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Zookoda – I Don’t Recommend them Anymore

ZookodaThis is just a short note to withdraw a recommendation that I made a year or two ago about the Zookoda email service.

When they first came out Zookoda was a dream come true for me – a free service that enabled bloggers to built a newsletter subscriber base, convert RSS to email etc. It took what Feedburner offers with their RSS to email subscriptions a step (or a few steps) further as it allows you to configure and design your emails. I’ve been using it on a weekly basis for 18 months to deliver newsletters to readers.

When it launched it was in beta and a little buggy but the support team was pretty good at fixing problems as they came up.

However since it was sold to PayPerPost (now known as IZEA) I’ve noticed the service becoming more buggy and the customer service seems to be decreasing. I’ve had problems with deliverability (for a while there it wouldn’t deliver emails to anyone with a yahoo email address – I have thousands of subscribers using them), emails regularly are not sent and I’ve noticed more downtime and slowness with the site.

This week I’ve had two emails queued to be sent for 36 hours now and they haven’t gone. I’ve attempted to reset them myself – but still they don’t go.Emails to their ‘contact us’ form have gone unanswered. Emails to my customer service manager have not been replied to (she’s previously been quite good). I’d understand this if it were the weekend and wouldn’t mind so much if this were an occasional occurrence – but it seems that it’s become an issue that happens every second week. update: just as I hit publish on this I got an email from one of their staff. The latest problem isn’t fixed yet – but they’re working on it. Having said this – it’s an ongoing pattern. I send an email, it doesn’t go, I email and complain, they work on it, it eventually goes.

Email newsletters have become a central part of my blogging and I can’t afford an unreliable service any more. I’ve hung in there to give the new owners time to improve the service – but if anything it’s gone backwards.

As a result I can’t in good faith continue to recommend Zookoda any more.

My emotions in saying this are sadness mixed with a little anger.

Sadness because it’s a product that I think had (and still has) a lot of potential – if only it would reliably do what it say.

Anger because I’ve invested time and energy both into promoting the product in it’s early days and building up my own subscriber base who use it (I have three lists with a combined total of 62,000 subscribers). I will now need to find another service and attempt to migrate these across (and in the process am sure to lose many of them as reputable service require you to get users to opt in to them – even though you’ve already done this previously.

Lastly – I’d like to ask readers who they use to deliver their email newsletters?

I’ve used AWeber previously and will probably go with them but what other services do you recommend? I’m looking for the ability to send weekly emails (html) to multiple lists with high reliability and as much ease of use as possible.

Update: after 5 days of waiting for my last newsletters to go (and having tried to reset them 4 times each now) I’m still no closer to my readers getting their weekly update. Readers have been emailing/complaining and I’m sick of it. On the positive side of things – I’ve had a number of other email service providers contact me to offer their services and hope to transition to a new service in the coming weeks.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Kris says:

    PHP List (http://www.phplist.com/) perhaps?

  2. coach anne says:

    Darren,

    You wrote: “Email newsletters have become a central part of my blogging…”

    I would love to hear more about that… perhaps in a future post:

    Are blog posts and ezine articles not redundant? Do they not reach the same people, deliver the same content? If not, what content goes in which? Does one drive subscriptions to the other?

    There are a few bloggers whose ‘zines I also receive, and it seems, if I read the blog regularly, I could unsub from the ‘zine, not miss a thing, and have fewer emails. Would this not be the case with your blog & email newsletter content?

    AmpleThanks,
    -Anne

  3. I recommend GetResponse highly. I have a modest mailing list and a simple HTML newsletter with no graphics other than the pixel image for tracking open rates. I’ve had a couple of emails that have had nearly 90% open rates — and this excludes non-HTML readers. Presumably this suggests that deliverability is exceptionally high, to a range of e-mail addresses including the big ones.

    The only limitation I find is that their HTML editor is not the most friendly for editing code, but this may be the case with other systems that I am unfamiliar with.

    I believe they can arrange for bypassing the opt-in if the list is from a reputable source such as yours obviously is.

    I found their customer service a bit slow, about 1-2 days turnover rate for technical queries, but again they should have higher levels of service for major customers.

  4. Fraser Cain says:

    I’d like to add my recommendation for Phil Hollows and Feedblitz as well. For a while there, I think I was Phil’s largest “customer”, sending out about 30,000 email newsletters a day. Although there have been the occasional growth pains, Phil has managed the service perfectly, in my opinion. He’s constantly innovating new features (too many to even count), and provides transparency for when things are going to be late. I can highly recommend Feedblitz, it’s essentially the cornerstone of my communications to my readers, and I can’t imagine going to back to a time when I had to handle this part of the business manually, or with a service that I had to run off my own server.

