Use a List-server to Distribute Your Newsletter

May 19 21:00 2002 By Stephen Bucaro Print This Article

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Use a List-server to Distribute Your Newsletter

By Stephen Bucaro

If you publish an e-newsletter or e-zine, you know that
administering your subscriber list is a big chore. To
maintain the list, you may be using an email program on
your computer or a CGI program on your server. One
advantage to maintaining the list yourself is that you
know it is not being shared by anyone else.

However, there are four good reasons why you should host
your list on a list-server.

1. People can subscribe or unsubscribe from your list
automatically with absolutely no work by you.

2. People often subscribe with an email alias or forwarded
email account. You send your newsletter to one address,
then receive a delivery failure or unsubscribe from an
address not on your list. You can’t delete it from your

3. People subscribe to the list and then forget that they
subscribed. They accuse you of spamming. This can’t be
avoided entirely, but if your list is hosted on a
list-server, you can respond by saying “all subscribes
and unsubscribes are handled automatically by the list
server, you have no control of it.”

4. If you plan to sell advertising in your newsletter,
most advertisers and advertisement networks will require
you to verify your subscriber count. If you maintain the
list yourself, the only way you can do that is to share
your list with them. You don’t want to do that.

If your list is hosted on a list-server, the number of
subscribers is there for all to see, provided by an
independent third party.

Choosing a List-server

Many list-servers disappeared in the ".com" bust. The best
one, listbot, was bought by Microsoft. It is now called
bCentral and costs $30.00 per month. Being a list owner,
it is your responsibility to keep your list private. With
the well publicized ethical problems at Microsoft, I would
not put my subscriber list in their hands.

Most of the lists ended up on Yahoo. They are in the
domain I find yahoo groups very
complicated to configure. I also worry about Yahoo’s
privacy policy. Yahoo Group Help states, “If you use
Groups, it is very likely that other users will be able to
see your email address.” has the easiest to setup
list-server. However, it is primarily a group mailing list
application that must be configured correctly to perform
the newsletter list function. Topica’s privacy policy
states, “The email addresses of participants are partially
obscured so they are not obtainable by unauthorized

Configuring the List-server

To make a list server function as a newsletter list
requires that you modify its default configuration. The
following configurations should be set.

1. List Type: Read-only Announcement list. Only the owner
of the list can post messages to the list.

2. Subscription: Does not require owner approval for
people to join the list.

3. Archive: Readable by subscribers only. If
non-subscribers can read the newsletter, why should
anyone subscribe?

Using the List Server

Now all you have to do is post your newsletter to the list
and it will be delivered to all the subscribers. You will
still be required to deal with delivery failures. If the
reason for the delivery failure is because the email box
no-longer exists, then you should delete that address from
your list immediately.

A delivery failure can also occur because the email box is
too full, or because the mail server is down. You should
establish a policy for dealing with delivery failures.
You have three choices.

1. Ignore them and let the number of messages returned
because of delivery failure grow to enormous size.
Advertisers will not use newsletters if they find out they
are paying for a large number of non-deliverable addresses.

2. Delete them immediately. If you do that, you may be
removing many subscribers who only have the temporary
problems mentioned above.

3. Keep a delivery failure address on your list until it
fails three times. After three consecutive delivery
failures, it is unlikely that the situation will clear up,
so you may as well delete the member.

If you want to publish a quality e-newsletter or e-zine,
you need to spend more time working on content and less
time administering the subscriber list. For this reason,
you should use a list-server application. But make sure
that you are comfortable with the operation of the
list-server before you commit your valuable subscriber
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By Stephen Bucaro
By Stephen Bucaro

Stephen Bucaro is the webmaster at

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