Subscribe Me Pro

by Joe Gillespie — Jan 1, 2004

If you need to send out a regular newsletter, as I do, there are several options. You can sign-up to a site that sends out mailing lists for you, you can use a bulk mailing program and send it yourself or you can install a script on your server to do it for you automatically. I've tried them all. The first was Topica.com, which used to offer their services free for small lists, but then they started putting ads in the mailings and now they charge $24.95 to send up to 10,000 mails. It's very easy to use but over a year, that adds up to nearly $300.

The second solution I tried was MaxBulkMailer which is a shareware Mac program. It lets you send emails to a list of subscribers but I had two problems with it. Firstly, it tied-up my computer for a considerable amount of time sending each email individually. Secondly, recent anti-spam legislation requires that mailing lists use a double opt-in technique where, on subscribing, the recipient immediately gets an email that they have to click a link on to confirm that they really want to subscribe. This stops people from maliciously subscribing people they don't like to receive loads of mail they don't want. MaxBulkMailer can't manage subscription lists like this.

The system I use now is called Subscribe Me Pro. It is a Perl script that sits on the server and automatically handles all the double opt-ins, and double opt-outs and the bulk mailing. It can manage as many newsletters or mailing lists as you like, in plain text or HTML format. All you have to do is paste a message into a box on a Web page, tell it which list of recipients to send it to, click 'Send Mail' and forget about it. A few minutes later, you receive an email from the program informing you that all the mail has been sent successfully. Great!

If the idea of a Perl script on the server sounds complicated, it isn't. Provided that you have a cgi-bin facility (you might have to ask your ISP if you aren't sure), all you have to do is upload the script to the server, type-in the appropriate URL, and the script automatically sets-up the program itself. If you're not happy to do this yourself, the company will do it for you for a small fee. There are Windows and UNIX versions available so it will run on a UNIX, Linux, Windows or Mac OSX server. Once installed, you control it all from your browser.

You can use Subscribe Me Pro as it comes, but you will probably want to customise the various feedback pages it provides to the look and feel of your site. This is accomplished by adding appropriate HTML for the top and bottom half of the pages – headers and footers. The program then draws its message in between.

Then, you will want to add a page to your site where people can subscribe and unsubscribe. All you need to do here is copy and paste the appropriate form HTML from the program's administration panel in your browser to wherever you want to put it on your page.

In addition to configuring the various response pages on your site, you can just as easily change the text in the response emails sent out. Again, this is done from the 'Edit' page in the administration panel. The editing areas are quite small so it is best to do the editing in your usual text editor and paste the final text into them.

Subscribe Me comes in three versions. The basic Subscribe Me Lite only handles one list and has a few features missing, but it's free, so you can try it out and make sure it works with your server setup. The 'Professional' version at $99 has a more features including multiple lists and that crucial double opt-in/opt-out facility that keeps you legal. Top of the range is the more heavy duty 'Enterprise' version at $199.

If you need a newsletter/announcement mailing list, either for yourself or to offer your clients as a service, they don't come much easier than this. It is flexible, fast and very good value for money.

Subscribe Me Pro
Features red bar85%
Ease of Use yellow bar90%
Value for Money green bar85%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar75%
Manufacturer SiteInteractive
Price $99
Summary An excellent solution for bulk mailings
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