PairList, AKA Mailman, at Pair Networks (Email Discussion Groups)

Last week I posted about the future for the Many-to-Many Email Discussion List, and how it is still a valuable item for many online communities.

This week I want to focus on one very reasonably priced provider of software/hosting of such lists.  About the least costly way to run an “everyone-to-everyone” email discussion list is the way we’re currently doing for about half a dozen clients. We use as the host server with the PairList software (which is really Mailman). The entire cost can be a one-time setup fee of $25 and then $10 per month for the hosting with their Basic level service.

You have the ability you want in such a software: moderate the discussion; to archive discussions; to allow or not allow attachments; to provide digests to subscribers who rather get a day’s worth of emails in one email, rather than several emails. It’s a nice product, especially for the price when compared to others, BUT it’s not that easy for the subscriber to use as far as accessing archives or changing their setup, which means you’ll probably be doing that for them or providing additional documentation to help them do it.

One of the things you pay for with higher priced email lists is the vendor’s work to keep lists off of spamfilters and other delivery issues. With this low priced option, you’re on your own, so you have to be careful that the list doesn’t run afoul of the large email providers with ridiculously set spamfilters (here’s looking at you, Comcast). But if you follow some common-sense approaches and remind your list’s members to do the same, you should usually stay out of trouble.  But if you get greylisted, it can be a headache to get it cleared up, and it’s up to you to get it done.

The hosting levels at Pair are based on features, storage space and transfer limits, and a HUGE list of tens of thousands of email addresses, with very heavy activity, will require a service level upgrade to fit your needs. Still, one of the nice things is that it’s flat fee based – cost is not based on the number of emails sent, or the number of subscribers in the list, etc., so an organization can plan out their costs.

Pair Networks has been offering the pairList service for several years now, however, until recently they treated it more as a beta test product and they stated that costs were subject to change.   It’s now been formalized as one of their service offerings.