With my last theme I provided the options to subscribe to this sites RSS feed or to subscribe by email. While I would like to offer these options again, at some point I need to set something up so people can subscribe to an OpenSourceHack newsletter. I feel like I should probably decide which direction to follow soon so I don’t end up losing readers by having to switch list platforms sometime in the future. If I follow the Feedburner route, a lot of the management takes care of itself. If I decide on an open source newsletter manager, it might not be so easy.

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A number of sites I read use AWeber for all their email marketing and newsletter communication. People really seem to love it. They report your email subscribers to Feedburner, so if you only have a small amount of RSS subscribers, but a whole bunch of email subscribers, it’s all included in your little Feedburner chicklet. My only issue with using them would be the idea of dollars going out of my pocket. The lowest plan is only $19 a month, and I know a lot of people will say if you’re unwilling to pay $19 a month, you’re not serious about growing your business or website. While I somewhat identify with that philosophy, I also somewhat disagree with it.

There’s probably a tons of things I can foresee myself needing when the site gets a lot more daily visitors, but does that mean I should shell out the money for them now? With my aspirations for this site, I believe I’ll need a dedicated server one day, but should I order it now? Then to destroy my own argument in the same breath, I felt the need after only a hundred days to go purchase a premium WordPress theme so I wouldn’t have to worry about too many changes down the road. Maybe that’s why people choose AWeber and maybe that’s why we should too.

However, this post (or what’s left of it) is about an alternative solution that I know very little about, but still looks pretty cool. It’s called PhpList and it’s got a hefty list of features worth checking out. There’s also a demo page with links to different demos, but they really don’t do it justice because you have to imagine these forms would be integrated into your site pages and look nicer as a result.

They boast of being able to handle hundreds of thousands of users which sounds impressive. Templates are customizable, subscribers never receive duplicate copies even if subscribed more than once, and you can schedule when your emails are sent. The feature that caught my eye was the ability to fetch and send a webpage. If you didn’t want to fuss around with configuring templates, I suppose you could publish your newsletter right on your site and just send your subscribers to the new page when it becomes available. Sounds like a great way to keep people coming back.

As much fanfare as AWeber gets, I think I’ll play around with PhpList first. I don’t know how to use either, so I’d rather become familiar with something free instead of feeling like I have to learn my way around a new application quickly because the money is still getting deducted either way. I don’t have any subscribers right now, so I don’t have to make any tough decisions on a newsletter platform at the moment. When I get up to a couple hundred subscribers, you’ll know that it’s time for me to make a decision on whether to stay open source or take the plunge to commercial.