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.