Are Your Emailed Newsletters Being Delivered?
Or are they being eaten by spam filters?
Those of you publishing on Substack, or via any email delivery service, may wish to consider the following.
Although I generally love Substack, I did have one problem early in my time here. I wasn’t getting my own newsletter.
Substack support replied to my questions on the matter, but that wasn’t getting us anywhere. And the reason turned out to be that the problem wasn’t with Substack, but with the mail server I was using to receive mail.
I’ve read numerous times over the years I’ve been online that over 90% of all email on the Internet is spam. In response to this tidal wave of unwanted mail, email servers all over the net have developed sophisticated mechanisms for filtering incoming email in the attempt to kill the spam before it ever arrives at the user’s inbox. If it wasn’t for such systems email would likely be useless as a communication medium.
So what happened in my case was that the mail server I use for receiving emails was misidentifying Substack newsletters as spam, and killing them at the server level before I ever saw them.
With the help of support staff at my mail host we began fine tuning the spam filters on the server for my account. Please note that the adjustments I made were for my account only, and had no impact on anyone else using that server for email. Thus, there’s a good chance everyone else on that server is also not receiving Substack newsletters, unless they too made the adjustments to spam filters that I made.
Tweaking the spam filter on the server sort of worked, and sort of didn’t work, so eventually I just turned off all spam filtering. As you’d expect, I now get more spam which I have to filter in my email client software. But now I get my own Substack newsletter every time.
How Many Readers Do I Really Have?
As best I can tell from the stats provided within my Substack account roughly about half of the newsletters I mail out get opened by subscribers. It’s hard to come to any big conclusion from such limited data.
But for now, my guess is that some significant percent of newsletters mailed by Substack are being eaten at the server level and never reach the inboxes of subscribers. Most subscribers won’t be able to do anything about this unless they are somewhat sophisticated technically and have a helpful mail host. How Substack might compare in this regard to other mail delivery systems is unknown to me.
To the degree the above is true, all of us publishing on Substack may have far fewer real readers than it may at first appear. I’m wondering how this impacts those readers who are paying for subscriptions.
The Substack Subscription System
I operated an emailed newsletter delivery system myself back in the 1990’s, so one of the first things I noticed about Substack is that they don’t use a confirmed email subscription system. You know, where you subscribe to something, and publisher sends you a confirmation email, and you have to click on a link to confirm that you made the subscription request.
The other thing I noticed is that it appears that any publisher on Substack can import any list of emails in to their account.
Finally, Substack offers a quality mailing/blogging service for free to everyone on the Internet, and this generous offer must be attracting lots of publishers who aren’t very savvy, or who are even deliberately trying to use the Substack system to spam.
I’m sure that Substack staff has considered all of the above and implemented systems which attempt to manage this situation. I’m not in a position to know what such systems are, or how well they are working. I also don’t know how well Substack’s email delivery system works in comparison with other email delivery companies.
I have noticed that Substack’s support staff is well intentioned, and doing their best, but they seem somewhat overwhelmed. I’ve also seen complaints on Facebook from subscribers who are unable to contact Substack staff by any method.
What Does This Mean?
As best I can tell from the limited information available to me, Substack authors probably have roughly somewhere around half as many email readers as it may appear. Substack mails the newsletters, but what happens after that is hard to know with any precision, given all the different situations at the receiver’s end.
None of the above should have impact on those who read a Substack newsletter on the Web.
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