Allan Douglas is one of the fabulous people I’ve met through my blog. A subscriber, he frequently offers sage advice by leaving a comment on one of my posts – and he knows what he’s talking about: He’s had great sucess with his own blog! I invited Allan to share his experiences with an alternative to Mailchimp. Here’s Allan’s review of Subscribe2:
If you are an author/blogger, you probably have an e-mail subscriber list to which you send notices of new posts and special offers on your books. If you don’t, you should. There are several excellent mail list managers available but they are outside services and generally require you to log-in and compose the emails every time you send. I wanted to find an easier way to notify my readers of new posts. I found Subscribe2, a plug-in for WordPress blogs.
Registered Subscribers are users who have registered with the blog. They can login to manage their own subscription choosing plain text or HTML email format and selecting to receive notifications when posts are made in specific categories. There is also an option to receive an excerpt of the post or the full post if plain test is selected.
Public Subscribers can subscribe and unsubscribe through a convenient web-based form. All requests require confirmation by email. Public subscribers have no choice about the type of subscription.
Administrators have several management functions, including configuration of the email templates used for new post notifications and (un)subscription requests. Administrators can also subscribe or unsubscribe users, as well as send out an email to all confirmed subscribers.
Subscribe2 has the following requirements:
• WordPress 2.0.x
• Hosting on servers that allow e-mail sending with Bcc: headers
Installing the plug-in was a snap through the WP plug-in control panel. It unpacked and installed properly the first time. It does not seem to have compromised any of the 21 other plugins I run on my blog. What installs is the free version. A paid version with expanded capabilities is also available. Even in the free version, Subscribe2 offers a fair selection of subscriber options and notification settings, including the frequency and time of day to send.
Your frequency options are:
- For Each Post
- Once Hourly
- Twice Daily
- Once Daily
- Once Weekly
- Twice a Month
Templates are provided that allow you to set up standard text and pull in variable text via substitution keys that will bring in things like the blog name, the post title, your name, the link or a short link, and much more. You can change the template any time you like. The free version sends text-only messages, so pictures and backgrounds are not available – these come with the paid version.
Moving & Building the List
If you are currently using another mail list service and want to move to an in-house solution with Subscribe2, as long as your current provider can export your list as a comma delineated text file, you can move your list quite simply.
I was using MailChimp. I exported the list, used Excel to delete the columns for tracking information and subscriber loyalty info, saved the edited list, then imported it into Subscribe2 and it worked right out of the blocks. You may manually enter name and email address info as well.
Subscribe2 also provides a widget for your side bar where readers can subscribe to/unsubscribe from your list. And it allows you to add a small “Subscribe to updates” notice to your comment form. Very handy. Once set up, the list is presented to you alphabetized and with the join date. There is also a search function. You can elect to receive an email notice of subscribe/unsubscribe activity.
I’ve been using the free version of Subscribe2 for about a month now and have been very pleased with the results. It sends on schedule and gets the information correct. I’m seriously considering shelling out the $40 for the paid version so I can use HTML templates for the e-mail messages Subscribe2 sends out. These would be much more attractive and versatile.
The Down Side
The only down side I see is that Subscribe2 does not provide any performance information as to how your readership reacts to your e-mails. MailChimp provided data on how many readers opened the e-mails and how many clicked through to the article for each e-mail campaign. It also kept data that ranked the readers loyalty (those who open your e-mails and those who don’t) overall.
I found this data interesting as it provided some sort of measuring stick on the effectiveness of my mailing campaigns. If I were hawking a product, I’d need to know things like this. Since I’m just notifying readers of new posts, this is not very important to me now. Especially since with Subscribe2 I don’t have to pay additional fees if my readership goes over a threshold like it did with MailChimp. Then it was important to keep the deadwood trimmed out of the list to avoid inflated costs by sending messages that were most likely being piped off to trash. This really isn’t much of a down side to me, but it is worth considering if your needs are more demanding.
The Up Side!
For me, the best part of Subscribe2 that it is fully automated; once a week an e-mail goes out to my readership informing them of the new posts that went up since the last send. And it is sent as a digest, so I’m not annoying my readers with emails every couple of days. Feedback on this has been favorable. For more information, check out the Subscribe2 Plugin Website.
About The Author: Allan Douglas has been an author, writer, and prattler since the 1970’s. Published mostly in magazines, he has three books to date with more on the way. He lives on a mountainside in the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee with his wonderful wife where they run a foster dog program helping the local animal shelter get sick dogs healthy enough to be adopted. He serves as an ordained Elder and Clerk of Session (writer of minutes) in his church, is a master woodworker/furniture maker, and once dreamt of sailing the world in a Bristol Channel Cutter. Stories about this and his life as a mountain man wannabe along with advice to writers can be found at his blog.
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