    Although the number of RSS subscribers is rising steadily, I still think the email subscription is one of the most powerful ways you can connect with your readers. And Feedblitz makes it automated.

  5. I use Feedburner for my blog, and php list for my newsletter.

    I am quite happy with it.
    though, as it has been said, you need a little bit of technical knowledge (or boards reading) to get it rolling exactly as you want. I have a French list and an english one, no problem…

    Otherwise, why not put a second blog, hidden, in a “/newsletter” directory powered by your traditionnal blog software and feedburner ? not the most elegant maybe, but quick, easy and effective…

    Courage.
    thanks for you blog by the way. :)

  6. Sockmoney says:

    We use Feedburner. Like you said, not a lot of bells and whistles, but it seems to work okay for us. Plug Google owns it, so you know it is not going to go down the tubes… ;-)

  7. Vanessa says:

    Darren, we’ve used Constant Contact for several months now and have never had it go down. When I’ve needed to talk with a live person they were helpful and friendly. It’s easily customizable and like your first commenter Dustin says, it’s reliable but not free. Emails get sent out quickly and managing the lists is easy. I sound like I work for them! But I don’t :)

  8. Kelly says:

    Hey, has anybody watching this thread used one of these products for purely internal communication within a large, distributed company (in my case, a university with campuses in several cities)? I’m thinking subscriptions to blog categories would be extremely useful, but a periodic newsletter, too. One problem is that we still have a learning curve with our users learning to use RSS; most still rely on email. Lastly, I’d like to have extreme flexibility in allowing opt-in and opt-out based on a number of criteria. (OK to respond to me at kellyd[email protected])

  9. Ben Myles says:

    Hi, if anyone here has tried to signup to Nourish and had any trouble (Arif said no activation email was received) please contact me directly: ben at integralimpressions dot com. I’m the lead developer, and I’ll make sure your account is up and running in no time.

    We’ve only recently launched Nourish, and are certainly hoping to fill the void Zookoda left. There’s also a forum at http://forum.integralimpressions.com/forums/4 where you can provide us feedback or ask for help.

    Good luck everyone, with whatever solution you go with.

  10. Constant Contact would get my vote, I compared the 2 services a little while back and whilst the free price tag gave Zookoda the edge as far as performance is concerned Constant Contact wins hands down.

  11. MJ Ray says:

    “for a while there it wouldn’t deliver emails to anyone with a yahoo email address – I have thousands of subscribers using them”

    I run some of my own mailing lists using various software and I don’t think you can blame zookoda for that one, necessarily. Yahoo has been horrendously unreliable at times this year, rejecting far more legitimate email than anyone else. Do your subscribers a huge favour – advise them to move away from Yahoo, particularly if any of their email is important to them.

  12. I, too, use iContact.com. It has the ability to create many different distribution lists, autoresponders and surveys. Customer service is A+ and they are very responsive.

    Good luck checking these all out!

  13. anna says:

    Hi. I use Zoookada too and Darren, you must be psychic.I am having the same problems. I tried to send a broadcast this week and nothing happened. I did not understand what was going on. In addition my yahoo people did not receive email as well as I had too many people bounce. Some were my personal friends who always get my email. Zookada only told me to make sure they white list my email address. Your post made it clear as to what is going on.

    I need a reliable service since people who subscribe to email don’t necessarily come back if they don’t get the email. I have 1/2 of my subscribers on Zookada and 1/2 on rss feeds. It is too bad because I liked what Zookada had to offer. I sent them an email this week so I would be curious what they say to you. Can you please post about their response?

  14. jon says:

    i agree. since PayPerPost bought Zookoda its sucks. sometimes when big companies buy little servives like google and feedburner/blogger it works. but Zookoda has suffered big time after payperpost took over.

    ive switched to feedblitz for my website http://methodshop.com. feebburner has a similar service but feedbltz has lots of extra features that i need for my site. feedblitz is a great service w/ excellent features that keep getting better. well worth the $9 per month.

  15. I’m another soon-to-be-former Zookoda user.

    The “last straw” was last week. I have three broadcasts (one per blog) and two disappeared completely. Luckily the distribution lists remained intact. I managed to recreate the broadcasts but that’s not acceptable.

    Like anna, email is important for my readers.

    I’m switching to Feedburner. I considered FeedBlitz but I want free without advertising (my blogs are educational). I wish Feedburner would let me import my current user lists and let me pick the distribution frequency for emails (once a week, rather than each day there’s a new post).

