Feedburner, one of the most popular RSS and Atom Feed management systems, has become the object of dire speculation. Its service is elegantly simple, and has been the best, most cost-effective option for RSS-to-Email subscriber management since its inception in 2004.

Google acquired the independent SaaS company in 2007 in a hundred-million-dollar deal. By now, though, the product team has seen enormous cuts to their staff, and support for the product via public-facing media no longer exists at all. In the news lately, the Feedburner API, used by developers to interact with the application behind the scenes, is scheduled for shut-down on 20 October 2012.

And in the last twist, Google unexpectedly announced in September that AdSense for feeds would no longer be available, either.

So, without available support, updates, or access to the bones of the service to modify or extend it, some writers are speculating that the end is near for Feedburner itself. (Worth noting that a major competitor publicly disagrees with that opinion). If it turns out that Feedburner is on its way out the door — and even if this is not the case, but you value occasional reflection on your existing technical solutions — there are several steps you can take to secure your data and replace the service if necessary.

The most important step, before any others and regardless of what happens with Feedburner, is to download your Feedburner subscriber list and save a copy of it for yourself. Do this for the same reason that you back up your computer or website.

Then, consider these alternatives to Feedburner:

RSS Feed services: Use these to read your website and collect the content for syndication.

Feedblitz – a commercial service for RSS feeds and email marketing. Priced by subscriber count.

Feedity – create RSS feeds for any website – $6/month

Rapidfeeds – $5 – $15 / month

RevResponse – B2B solution for RSS to Email. pricing on request.

Newsletters: Use these to send out templated email lists, with content from your RSS feed.

MailChimp – free plan available (Anant-recommended)

Nourish – free plan available

Sparklit – $15 – $25 / month

So, for example, Feedity combined with MailChimp can remain cost-effective and provide the same service (along, it’s worth noting, with a host of others including vastly extended functions and flexibility for online marketing) as Feedburner.

If you do decide to move, it’s important to notify your subscribers publicly. Ask them to check which reader they use to get RSS updates from you, and to confirm their subscription to your new list if necessary. Overall, better to be safe than sorry and to have your game plan ready to go ahead of time.

Good luck, feed burners!