After creating your email newsletter, you face the challenge of delivery. With a printed newsletter, there"s usually only one method of widespread distribution: the post office.
Fortunately, though, publishers of email newsletters have several choices. Let"s now work our way through this small jungle, and try to remember that although these choices force us to do extra research, they also give us many more options than we have with printed newsletters.
The first choice is between manual and automated mail management. The manual approach is how many, if not most, email newsletters get started. And, it"s a good system as long as the mailing list remains small, say something less than 100 or 200 names (depending on how efficient you are at managing your email program). You can do this with an email program like Outlook Express or Eudora.
But, if your list is growing, you"ll soon grow impatient with the amount of time it takes to manually add and remove subscribers, as well as to send the newsletter. For example, you might need to divide your list into parts, and send out a series of mailings rather than just one, to keep the size down.
That"s when it"s time to check out the automated approach, using mailing list managers. These programs and services come in several forms. By the way -- and you"ll need to know this when you go looking for an automated service -- the difference between an announcement list and a discussion list.
An announcement list is essentially one way, which takes in most regular newsletters, or ezines. You are the only person allowed to send a message to the people who have subscribed. You"re also probably the only person who knows the email addresses of the subscribers.
However, if you want to make it interactive, with recipients allowed to post contributions, as well as receive them, then you need a discussion list. For most of us, though, an announcement list is the best starting point for a newsletter.
Now, if you have chosen to automate, you need to decide whether you want to do it yourself, or have someone else do it for you. If you plan to do it yourself, then you need a dedicated mailing list program. A couple of well-known providers are Dada Mail and MailLoop. To find other mailing programs, enter the phrase "mailing software" (with or without the quotation marks) in a search engine.
Of course, it"s much easier to have someone else do the mailing for you, and that"s where we"re going next, since few of us have the expertise or time to do it ourselves.
Full service providers take care of all, or almost all the work for you. You fill in a few forms, make a few choices, and then they take over and do the rest. Those duties include adding and removing names, sending the mail, and handling mail that can"t be delivered (expect as many as 5% of messages to "bounce" back after each mailing, once your list begins to grow).
So, if you"ve decided to use a full service provider, you next have to decide whether to use a free service or pay-for-service provider. Again, free generally works well when your list is small, and grows more problematic as the number of subscribers increases.
Free services offer many of the same services as the commercial services, but don"t charge a fee. The catch? They place an ad in your e-mail newsletter. If you sell advertising the free service takes away a revenue spot. Or they restrict the number of subscribers or the number of mailouts. Services I"ve used include Topica, MailerMailer, and at the moment, I use ResponseBot. Again, you can find other services by using a search engine or directory.
One of the great advantages of using free services is the opportunity to try out different services before making a commitment. Test drive each one for a few issues to find out whether or not you like it, then make your choice.
Summing up, finding your way through the delivery choices can be a big job. But, be grateful for the choices, and use free versions to find out which works best for you.
Robert F. Abbott, the author of A Manager"s Guide to Newsletters: Communicating for Results, writes and publishes Abbott"s Communication Letter. Read more articles about Internet communication, as well as email and printed newsletters at: http://http://www.communication-newsletter.com/ic.html
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