  16. Maree Harris says:

    Darren I used Do It Yourself Email Manager from Melissa Norfolk Web Design In North Balwyn, Victoria to send my email newsletters. It is a multi-purpose product that can be used for anything that requires autoresponders. Full details are on their website. You can see examples of their work in my email newsletters on my website, the templates of which they produced. It is a product very easy to use and has been recently updated. Their support service is also very good.

  17. Peter,

    That is something we’ll be adding, yes :)

    As our developers are working on a lot of enhancements, I can’t suggest a date when date-triggered blog broadcasts will be available, but it’s definitely a need that we’ll be filling.

  18. Karen Jackie says:

    Hi, Darren …

    We are also dumping Zookoda. We have wrestled with one of our client’s newsletters for over a month with various issues, and finally the last 2 broadcasts failed. We, like you, were furious and embarrassed for recommending this solution.

    We have also filled out support emails that went unanswered. Then, we went to BlogWorld last month, and saw that IZEA had a booth. We attempted to talk to a tech support person, but we were told no one was there to help us. Amazing …

    Today that newsletter is going on on the FeedBlitz platform. While they’ve had growing pains (and one of our clients was effected by it), they’ve worked through many of their issues and have come back strong.

    Thanks for this post (even tho you beat us to it!).

  19. Geoff says:

    FeedBlitz was the solution to our needs. With nearly 200,000 subscribers, we send a mailing about twice a month to the entire list, usually with no problems. When there has been one, the FeedBlitz team has curtiously and quickly responded and resolved any problems.

    You can send a custom newsletter, or have FeedBlitz automatically send an email on the day of the month you choose, or weekly, daily, etc. They also continue to develop and innovate.

    Their pricing is nearly too amazing to be real. Check them out.

  20. RandomVandal says:

    Is this the kind of thing your looking for?
    http://www.nouri.sh/
    seems to fit the bill

  21. We use Ezine Director to manage our list of 34,000 subscribers. It’s a paid service, but it’s been reliable and fairly low maintenance. My full review is at http://www.s-n-enterprises.com/webmaster/2007/01/email-newsletter-software.html.
    The review is from January 2007 when you asked what Email Newsletter Services people use. We still like Ezine Director even though their website is a bit klunky. We purged 10,000 subscribers from our list recently (leaving 34,000). I’m quite sure you can import your lists to Ezine Director without having people re-subscribe.

  22. Joel Watson says:

    I started using Zookoda based on your recommendation. There were troubles from the start. I couldnt get them to verify my sending address for over a week. I emailed for help and got a snarky response 4 or 5 days later. Over 3 or 4 weeks the updates started going out but most of my readers said they didnt get them. I received them (as I was subscribed) but my wife didnt even get them. No response to emails on the issue, then all of a sudden all of my broadcasts just stopped. ive emailed asking how to cancel my account, but I assume I will get no response. Please share when you find a new service.

  23. I use aweber and have no complaints at all. You will though lose subscribes on the forced “re” opt-in :-(

    I tried zookoda on your rec a few months back, but quickly realized their delivery issues would drive me crazy.

    Best of Luck.

  24. Dave says:

    This happens all too often.

    A perfectly fine web service gets bought out by a bigger company, and all of a sudden everything goes to hell.

  25. Andrew says:

    Just signed up for zookoda last week and thought the issues I have been experiencing (broadcasts not getting sent, no responses to support emails, items disappearing) were unique, but I guess it is just that zookoda does not rock.

    Re: all the posts about Constant Contact: I use it (4+ years) and love it for monthly newsletters for corporate sites, e-retail special offers, etc; but it lacks the automation I am looking for to send out daily or semi-weekly emails with my blog posts (I want to set and forget — I don’t want to copy and paste my blog posts into ConstantContact and set-up an email campaign multiple times a week).

    Re: all the posts about developing something yourself (or outsourcing such) are just not practical given the way ISPs try to block spam – You need to go through a professional service or you risk getting blacklisted like a spammer even if you are not one.

    Feedburner looked like the best alternative to Zookoda for me; especially since I used Blogger for my blog and they are both owned by Google (I don’t think their evil yet, but are quickly gaining the capacity to be as evil as they want to be). However, the ability to import my 100′s of blog subscribers (collected via ConstantContact) into Feedburner is a show stopper (they say they’re working on it).

    After reading this post and comments (thank you all) I’m going to either:
    1) evaluate Feedblitz and Aweber and see who provides the most for free – keeping in mind that you get what you pay for, or

    2) just wait out Feedburner to upgrade their capabilities to import existing lists,

    3) OR wait/check and see if ConstantContact is adding the RSS-distribution-automation thingie I’m looking for.

