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Choosing an Email Service Provider: Top 5 Things Magazine Publishers Should Look For

When it comes to marketing your publication and connecting with your audience, email marketing is a quick and cost-effective method.  Full service email companies are prevalent and can offer general email services like management and distribution, while more robust services also include analytics and template design. We feel there are a few specific items that magazine publishers should look for when considering a vendor.

Here is a list of the top 5 things a magazine publisher should look for in an Email Service Provider (ESP):

1.    Analytics – Analytics are key when it comes to successful email marketing. You’ll want to be able to see how many recipients received, opened, and clicked your email, and also those that unsubscribed from receiving emails to seeing how many bad addresses are on your email list. Some email services will charge a premium for viewing and downloading reports, while others include reporting in the overall service cost.

2.    Requirement of a Confirmed, Opt-In Email List – When looking for an email provider, seek out one that requires a confirmed, opt-in list, sometimes referred to as a double opt-in list. This is a distribution list where each name on the list is acquired by the reader requesting information from the organization, and that you, in turn, have responded with a confirmation notice. This is very different from a ‘farmed’ list, where email addresses are purchased from marketing agencies. The step of email address verification (confirmation) is considered by many anti-spam advocates to be the minimum degree necessary for staying in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

3.    Options to Increase Deliverability – There are a few different options we believe you should look for when it comes to increasing the chances of your message being delivered to the intended recipient:

  • IP Server Reputation – Each email sent is measured for quality by the spam filter on the recipient’s email server. Emails sent by a vendor with a low IP server score are caught and blocked more frequently than those with a high score. This not only affects your open rates, but the deliverability of your content as a whole.  Look for a vendor who is not on a blacklist, and who encourages confirmed, opt-in email lists.
  • Spam Assassin and Inbox Inspector – Some vendors will offer a service like Spam Assassin, or Inbox Inspector, which review your email notification and will flag words or content that makes your message more likely to be flagged as spam by a receiving server.
  • Plain-Text Versions of Email Notifications – Sending plain-text versions of your email notification (also known as Alternative Content) can increase deliverability to those recipients whose email program can’t render HTML, and will decrease the chances of your HTML email being marked as spam, since it relies on the idea that most spammers won’t bother to create alternative content.

4.    Approved SMTP Logs – The SMTP (short for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) log is a record stored on a server that allow you to monitor information related to a deployment, information such as how many times a recipient opened the email, the time they last clicked in the email, the name of the accepting mail server, and what the server’s response was. Auditing agencies BPA and AAM (formerly ABC) will need SMTP logs that have been pre-approved by their organization to complete your audit, if you are a circulation-audited publication.  Some Email Service Providers will provide these for a fee, while others don’t provide approved logs at all. Be sure to confirm with your vendor.

5.    Solid Customer Support – Some Email Service Providers offer a do-it-yourself solution without customer support, while others will offer a live chat service or customer service representatives to assist you with any questions you may have. We recommend going with a full-service customer support solution to make your foray into email marketing as stress-free as possible.


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