Free sounds great, right? But there’s truth in the adage that you get what you pay for. While a free listserv may sound tempting, they can have strings attached. That’s why I’m going to give you some reasons I think you shouldn’t use a free listserv service.
First though, what free listserv services am I talking about? Well, there are several, but the two major ones are Google Groups and Yahoo Groups. Now, I’ve talked about Yahoo groups a lot. It’s just pretty awful and getting more awful. Google Groups isn’t quite as bad, but it definitely has its downsides. I’m going to concentrate on these two services in this blog.
Without further ado–Why you should avoid a free listserv service:
With a Free Listserv Service…
You’re a User, Not a Customer
Because Google and Yahoo groups are free, they have no loyalty to you. You’re not a customer; you’re just a user. That means Google and Yahoo have to find some other way to make money off of you. That can mean advertisements or selling your data or who knows what else. It also means they have no reason to maintain or improve the system. Or even make it easy to use. I tried to make a Yahoo group recently, for instance, and couldn’t even make one because the interface wouldn’t tell me a name was taken until I had almost finished, the captcha was almost unreadable, and finally Yahoo froze me out because it said I had “tried” to make a group too many times.
It’s Often Difficult to Add New Members
Sometimes you might want to add new members en masse or add someone you met offline in the real world. A free listserv service doesn’t always include this ability. Google Groups allows you to do so. But Yahoo Groups doesn’t. This also makes it difficult if you’re transferring from one listserv service to another.
They Force Your Members to Make New Addresses or Accounts to Use the Full Service
Because Google and Yahoo groups are both owned by companies that have other services, including email, they want you to have an account with them to use groups. Now, Google Groups will let someone with another email receive emails from the list, but it won’t let them into the web manager unless they have or make a Google account. Yahoo Groups used to let non-Yahoo email addresses join, but no longer does. This means if members want to do more than just get emails, they’ll need to make new accounts, which is just a hassle.
You Can’t Create an Archive
Neither Google nor Yahoo groups allows you to create an archive of posts to save for later.
You’ll Get Poor Support
Most importantly, if you want support for Google or Yahoo Groups, you’ll have to go through their impersonalized, uncaring system. With a paid listserv, you’ll get better, more personal support, because they have a reason to care about your continued patronage. Google doesn’t even really give “support.” You can sift through their help files, go to their help forum and hope someone answers, or “send feedback.” Whatever that means. With a dedicated, paid-for listserv service, you can talk to people who actually work on the system, who can actually fix something, and who actually care.
There are tons of other ways a paid listserv is better than a free listserv! So don’t be beguiled by the word free.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below.