Lyris vs Feedblitz vs Feedburner vs Mailchimp (etc)

I’m often asked by clients to recommend a good system to manage email newsletters, and increasingly asked what’s the best way to email blog entries automatically. A few years ago I’d have advised buying an in-house emailing application (we used Lyris Listmanager at Pro-Talk between 2000 and 2006) but I feel more comfortable with the online, subscription-based services these days. Let somebody else take care of the IT side of things. That said, I’ve gone back to Lyris for some recent “one-off” email campaigns, as it’s reasonably straightforward to use and very reliable.

However, to send out these daily emails, I need a different method; a system which will just pick up any blog entries I write, format them nicely and email them to a subscriber list. If you have a blog, you’ll have the same requirement.

For the last year, I’ve been using Feedblitz, and it’s been doing a good job – as well it might, as it’s primarily designed to do exactly what I want. Prior to that, I used Google’s Feedburner, which is also a blog (RSS) to email service, like Feedblitz. Of the two, I’d recommend Feedblitz, because it proved much more reliable and had fast, personal technical support whenever I had a question. Feedburner was free (which is good), but when something went wrong …well, best of luck.

The drawbacks of Feedblitz include an awful user interface (UPDATE: now much improved). Its “anti-spam” policies are commendably thorough, but also irritating: Feedblitz won’t allow you to send to “sales@” or “info@” email addresses, for example, which is a real problem in industrial sales and marketing. I have several dozen potential subscribers who say they’ll only take these emails if I send them to their company’s “sales@” address, and why shouldn’t they be allowed to specify that?

But is there an all-in-one system, which is easy-to-use for one-off mailings such as email newsletters, but which can also handle emailing out blog entries unattended? I know that hundreds of you are interested in this, so I thought it was time to do some more real-life testing, as I don’t like to recommend anything without having had hands-on experience of it. I shall continue to use Lyris, Feedburner and Feedblitz on various email lists I run, but after today, I plan to send this list out using Mailchimp. (If you’re interested in Mailchimp yourself, they have an affiliate programme, so if you take a look at them using this link, apparently you get US$30 credit).

What are the advantages of Mailchimp over Feedblitz? Well, talk about beauty and the beast; instead of one of the most horrible user interface experiences I’ve seen on any web-based application, I’ll be using one of the nicest. (UPDATE: see above, although Mailchimp is still much nicer). Mailchimp will allow me to add all my “sales@” subscribers to the list – apparently – although I’ll have to add them by hand, but that’s fine. The help with setting up the email design looks fun. And the integration with Google Analytics is intriguing. The downsides are that the timing of daily blog-to-email postings, like this, is inflexible and later than I’d like it to be; (UPDATE: no longer true) and it’s going to cost a little bit more (although a few pounds a month won’t be a dealbreaker for a business user).

Anyway, let’s see what happens on Monday. I’ll probably change the design of the email slightly, but I’d be delighted to know what you think.

What email services would you recommend, and why? Scroll down to the comments section.

Discussion

  1. Jon

    Chris,

    That explains why Outlook spams your email as of this week! It passes through our fortigate unit OK (if it had not it would have been tagged) it is just outlook that spams it.

    Just a bit of feed back.

    ;oj

  2. Chris Post author

    Thanks Jon. A number of people have said the formatting is all wrong on their email clients too. Maybe the moral is “stick with what you know?”

  3. Jason

    Hi Chris, how have you found Mailchimp over the past months? You blog has answered a few questions i’ve had over which service to use but I would like to find out if your still convinced Mailchimp is the one.

    Thanks,
    Jason

  4. Chris Rand Post author

    Jason, I have to confess I went back to Feedblitz, and I learned a lesson, although it’s not necessarily an endorsement of one system over another. The lesson is: “don’t change mailing systems”. What happened was that all of my regular readers, by definition, could read the emails I sent out. When I changed email service provider, I started to get lots of complaints that the emails were not formatted properly or were unreadable. Now, it may be that the system I changed to is more widely “compatible” than the earlier one, despite the complaints. The problem is that it’s different. We tracked down one error as being an attempt to personalise the “To” field with records which only had an address, not a name (Outlook junked these). If you’re starting afresh, I can’t say whether one system’s emails are more widely “readable” than another’s, but once your readers are happy, I’d avoid changing things. The main problem with Feedblitz remains that its interface doesn’t fill you with any confidence whatsoever, whereas Mailchimp’s makes you feel great.

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