How to Choose the Right E-mail List Service Provider

January 8, 2009

in e-mail

by David Strom

Ever wanted to send out emails to a bunch of people at once and tried to use Outlook or some other desktop email program to do it? The process may seem simple, until you start get messages that are returned because the addresses are old, or worse when someone replies to your entire list by mistake. Plus, using your desktop email program means you have to assemble the various collections of email addresses manually, and sometimes you can mess up.

There are also situations where sometimes you forget and put your entire list in the “To” field of your message, and invariably one of your recipients hits “reply all” and sends their reply to your entire list. That isn’t good!

There are a number of providers that offer what they call email groups or list servers. These are special sites that manage the entire list membership, including automatically subscribing and unsubscribing people, and keeping an archive of all the messages that you sent so you can go back and review them. While many of these providers charge fees, there are some that are free and any of the free services is still better than using your own email software for sending messages to large numbers of recipients.

You have three basic choices when it comes to list servers: the free, the cheap, and the pricey. While price alone is a good way to decide, there are some other reasons and I will talk about them here.

For all three choices, you need to assemble all your email addresses that you want to start your list with. You can export these from your email program into a text file, and then bring up the file in a word processor program. Hold on to that file now.

For free there are many choices, and two of the most popular are Google Groups and Yahoo Groups. Google Groups is not as good as Yahoo Groups, except in one area: the ability to set up large lists quickly. Yahoo only lets you add 10 people a day to your list without asking them to opt-in. With Google, you go to and click on the “create a new group” button at the top of the page and fill out the form. Pick a name that is similar to your domain name or business. Once you have your group created, you click on its name and then on the “invite members” button, and then the link to add members directly. Cut and paste them from the text file you prepared earlier, write your welcome message and click on the second radio button to send out individual emails, and you are done.

The one service that I recommend for the cheap set is Mailman. Mailman gives you all sorts of control over the message format and how the list is constructed, but it is limited to text-only messages. You can get hosting for less than $10 a month.

But this may not be enough for your purposes. If you want to add Web links in your emails and track who clicks on which link, such as for promotional purposes, then you want either or iContact. The cheapest plan is $20 for the former or $10 a month for the latter for up to 500 names. If you have 2,500 names, the fee increases to $30 a month for either service. The advantages of either of these services is that you can send out very snazzy emails, with pictures, color, and links to Web sites, and you’ll also be able to track who clicks on what links that you have in your newsletter.

David Strom is an expert on Internet and networking technologies who was the former editor-in-chief at Network Computing, Tom’s, and He currently writes regularly for PC World, Baseline Magazine, and the New York Times and is also a professional speaker, podcaster and blogs at and

{ 1 comment }

David Strom 01.10.09 at 12:01 pm

The Mailman service provider that I have used and like is from They charge a $10 setup for each list and $4 a month for most lists.

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