Review: Topica

Topica is the primary competitor of Yahoo Groups as a provider of free turn-key email newsletter and online discussion group solutions. Their clients range from multinational media companies to individuals publishing news about a hobby or interest.

Their flagship service, Topica Exchange, is a free email publishing service serving more than 70,000 individual publishers and delivering 100,000 newsletters and online discussion groups on topics as diverse as Java development news, bargain shopping scoops, and pointers for working parents. Topica’s paid newsletter service, Topica Email Publisher, offers a comprehensive publishing, ad serving, and delivery system for professional publishers.

Over 12 million people subscribe to Topica-hosted newsletters. Readers can control their subscription options (subscribe, unsubscribe, vacation hold), find old email content with a newsletter directory, and start newsletters of their own.

Yahoo Groups has more lists by a large margin, primarily because of its association with the popular Yahoo portal. One of the most useful features of Yahoo Groups is that, when you search for a group to join, the groups are sorted by number of members. This allows you to isolate the largest and most active groups. Topica also doesn’t offer file sharing, databases, polls, etc. – this is purely for mailing lists.

However, Topica has fewer ads than Yahoo Groups does; for example, when you visit message archives you see only non-intrusive banner ads instead of full-page ads. In addition, the Topica interface is generally slightly easier to use. Also, the smaller number of lists may actually make it easier to find good lists for you by not sifting through numerous defunct or low-membership lists.

Besides joining existing lists, creating your own list (if you don’t already have one) can be a great networking tool. Topica’s unobtrusive use of advertising and clean, simple interface make it an excellent choice for setting up a personal or business mailing list at little or no cost.