I never thought that this labor of love called Web Informant would turn into a Publication. When I started it in 1995, the goal was to drive traffic to my web site and keep my clients up to date on my activities. Little did I realize what a useful marketing tool WI would turn into or how much fun I would have writing to you every week (or so). Now I have a bona-fide ISSN number (issued by the Library of Congress for serial publications), along with a trademark on the name. People are even asking for my editorial calendar. Who would have thought.
In the three and half years of writing these missives, I've used a wide variety of home-grown and commercial technologies to distribute these essays. I began with a perl script written by Bryan Taylor that would take the minimally encoded HTML text and send it out to my list. I used this system for about a year to deliver the first 43 or so issues. Back then, I was a bit ahead of the curve on HTML-email.
Over time, I went through a few different technologies:
That's where things stood for a while: one list, maintained by me in Approach driven by Cold Fusion. A second list maintained by Revnet, both getting the same plain text document to send via email. For both Groupmaster and Cold Fusion, I would fill out a series of web forms and cut and paste the text from my word processor into the browser forms. A third production stream was the HTML file that got posted to my site as an archive. It was getting a bit tedious, especially as my list grew it was getting more and more time consuming to deal with bounces and auto-replies.
That is when I began to shop around for a new distribution system. Before long I was deep into a Technology Evaluation Project, testing three different service providers: Exactis.com, MessageMedia.com, and eGroups.com. The first two have custom-designed browser-based publishing systems that they run for clients with much larger mail volume than I. eGroups is a free service that does more than list processing: you can set up common calendars and discussion groups.
I haven't yet decided which of the three services I will end up using for my list, but I have come up with a series of questions you might want to ask any email publishing vendor if you are planning on spamming your friends with your own emails:
Stay tuned as I continue my evaluation and you'll find out which service I will end up with.
Minimal fee providers. These folks have better reports, allow you to upload an existing list into their system, and some other features.
Professional service providers. These guys deal with millions of email per day and have a customized interface to send out your messages. They will cost more than $30 a month, though.
I have recorded some screen shots of each service (using a great product called Catch the Web). It is a 400k Windows .EXE (virus free) that you can download and play back the sites offline and see the interfaces and my comments for yourself. Demo here.
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entire contents copyright 1999 by David Strom, Inc.
Web Informant is ® registered trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
ISSN #1524-6353 registered with U.S. Library of Congress.