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List Servers

By Bob Osgoodby
Posted Sunday, January 16, 2005

There are basically two ways you can send out bulk email. Before we get into how you can, let's clarify a few points.

There are basically two types of bulk email sent out.

The first, which is unsolicited bulk mail, is commonly referred to as "spam". Spam is flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it. Most spam is commercial advertising, often for dubious products, get-rich- quick schemes, or quasi-legal services, and is the genre of the Scamster. The correct definition of spam is UBE, "unsolicited bulk email".

The second, which is solicited, is commonly referred to as "opt- in" email. This differs from spam in that the recipients, have asked to receive the email. This normally takes the form of a newsletter or ezine. An important point here, is that the person can easily remove their email address from the list if they don't want to receive it in the future.

For purposes of this discussion, let's assume we are sending our email to an "opt in" list. Forget about spamming. Most ISP's (Internet Service Providers) will cancel your account if you do so.

You can send out your email in one of two ways. Either you can maintain the list of addresses on your computer, or use a List Server.

If you maintain the list yourself, and send out your email using a package such as Pegasus or Eudora, you are responsible for maintaining the list - both adds and drops. If you have a lot of subscribers, this can become an unmanageable task. It also ties up your computer for a period of time while you are sending them out. Using a standard modem, figure about 15 minutes per thousand addresses.

Enter the List Server - here you send your message to the List Server and it sends it to your list - you can then go about your business while this is being done. It also makes the maintenance of your list a lot easier. You don't have to worry about adds, and more importantly drops to the list, as it is done for you. If you have only a few hundred names, you can consider doing it yourself, but when your list gets larger than that, you should definitely consider using a List Server.

Now there are List Servers and there are List Servers. Many were added by ISP's as an afterthought trying to provide a full range of service for their customers. Others have dedicated servers just for this purpose. This is important as the ones added as an afterthought, usually do not provide the level of service desired. They give an extremely low priority to sending out the email, and it can take up to 24 hours before your message is relayed - not very good for time sensitive information.

Some are free and others cost anywhere from $60 to $7,500 per year. Let's talk about free as that is normally within the budget of most people. There are a number of free list servers available, and a search on the Internet of "Free List Servers" will quickly provide this information.

One I found, which I like is "Topica". In point of fact, I have four of my lists there. Before doing this, I did considerable research on the Company, and while I had a number of questions, they were all answered to my satisfaction. They also recently revised the "look and feel" of their web site (where you interact with them) and that was a definite positive as it is now a lot easier to navigate their site.

My largest list is the "Your Business Newsletter" with 10,000+ subscribers. This is an announcement list, which means that only I can send information to the subscribers. My smallest is "Just Jokes" with just 22 subscribers, which started last week. This is an open discussion list, which means that anyone can send out a post to the subscriber base.

Now Topica obviously has some high powered computers as the messages sent are usually delivered within minutes of being sent. Now my next question would be - how can they afford to do this free.

Advertisers pay the freight. You get a small and very unobtrusive ad for their services at the end of each email sent, and they provide archival services on their web site. If you visit there, you will see the banner ads of their advertisers - a small price to pay for the quality of their services.

As a prudent person, once a week, I download all the email addresses of my subscriber lists. Does this mean I expect a problem with Topica? No, it means I am a prudent person. They do allow you to download all of your addresses to your local computer, which is a plus. If you ever decided you wanted to leave their service, your mailing list will be intact.

You are limited to 500 addresses that you can load directly, and this is to prevent UBE spamsters from abusing their service. If you do have a larger list to import, you can make arrangements through their customer support.

Anyone who uses a mailing list should definitely check this out at: (http://www.topica.com/) - feel free to visit our newest list at: (http://www.topica.com/lists/justjokes/) - and if you have some humor to share with us, don't hesitate to subscribe.

About the Author
Bob publishes the free weekly "Your Business" Newsletter Visit his Web Site at (http://adv-marketing.com/business) to subscribe and place a Free Ad for your business.