Shopping For a List Server

When you started your newsletter or ezine and were building your list of subscribers, you probably maintained the list either on your own computer, or by using a CGI script on your web server.

Maintaining the list yourself provided reliability - you didn't have to worry about a third party host, you were sure that your list was secure, and it was pretty much free.

You may still be keeping your list this way, but as your subscriber list grows more of your time will be taken up with administrative tasks. Instead of maintaining a list, you will want to concentrate on producing a quality publication.

Here are five benefits to hosting your newsletter or ezine on a third party list server that you should consider:

1) It takes less time to administer the list because the third party host will take care of all subscribe/unsubscribe requests for you.

2) You will benefit from double opt-in subscriptions because list servers automatically require confirmation for each subscription request.

An opt-in list can prevent accusations of spamming. When subscriptions are verified via double opt-in, each subscriber is confirmed before being added to the list.

3) A list server prevents bounced emails.

Many people subscribe to newsletters with a forwarded email account or through a "dummy" e-mail account to avoid spam. You are left with bounced email addresses that no longer exist. A third party list will take care of bounced email for you.

4) A third party host provides verified subscriber counts that are important if you sell advertising in your newsletters because
advertisers will want to know your subscriber count.

You won't have to provide the information yourself (and possible share the list) if you use a third party host.

5) Hosting services may provide promotion by listing your newsletter on their websites in a directory of hosted newsletters. This free advertising may gain you additional subscribers.

What To Look For In A List Server

1) As a list owner your first concern is for the privacy of your list. You must confirm that the third-party will maintain your list's privacy.

2) You also want to be sure that the host is both fast and reliable since you are dependent on its service.

3) Find out if you are able to upload your existing subscriber names to the new list. This is especially important if you don't want your existing subscribers to have to reconfirm their subscriptions through the new host.

4) Pick a service with the ability to send your newsletter to individual email addresses rather than a list name. This way, you avoid bulk mail filters on many ISPs.

5) You also want to check whether your host offers a searchable newsletter archiving service.

6) Finally, you should be aware that a free hosting service would add advertisements to your newsletter. Decide if you want your subscribers to see them.

Some List Servers To Consider

Topica ( is a well-reviewed list server that offers both free and fee-based services.

Topica's privacy policy states, "Topica will never willfully disclose personally identifiable information about its customers to any third party without first receiving that customer's permission, unless necessary for legal reasons."

Yahoo Groups (
are another option. Although Yahoo Groups are intended as email discussion groups, an account can also be configured for use as a newsletter list server.

You need to decide about the privacy policy for this service. Yahoo Groups help states "if you use Groups, it is very likely that others users will be able to see your email address."

Again, it is your list. You have to decide how to protect it.

Setting Up Your List Server Account

You need to set the correct options for your list server account to use it to distribute your newsletter.

Some of the options you will need for a Topica account are:

1) Type: My list is a newsletter/announcement. Advertisements will be added to your newsletter.

2) Subscription: New subscriptions do not require my approval. Does not require owner approval for people to join the list.

3) Archive Mode: Archives are readable by everyone. Allow advertisers and potential subscribers to view past issues.

Using The List Server

Once you have configured your list server you can post your newsletter and it will be delivered to all of your subscribers.

The only administrative task you will have to perform is dealing with delivery failures.

Bounced email addresses are usually kept in a separate folder for you to review.

There are basically two choices - delete them or reactivate the address.

Delivery failures usually fall into two categories:

1) The email account no longer exists. Remove these addresses immediately.

2) There is a temporary problem with an email account. Either the mailbox is full or the mail server is down.

Ignore the failed delivery, assuming it is caused by a temporary problem.

If you decide to ignore failed deliveries rather than risk deleting subscribers who are temporarily unavailable, establish a policy for dealing with repeated failures for a single address.

I follow the rule of three.

On the third failed delivery attempt I delete the address, assuming the problem can't be fixed.

Remember, if non-deliverable addresses remain on your list, advertisers won't want to pay for your publication.

As your business grows you will want to shift some of the administrative burden to third party services.

Investigate each company and make sure that you feel comfortable with their privacy policies before you sign up.