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The forest for the trees: A new newsletter system for MaiNetCare


Internal messages

"Let's hurry" is probably the most fatal phrase there is. The moment you think it, you are doomed to feel Murphy's Law and you suspect: it's going to take a really long time!

Therefore, with this article I would like to apologise to the newsletter readers for the late issue. I know that you have been counting every second and looking at your mailbox in agony.

Why it took so long was: I was looking for a new newsletter system. Just quickly. Write a few newsletters, select a list of recipients, send them out. It can't be that difficult. What I hadn't considered was the internet.

If you search for the phrase "newsletter system", you will get no less than 590,000 hits on Google. The first pages are comparison portals: "All Newsletter Tools, All Providers", "The 10 Best Newsletter Systems", "The 4 Best Newsletter Systems 2021", "59 Newsletter Solutions You Should Know Now" ... You notice right away that the whole thing will be as simple as "I need a car".

So first do some soul-searching. What do I actually need?

Requirement 1: Writing must also be fun!

Writing a newsletter is work. To make work more palatable, you should make the framework as simple as possible. There is nothing worse than having to use a text editor that doesn't work properly or that turns my formatting into internet-galactic rubbish. A good example is the old text editor from Sendy, the newsletter system I have used to date. It's slim and it works and it can interface wonderfully with Amazon SES but it's no use when writing: typing is a pain. Whenever I was finished and went to the preview, suddenly line spacing was no longer correct, paragraphs were duplicated, etc., formatting was no longer correct.

I was able to fix the errors in the HTML source code, but honestly, this kind of writing is not fun. In a long text, <p> and <br> and <a> Setting or deleting tags afterwards is like cleaning the laundry of white lint after having washed the paper handkerchief again. It was even worse when I had prescribed texts in Libre Office and then wanted to copy them in. The formatting was so broken that it looked as if I had taken psychoactive substances while writing. But I hadn't. In moments like that, the notebook lives dangerously, although it really can't help it.

So if you are trying out a new newsletter system, first test whether you are comfortable using it. Write a letter or copy your written letter into the editor and see what happens.

Requirement 2: If we are already at it, then please full integration into our website

I wanted the newsletter system to integrate well with our website. We currently use a WordPress website and we keep a blog. These blog posts should be regularly deposited in the newsletter.

And the same applies the other way round: Why not just use a newsletter story as a blog post? You are reading a...

So if I use the newsletter system directly on our WordPress website, I save myself copying images and text back and forth between two different systems.

In addition, we keep the content of the entire newsletter directly as a web preview on our domain and this again means fodder for the search engines. The web preview of a newsletter is a function that comes with every newsletter system: I receive the newsletter as an email, but I also find a link there with which I can look at the whole thing again online at any time. You will usually find the web link at the end of each newsletter.

And while we're at it: It would be nice if, when writing the newsletter, I could simply select and paste the already finished blog posts from our website without a lot of "copy-paste". Something like this:

Requirement 3: If we already have the Amazon, she should also work for us.

Sending a lot of mails at once is not an easy thing to do. If you have a normal hosting package, then your provider usually prohibits the sending of mass emails. The mails must also be sent reliably and you need a log of the sending. Most important, however, is that the mails are delivered as SPAM-proof as possible. What good is the most beautiful mailing if the letters end up in the SPAM folder? The right IT technology plays an important role here. This is also the reason why there are so many providers on the market. You need basic admin knowledge of how mail works to get your own newsletter system up and running.

For us, the product Amazon SES offers itself as an external shipping system. It is reliable and cost-effective and even compliant with the GDPR. We already have an infrastructure at Amazon Web Services (AWS) for our special web applications and our AI search and, as a result, a quota of 50,000 emails per month. That's enough for several newsletters a day 🙂

Requirement 4: No third-party platforms

Most newsletter systems are available as third-party platforms, i.e. you register as a user on a website and manage your newsletters and other mail marketing functions from there. The most common representatives in Germany would be SendInBlue, CleverReach, RapidMail. The advantage of an external administrator is that you don't have to worry about sending mails (see above), the provider takes care of that. Many also offer a free basic package for a few emails, which explains the popularity of SendInBlue, for example, where you can send 300 emails per day free of charge. For many small self-employed people, that's enough thickness.

But still, I didn't want that. The costs play less of a role here than two other arguments:

  1. First, one is again dependent on the marketing whims of yet another vendor. For example, they decide to change the interface for a "new, even better user experience". Lately, this seems to be the trend. Mostly, for the regular processor, it means that familiar workflows no longer work. I want to have the operation under control and also the functional conditions. The costs anyway. Therefore, the requirement was: we install this on our system and have a certain amount of control. If I don't like new versions, I don't have to install them.
  2. The possibilities for intervention are limited.

What remains?

In the end, the research left these candidates as WordPress plug-ins:

ALO Newsletter falls out a bit because it doesn't actually offer any integration with Amazon SES, you'd probably have to programme that yourself, but hey - free! Nevertheless, I decided against it because it is only being developed very sporadically and the gap between the plug-in and the WordPress world is widening as a result. With such tendencies, it's only a matter of time before the whole thing blows up in your face with some update in the future of WordPress or the server software - and then nothing works anymore.

In the end, we decided on Mailster because it received surprisingly good reviews for a one-off purchase price and an initial test delivered really good results.

Long story short: I will report in the future, or you can read it yourself, how I get on with this system. And I hope I was able to inspire you a little with this report and make the forest more visible.

If you are planning to write newsletters for your community yourself, then get in touch with us. In the meantime, I know the providers quite well and we can find the right solution for you. So get cracking...