Topica Allows You to Publish & Manage Your Own E-mail Newsletter
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Providing useful, informative information to clients and prospective clients is a good way for a lawyer to establish or cement one's reputation as an expert in their field. Because e-mail is a low-cost and cost effective means to reach these new or existing clients, attorneys should consider an e-mail newsletter as an integral part of any electronic marketing effort they plan. provides a list of over 100 services that provide some sort of free e-mail newsletter hosting. Additionally,, a site devoted to resources for small business owners, features an overview of some factors to consider when choosing an outside service to host a newsletter or subscriber list. (Note: This content is no longer available.) In this article, we will examine one of those - Topica.

San Francisco-based Topica offers a free, all-in-one tool online for any business-owner to host, publish and manage their own e-mail newsletter.

Topica requires users to register (free) to utilize the service. While the registration requires only limited information, this does include the user's name, e-mail address, zip code and birthdate. (The latter, "[T]o comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act," according to the site.)

Starting a List on Topica Topica's list creator is a form driven process that helps users create their newsletter via a detailed questionnaire (the questions aren't difficult - don't worry) about the user's individual newsletter, content type, subject matter, etc.

Users further customize their lists in the second step of the list creation process by selecting various options provided by Topica:

List Type: List owners can select a newsletter/announcement mode where only the owner can send messages to the list (this is the preferred mode for a newsletter), or they can opt to let list members also post messages to the entire list (this second option creates more of an e-mail discussion group than a newsletter).

*Subscription Approval: Users can choose to screen new subscribers as they apply to subscribe, or allow all those who apply to be automatically added to the list.

Discussion List Replies: Replies from list members can be directed back to the original poster of a message (the list owner if an announcement only newsletter) or to all subscribers on the list.

Message Archive Access: Topica maintains a free archive of all messages sent to a Topica maintained list. The list owner has the option of making the archive available to subscribers only, or anyone who is interested. If the goal of a user's newsletter is to build awareness of their business' goods or services, it's best to open the newsletter archive to all interested individuals. Business owners might want to maintain a private list for existing clients only however, if they wish to provide certain "members only" benefits to their clients.

Subscriber List Access: Users should select to keep their subscribers lists private and viewable only by the list owner.

Users then categorize their newsletter (so it can be correctly listed in the Topica directory of newsletters) using one of the 17 top level subject categories recognized by Topica. (Click on "Business" to find the "Law" sub-category.) Once users have found the category that best describes their list they need only to click the "Place My List Here" button.

In the final step, Topica prompts users to supply a custom message to be sent to new list subscribers (as an auto-responder). *Topica also provides a form in which new list owners can enter e-mail addresses of their business contacts or prospective/current clients to invite them to join the newsletter subscriber list.

By following the steps outlined above, any business owner can extend the reach of their online marketing by creating their own newsletter.

*Please note that in order to subscribe to a list maintained by Topica, new subscribers must also register as a Topica user. (This process utilizes the same form the list owner filled in when they joined. See above for information solicited from Topica of potential subscribers.) Also note that Topica's privacy policy states that "Topica will never willfully disclose personally identifiable information about its customers to any third party without first receiving that customer's permission, unless necessary for legal reasons."

Topica also supplies the means to manage, update and promote these newsletters. These aspects are discussed in Part II.


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