Affordable newsletter alternatives

Email marketing is an indispensable method of communicating with your customers. As you may know however, simply blind copying a very large number of recipients is not allowed by most email services (Gmail, Yahoo etc). Even if you are sending emails directly from your server, you will realize that sending bulk mail directly will lead to your messages ending up in the spam folder of your contacts.

It is in light of this that mailing list services such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact etc where created. These services give you easy ways to send newsletters in a reliable way i.e. without ending up in the Spam folder. Most of them also have a free plan that enables you send messages to a limited number of contact at a limited frequency.

However, as your contact list or email frequency increases, you may begin to discover that these newsletter services may become rather pricey. Also, with the high exchange rate and the limitations many banks have now placed on the usage of their naira denominated debit cards for dollar purchases, paying for your newsletter subscriptions can become a heavy burden for SMEs.

In light of this, it is important to creatively explore alternative ways you can do email marketing without breaking the bank. One such way is a combination of Amazon SES and a self hosted newsletter application such as PHP list.

Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) is a cost-effective email service built on the reliable and scalable infrastructure that developed to serve its own customer base. More information about the service can be found here:

PHPList is a self hosted email marketing application that helps you send bulk mail, manage subscribers etc. It is a very robust and popular email marketing application.

The idea is to setup phplist on your server and then configure it to send email through Amazon SES.

Let us look at how cost effective this combination is. Say for example, we have a contact list containing 5,000 recipients. If we were going to use Mailchimp to send newsletters to this list regularly, the cost will be $50 per month! (Their pay as you go option is not worth considering as it is only for infrequent email sending and hence not cost effective).











For Amazon SES, email messages are charged at $0.10 per 1,000. Hence we will spend just $0.70 per email blast to your recipients. So say for example that you send 2 newsletters per week i.e. 8 newsletters per month, that will cost you just $5.6! That is a difference of $44.4 when compared to Mailchimp! Also, the great thing about Amazon SES is that it is post paid! You only pay for emails you send. So if you do not send any email in a month, you will not pay anything. With services like Mailchimp, you are charged automatically every month regardless of if you use the service or not.


  1. Your own hosting account. You need to have hosting that supports PHP and Mysql/MariaDB. Most Linux hosts (which are the most popular) support these requirements. You will need to install PHPList on this account. If you are not a tech savvy person, you might need to find someone who can assist you with the installation. Also, many hosts provide one-click installers to help you with the installation.

  2. An Amazon web services account. You can easily create one here:

Instructions on how to configure PHPList to work with Amazon SES can be found here: . I advise you or your consultant reference that page during setup.