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Free Emailing Services and Passwords

By Bob McElwain
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004

Shortly after starting my first email newsletter, the list grew beyond a hundred names. I found I was spending far too much time adding and deleting subscribers. And the bounces were tough to handle. (A bounce is an email that is returned as undeliverable.) There are a lot of valid reasons for bounces, such as a mailbox being full, so one can not assume an address that bounced is no longer good. For example, AOL choked one day and sent back some thirty copies of the newsletter!

I never did figure a best-way to deal with bounces. What I settled for was resending the following day with the subject as Second Try. Note this list was subscribed to by a lot of young people and curiosity seekers, so there were lots of changes and lots of bounces from addresses canceled.

When I heard about ListBot, I checked. It is part of the LinkExchange operation, now owned by MSN. I read all the info
available with a good deal of care. I liked the way in which they dealt with bounces. (Translate: I would not have to do so.) So I signed up. I passed on free and took the Gold option for $79/year because the size of my newsletter and frequency of mailing made it practical to do so. I put their nice form up on my site pages, and lots of visitors subscribed easily by typing in their email address.

But a problem arose immediately. It stemmed from ListBot's demand that subscribers enter a password to unsubscribe. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? It backfired on me in two ways.

First, they send a subscriber his or her forgotten password by auto-responder, which usually arrives in less than a minute. But this didn't work with AOL subscribers. At least at that time, email to AOL was commonly delayed several hours. Impatient subscribers wrote not-nice notes demanding I solve the problem. I did not like the notes. And it would have been easier to deal with them on my own system, than to trot off to ListBot.

Second, a lot of my subscribers used email addresses connected to the firm at which they worked. When an employee
left the company, I got email demanding removal, for of course they could not know what the password was. Unfortunately, it often required waiting for another newsletter in order to find the correct email address.

On one such occasion, I got an angry call from a fellow who claimed to be the owner of a company. He demanded I simply search on his company URL. While still on the phone, I checked my parallel list and got nine hits. I explained I did not know which one to delete.

He flat wigged out and demanded I delete them all! No way were his employees going to waste their time and his resources. His vocabulary was colorful and there was much talk of law suits. A real fun time.

Not much later, I gave up on ListBot. The password bit had proved to be a killer. If I could have figured a way around this problem, I would still be using their service, for it was excellent in all other respects. Instead, I went back to dealing with them myself and grit my teeth regards the time it was taking to maintain my list. Again, this was a list that changed frequently. With a more stable list such as the one for "STAT News," this is not much of a problem for there are few unsubscribes and even fewer bad addresses.

About a month later, I read a terrific article: "Review Of Free Mailing List Programs" by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson,
( He identified four free emailing services and put all through some very thorough tests. They were
ONEList (

Wilson's basic interest seemed to lie in open and moderated discussion lists, but his comments apply as well to a newsletter such as "STAT News" (an announcement list). If you need further information, be sure to read his article. The following is a link to an excellent table comparing these four services. (>). From this page, you can click back to the article itself.

As Wilson points out, none of them are truly free, for they add an advertisement to the bottom of each copy of your
newsletter. At present, Topica has an option to omit it, but this will change. ListBot has not implemented it as yet, but is expected to do so soon. In any case, for $60-$80 a year, you can buy ad-free service.

The few things Wilson found as flaws were of no concern to me. And my list was still growing, taking ever greater chunks of time. So I checked, then rechecked. All appeared to solve the bounce problem well enough. All archive your newsletter. I was ready to try one. Then I found it required a password. Upon a closer look, all required one.

This led to a second problem. I wrote to each asking if the password field could be omitted. The answer was no, which was not surprising, for ListBot had already told me this. What was surprising was that it took several days to get a reply. The answers to follow up questions were also slow in coming.

Bottom Line: I like the support from ListBot. And when you are just getting started, you need lots of help. ListBot was
excellent in this regard. If you do not feel passwords will be a problem for you, I recommend ListBot. However, I'm sure the other services do an excellent job. Reading Wilson's article will likely bring you to the same conclusion.

About the Author
Bob McElwain
Web marketing and consulting since 1993 For Newbie-Friendly Site Stuff, subscribe to "STAT News." Send any email to Need a few extra bucks? Or a lot? It's easy to do! (>) Learn HTML in 3.5 hours! FREE! Download your Kit now. (>)


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