I just posted comment over at ProBlogger, Darren's looking for an email newsletter service. We use Ezine Director and have been happy with it. There's lots of other suggestions in the comments to Darren's post. I'm curious to see what service he picks.
Note: since posting the comment I've continued updating this entry including correcting our subscriber count to over 31,000 and adding details about the statistics available. The cost for us is about $1us per 1,000 emails sent, but there's a sliding price scale that you can find on their site. But there is a $19.50 minimum charge for the full service, so it may be relatively expensive if you only send a couple of thousand emails per month.
We've been using Ezine Director to manage our monthly email newsletter. We have over 31,000 subscribers so we rely on Ezine Director to make the whole process efficient. In fact, in the past I thought I'd replace it at some point with some free software that I could run on our server. However, the whole thing just works and I really don't want to change something that doesn't cost much.
We have a little sign up box on most of our web pages. It's a form based bit of HTML that signs up subscribers and then Ezine Director takes care of sending an email and handling the reply that verifies they really do want to sign up. And because we promote it above the fold in a highly visable location we get good growth in subscribers.
Once you have a list of subscribers you can then schedule a "campaign" to be sent out. Scheduling turned out to be important when last Christmas we realized that sending the email out on a busy Monday morning was not good. Subscribers flooded our bandwidth capacity when everyone started browsing the links in our emails at the same time. So now we try and send our newsletters during non-peak hours and days to spread the load out.
Ezine Director takes care of handling reject bounces, complaints, and other aspects of mail delivery and provides statistics for every campaign sent out. It even automatically drops emails ids that have permanent delivery failures.
Ezine Director will forward replies, so we do spend some time going thru subscribers who have turned on an automated reply. Most just indicate they're out of the office, but every time we send we get notes indicating a subscriber has a new email id. We take those emails and manually fix up their email id in Ezine Director.
In fact a complete history of each subscriber is kept, when they joined, what newsletters they were sent, which they viewed, and even what links were clicked. It also tracks spam complaints and Ezine Director will penalize those who get tagged with sending excessive spam. It's never been a problem for us, but then we collect our own email list.
Ezine Director is free for up to 250 emails per month so you can try the service for free. After that there's a sliding scale that seems pretty reasonable for heavy users.
If there's one complaint, it's their user interface. It's clunky, and ugly, they even use "User Interface" as a link that brings you to the main page where you do things. You also have to remember to select your email list prior to doing many activities. It's frustrating that you can't set a default list.
Update: you can edit the properties of a list and set the list to be the 'default'. Useful if you have one main list like us. But the interface would still be clunky for someone with a few regular lists.
We've never had a problem with the service itself. Not being a full time system adminstrator, it's nice not to have to run a service like this. Sure we pay our monthly fees, but now that we're set up, we don't have to do anything technical. We can focus on creating content for our site and the newsletter.
We recommend Ezine Director. The service works well despite the user interface and it's reasonably priced at least for volume users.