Feedburner is the most favoured method by bloggers of delivering email updates of posts to readers. There are alternatives though. One such alternative is the free WordPress plugin Subscribe2; an easy to use plugin that sends emails to subscribers whenever a new post is published. If you don’t like emails being sent every time a post is published, you can send a digest email instead that summarises several of your posts.
If you are concerned about your subscription rate, you can get email notifications whenever someone subscribes or unsubscribes. The plugin is highly configurable and lets you specify what types of posts are delivered to subscribers. Emails for pages, private posts and password protected posts can all be enabled and disabled.
The name of the person who has sent the email can be set as the site name, admin name or post author. Emails can be sent every post, once an hour, twice a day, daily or weekly. A monthly option would have been good for websites that don’t post that often.
The great thing about Subscribe2 is that the format of emails can be adjusted. Emails can be sent in plain text or in HTML format and you can post include excerpts or full posts. Emails can be customised easily and parameters can be inserted into your templates. Unfortunately, you can’t see a preview of your template or send a test email to yourself to check the output.
Certain categories can be excluded from emails if necessary. This is useful if you have categories that aren’t important enough for subscribers (for example post format articles such as quotes or links). You can place a subscribe link in your meta area or enable the subscribe2 widget (more on that later).
There is also a useful auto subscribe option that lets you automatically add registered users to your subscriber list. If you don’t want to subscribe people to your digest without asking them, you can simply add an option on the registration form that asks whether they want to subscribe.
There is a subscribers page via the tools section that shows you all of your current subscribers. Subscribers can be added or removed in this section too.
Users can choose the format in which they receive emails. They can also subscribe to specific categories if they are only interested in a particular topic on your website.
The plugin comes with a sign up widget and a counter widget that shows your current number of subscribers. Strangely, there is another widget available in the WordPress plugin directory from a different developer.
The default widget is quite basic and includes an unsubscribe button.
The widget can be customised easily. You can hide the unsubscribe button if you wish (and the subscribe button but I’m not sure why anyone would want to hide that). You can also style the widget using CSS and enter a description before and/or after the buttons.
Subscribe2 is a great option if you are looking for a way of handling post notifications yourself. It’s free to download, easy to use and easy to customise. I do think the addition of previewing your template output would make it easier to style outgoing emails the way you want.
I am currently using Feedburner to handle email subscribers and I’ve never had a problem with it. I must admit that the ability to add those who register with your site directly to your subscriber list makes it an attractive alternative as it could greatly increase your email subscriber count. This is particularly true for blogs that require visitors to register to comment or those that are using the bbPress plugin.
Worth checking out :)