Sending Weekly Update Emails

Published on December 17, 2008 at 4:47 PM EST
In the Tutorials category.

Increase readership by providing a few types of “To Go” menus.

A lot of us use FeedBurner because of the great tools it provides for managing our site’s RSS or Atom feeds (for free, nonetheless). One of the great features FeedBurner provides is Email Subscriptions, which provides a simple sign-up form so that visitors can receive an email whenever you update your site (or, more specifically, whenever your feed updates). That’s a great option for less tech-savvy readers!

If your site is active, however, that can get old quick! Receiving five or ten emails every day for each new post is not just a daunting amount of reading, but downright annoying! Even if your post rate is one per day, that may be more than a visitor wants to commit to.

And so, what we really need is a way to have the option to let the visitor receive a weekly email summary. Unfortunately, FeedBurner doesn’t offer a simple checkbox for that. Sure, there are other options (such as FeedBlitz) but if you’re already using FeedBurner it would be nice to stick with the same tool, right?

Thanks to Movable Type 4.2’s template module caching, there is a way! Basically, we can use the “Expire After” option as a timer to update a feed template on a weekly basis. By passing that weekly feed to FeedBurner, you can offer weekly email subscriptions.

First, you’ll want to create a new Index template. Name it “Feed - Weekly” and give it an Output File name of weekly.xml and set the Publishing method to “via Publish Queue.” (You’ll need to set up the Publishing Queue and run-periodic-tasks if you haven’t already.) Paste the following into this template and save.


After saving you should see that a “Feed - Weekly Timer” Template Module needs to be created. Just click the “Create” link to start a new Template Module. Paste the following into that template and save.

The astute reader may notice that the Entries loop is set to display 7 days. Also, only the EntryBody is being published here (instead of EntryBody and EntryMore). You might prefer to use EntryExcerpt here to keep your feed/email even shorter.


Once saved, you can enable Template Module Caching to Expire After 7 Days, as in the screenshot. Be sure to save again! If you don’t see this option you haven’t enabled Template Module Caching — click the Preferences menu and choose Publishing, where you can enable caching.

To get things started, manually republish the new “Feed - Weekly” template by visiting the Templates screen, placing a checkmark next to that template name, then clicking the Republish button above.

At this point, you have an Atom feed that will be published once per week!


So next, get FeedBurner set up. Log into your FeedBurner account and drop the new “Feed - Weekly” URL into the “burn a feed right this instant” field. Click through to finish the set up of this feed, then go to the Publicize tab. There you can enable Email Subscriptions and grab the HTML form to place on your site for sign-ups.

Creating a separate Page is a great way to display the link to your feed as well as email sign-up, plus this new weekly email sign-up. In addition to displaying the links and form you can offer some explanation about these different options. You can see how I did this on on the Up to Date? page.