Guide to Privacy-first Newsletters & Transactional Emails

To set up an email newsletter for Privacy-first Jobs, I naturally wanted to use a service without open tracking or click tracking. I first researched this several years ago for DuckDuckGo and the results were depressing (we ended up hosting our own system based on Mailtrain), but the landscape looks much better now.

Thanks to Europe’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in particular, email campaign providers have to adhere to stricter privacy laws and nearly all popular services now let senders turn off open and click tracking. Woohoo! A step in the right direction, but what do we really want? That’s right – privacy by default. We want tracking turned off right from the start, and there are very few providers that do that. Luckily for you though, I found them.* 🙂

My criteria for inclusion are simple:

  • Open tracking and click tracking off by default, or non-existent.
  • No Google reCaptcha on the subscribe form.
  • No trackers (e.g. Google Analytics, etc.) on the provider’s website.

Below are services that pass these criteria, separated into two categories:

  • Newsletters and marketing campaigns, i.e. identical mails sent to multiple recipients at the same time. You usually interact with these services through a user-friendly UI.
  • Transactional and “drip” emails, i.e. automated mails sent based on user activity, such as a welcome message after a signup. You usually interact with these services through an API.

Pricacy-first Newsletter Services

Open & click trackingHQ LocationBackendCheapest plan
ButtondownOff by defaultUSMailgunFree up to 100 contacts
MailcoachOff by defaultEU (Belgium)Multiple$9.99 up to 2,000 emails/month
SendStackNoneEU (Germany)PostmarkFree up to 100 contacts

What About Pricing?

Contacts:1002001K2K3K4K5K6K7K8K9K10K
Buttondown$0$9$9$29$29$29$29$79$79$79$79$79
Mailcoach$10$10$14$22$30$38$46$54$62$70$78$86
Sendstack$0$19$19$25$31$37$43$49$55$61$67$73
Chart showing the price of privacy-first newsletter services, using the data in the above table.

Privacy-first Transactional Email Services

Open & click trackingHQ LocationBackendCheapest plan
MailcoachOff by defaultEU (Belgium)Choice of own servers or third-party*$9.99 up to 2,000 emails/month
MailPaceNoneUK (data hosted in EU)Own servers~$3.60 up to 1,000 emails/month

What About Pricing?

Mails/month:1K10K20K30K40K50K60K70K80K90K100K
Mailcoach$10$26$46$66$86$106$116$126$136$146$156
MailPace$4$10$22$35$47$59$71$83$95$107$119
Chart showing the price of privacy-first transactional email services, using the data in the above table.

Notes

  • With Mailcoach, you choose (and potentially pay a small fee for) the backend sending service. There’s also the option to self-host.
  • Prices are as of November 2022 and have been rounded to the nearest dollar. MailPace prices are converted from Japanese yen (my local currency).

Obviously cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better so you’d need to investigate further to check out particular features you might need. In addition, I haven’t used all of these services personally so this blog post is not an endorsement, but I didn’t see anything of concern during my research or interactions with the owners.

So, if you’ve been looking for a private alternative to Mailchimp and similar services, you now have a handful to choose from. And who knows, perhaps we’ll see privacy by default become adopted by mainstream providers too…


* Thank you to the folks who responded to my original tweet about privacy-first newsletters. I didn’t actually expect any good news so it was a real delight to see the responses. If you’re aware of any other services that fulfil my criteria or you have a correction for the information above, please let me know.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s