The Hunt for a Great and Cheap Newsletter Service

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I sometime dwell deep into one specific topic. Today was about finding the cheapest and most convenient service to write my newsletter on.

Why? - I will be hitting my free limits on Buttondown soon. It's a great service and I have no problem paying. But, I wanted to go back to brainstorming board and check what can hack together and build myself a service that sends newsletter, without adding up much friction. I did this in that past and ended up switching to Buttondown because of the friction.

I love fiddling with things.

Assumed Audience
You are curious and can find your way around integrating things and setting the right API credentials. You spend some time figuring out things as you don't have endless money to get a task done.

My priorities for the dream newsletter service are these

  • Great writing experience or just plain Markdown works
  • API for adding subscribers as I like to have custom forms on my blog (like the one at the bottom of this page)
  • Analytics telling me how many people opened
  • Free of cost or costs little (too much to ask?)

One thing that gets close to those is Mailbluster, which uses your own SES credentials to send emails, so it's very cheap. The editor is bad though. And there is no API.

Even if I build a simple markdown to html-email generator (which I did in the past), I have to open Mailbluster and send the emails.

Enter, Ghost

Ghost is a great publishing platform. The editor is best in class. Like Notion.

Not just that, it can send really nice emails to the subscribers.

Here is the good part - If you self host it, you can have unlimited subscribers and send as many email you'd like with Mailgun account.

Mailgun is almost free. After first 1000 free emails, other 1000 cost 1$ in that month.

So the upsides with Ghost

  • Great writing experience
  • Unlimited subscribers
  • Unlimited emails
  • Costs less for the emails and for the hosting
  • Also, I can have multiple different newsletters (for future)

Where do we host it, though?

Remember I'm not using this a blog or personal portfolio. Just for sending newsletters.

It doesn't have to be fast and no visitors on the site, as I'm using it only for sending newsletters. It is only me using the app and the emails get routed though Mailgun anyways. So a cheap server works.

I'd say you can do it just on your laptop or a home server. Railway is a good choice if you want it to be available everywhere.

Or, a service which lets you host it for free, like Digital Press. Their free plan puts ads on your content, but guess what - I don't publish content, just send emails.

We now have something that costs almost nothing, with great upsides.

Will I use it? We'll have to wait and see. 😅

Aravind Balla

By Aravind Balla, a Javascript Developer building things to solve problems faced by him & his friends. You should hit him up on Twitter!

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