Zapier subscription. I paid $239.88 for Zapier for one year.

  • MemberSpace’s integration with Zapier happens in one way: An action in MemberSpace triggers an action in a 3rd party app. There is no way to have a change happen in MemberSpace when an action happens in a 3rd party. So, for example, if a member unsubscribes from emails through Mailchimp, the member would have to go into his or her MemberSpace account and uncheck the option to receive emails.

  • I removed the subscribe forms for both Feedburner and Mailchimp. Readers of this blog can get email alerts of new posts only if they become members through MemberSpace and opt in to receive emails. (I still need to work on the process for people to sign up to become members. In the meantime, please email me if you want to become a free member of hanisarji.com and want to receive email alerts of new posts.)

Parting Thoughts

Google’s decision to change Feedburner created so much additional work for me. I’m glad they gave me several months to work on a solution. (Google also forced me to change my workflow when it killed Google Reader several years ago. For a list of other apps that Google stopped developing, see Killed by Google.)

People often think that an app (or product) will continue to be around because a big company created it. That’s just not true. I witnessed the rise and fall of palm pilots and Blackberry. My response to such cataclysmic change is to keep my tools as simple as possible. For example, I choose to write using plain text, even though I’m quite proficient in Microsoft Word (and other word processors). When I have to rely on a proprietary solution (such as MemberSpace and Zapier), I justify paying for the service with the hope that I am helping them continue to exist.

The upshot of the changes that Google forced me to make is that I now have an email campaign that works, is GDPR compliant, and integrated with the membership app I’m using.