  26. Stephen says:

    It seems that nourish or feedblitz will be my choices. I also use dada mail, albeit infrequent, for newsletters customised to my own html template.

  27. Stephen says:

    @Darren,

    Just a heads up about zookoda. It seems they’ve had server problems sending out over 6 million emails which has caused server overload and problems for you. They talk about it at their blog

    http://zooblog.zookoda.com/

    I’m still going to look at the other two services though – despite only a small list of 300!

  28. Neil says:

    In the interest of full disclosure, I work for the StreamSend Email Marketing service.

    I welcome you to do a free trial and see if you like our service. Thanks.

    Neil

  29. Greg C says:

    Darren –

    My company Blue Sky Factory, Inc offers several email services for both publishers and readers.

    First, Publicaster (http://www.publicaster.com) is our leading web based email marketing platform. In the next 2 months we will be releasing a very price friendly version of our platform that will be suited perfectly for both small and large list publishers.

    Secondly, we also run RSSFWD (http://www.rssfwd.com). A leading RSS to email solution that we acquired earlier in 2007. This is primarily a reader focused app, giving your readers complete control over how and when they receive your content.

    Finally, we just also acquired Blogarithm (http://www.blogarithm.com). Much like RSSFWD, Blogarithm gives users a daily digest from multiple publishers, so they can subscribe to as many publications as they want and get a daily digest of the content changes.

    We will be combining the Blogarithm and RSSFWD services over the next few months and adding a ton of publisher features. Stay tuned. Thanks!

    Greg Cangialosi
    http://www.blueskyfactory.com
    http://www.publicaster.com
    http://www.rssfwd.com
    http://www.blogarithm.com

  30. Diego says:

    Hi, Darren …

    I’m also dumping Zookoda. I have wrestled with my newsletters for over 6 months with various issues (dissapearing and unsent broadcasts, etc) We, like you, were furious and embarrassed for recommending this solution at http://www.profesorblog.com .

    We filled out about 20 support emails that went unanswered. Then, I directly contacted IZEA management. We attempted to talk to a tech support person, but we were told no one was there to help us. Amazing …

    Although I understand the need to generate revenue, I think that some online products should be free for their intrinsic characteristics. Blog to Newsletter services should be free (don’t be surprised when Google releases something like this), so I’ll keep looking for something to replace Zookoda.

    Thanks for this post (even thoug you beat me to it!: I was about to write the same…).

  31. Darren Rowse says:

    Sorry to hear about that experience Diego – I think it might have suffered from growing too quickly and not having the support mechanisms and infrastructure to keep up with it.

  32. Free Mich says:

    Thanks Darren, You saved me from a “potentially frustrating” situation. Would like to get your advice(and that of your viewers) on a new project of mine;

    Question: Recently I’ve begun looking around for a solution that will allow my organization to;
    1. send out a quarterly newsletter and manage a sender list
    2. link the articles in this newsletter to my current website
    3. categorize the articles on the site effectively, through the use of an archive system

    From my understanding so far, it seems like I need two tools to make this happen;
    1. An application to send out emails, i.e. AWeber
    2. A blog system on my site to organize articles, i.e. WordPress

    The question I’m asking is whether what I’ve said is correct, and what applications would you recommend.

    Thanks,
    Free

  33. It was recommended to me to check out Zookoda but after contacting Chris Garrett for his thoughts on the matter he directed me to this post and comments. So, back to the drawing board – or I might check out Feedblitz. What did you end up going with Darren? Or perhaps if I look about I might be able to find that out.

  34. Arif says:

    Hi Kathie and all those subscribed to this post,

    I believe Darren now uses Aweber.

    I have been meaning to state my experience using Zookoda on this post for a while, this would be a good time to do so. I have been using Zookoda Since Sep 2007 and after reading this post I too had been seriously considering changing my service. I searched and found nothing that matched the ease of Zookoda. My experience had not been that bad so I stuck on.

    Overall I’m glad I did so. I have about 3000 odd Email subscribers to my blog and ever week or so I do meet friends and other contacts who mention to me that they indeed do receive my blog regularly and enjoy reading it. These friends who I added ages ago and have totally forgotten about them.

    I am not 100% sure if my email delivery is to each and every recepient. But till date I have been having more good experiences with Zookoda than negative ones.

    This is a completely independent review. I’m not affliated with Zookoda in anyway whatsover other than being yet another happy customer.

    Warm wishes :-)
    Arif

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  36. deborah says:

    Concur on positive comments about Feedblitz. I created my first autoresponder and was having error messages. Called customer support and spoke directly to Phil. He corrected the problem in 5 minutes and I’m back up and running.