One of the greatest advantages with an online publication is
the apparent ease with which it can be distributed when
compared to traditional print media. There are no printing
requirements, print costs or mailing costs. Even so,
maintaining a subscription list and distributing a newsletter to
it periodically is not trivial.
If you have a small subscription list that you don't expect to
change significantly over time (members of your old army
unit, high school class etc.) then you can probably manage
with your existing email program. Most email programs
provide the ability to create an address book. Manually add
your members and post your newsletter.
An Opt-In mail list is more problematic. Subscribers must be
able to easily add and remove their email addresses. If you
experience any significant level of growth then manually
adding and removing subscribers will not only be tedious but
prone to error.
If you expect your newsletter subscriber base to grow then you
will need to use a specialized mail program or mail list server.
If you have the aptitude and time, you could write your own
Perl Script to manage Subscriptions and Postings. It is
however, probably not worth the effort even for large
organizations. There are many well-tested low cost options
We initially used Arrow to publish this newsletter. (Published
by Roger Smith Software. http://www.jadebox.com/arrow
$50US) This program is primarily designed to manage
interactive discussion mailing lists but it works equally well
with newsletters. A primary advantage with many mail list
programs is that they operate on your local computer. This
means that you can use the software to manage multiple mail
lists and newsletters and maintain full control over your
subscriber lists. In addition, it literally costs nothing to send
out your newsletter.
This advantage of having a mail list program on your local
computer can also be its primary weakness. If you are using an
ISP to connect to the Internet, the mail server my balk at an
email submission to a large number of recipients. It may
simply get overload or may have built in protection that could
flag a large email distribution as Spam.
For smaller newsletters (up to a few thousand subscribers),
programs such as Arrow at $50 could be a very economical
option. Check with your mail server host ISP to see if they
may have a problem. In addition to Arrow, there are probably
many other mail lists programs available. You will have to do
some searching however since many software sites such as
TuCows will not lists mailing programs because of their
potential to be misused.
As the number of subscribers grows into the thousands, a local
mail program is simply going to start having problems. A slow
Internet connection will demand an excessive time to send to
the large subscription base. Although a fast Internet
connection can probably manage the bandwidth, your
computer may start to bog down with the size of your
subscription email. Your ISP may also have problems with the
large number of emails you are sending. This will of course
vary depending upon the size of your subscription list and the
frequency of your email. A daily will have problems sooner
than a monthly.
At this point it is worth looking at using a specialized host. A
mail list host is similar to a Web Site host and in many
instances offer both services. Instead of web sites however,
their primary service is to manage distribution and
subscription services to large mail lists. As with standard
hosts, prices, services, reliability and costs can vary quite
significantly. It is important to be careful in selecting a host,
not only to ensure you get good service but to be sure you
avoid Bulk Mail hosts that specialize in Spam.
As many of you know, we recently moved this mail list (long
after we should have) to Oaknet Publishing which specializes
in newsletters. One of our ISP's has also recently started a
Mail Server which specializes in discussion and
This is a short list of these and some other services I am aware
of. If you do a little research you are bound to find more.
To create a growing newsletter you will need to invest some of
your time and effort into marketing and promotion. In this
respect a newsletter is no different than a web site.
Next week I will wrap up this series on newsletters with some
promotion ideas. I will also include a list of Websites,
discussion lists and E-zine focused newsletters for people
writing and promoting a newsletters.