Mailing solutions for Drupal
If you are using your website as a marketing tool, chances are high you will also want to send newsletters to your users as part of an e-mail marketing campaign. There are a lot of ways to do this. You will find companies who are specialized in e-mail marketing or others who offer on-line services.
Okay, you've got the third party services. But if you already use a Drupal powered website, you might prefer a tool which integrates with your CMS. And though the list of mail and messaging modules for Drupal might be long, there are only a few options if you need the basic functionality of a newsletter: sending bulk HTML email with specific content to a database of users.
Mass contact is not really a 'newsletter tool'. You can't use it to send email to custom lists of poeple who aren't available as users in your Drupal install. But it can be a very handy tool if you don't need to have complex html-layouts and do want an easy way to mail your site members.
It's also different in the way it sends the emails. With simplenews or mailout, cron takes care of sending batches of mail and thus hopefully preventing any triggers for SPAM. You can even use phpmailer (which integrates with mimemail) and use an SMTP server to send the email. Every email is send seperately. But mass_contact uses one email and adds all users as bCC email-addresses to the mail. You can limit the amount of bCC emails with a setting, to prevent server-side limitations and send several mails in batches.
Simplenews has excellent features and capabilities to style and brand an email template. The template files support CCK fields and modules like imagecache. Even more advanced is the ability to embed specific Views into the templates.
Simplenews has many extra features which are enabled with additional module plug-ins. But handling bounces, support for personalization (using Token) and role support are still in very early stages. In functionality, simplenews is not as powerful as for example phplist. But it is much more user friendly and with Custom Content Types you can create a very managable workflow. However, opting in for a newsletter should require one click less.
Mailout leaves me with mixed feelings. It has some great features which make it easy to use right out-of-the-box, like support for roles and Organic Groups, but you have limited options for building a template. And somehow it's now possible to view old newsletters. They are simply not saves as nodes.
The biggest problem: no Drupal 6 version yet. And looking at the issue list, it doesn't seem like there will be one available soon.
Other methods of communication
There are a many other modules available for different types of automatic messaging or subscription notifications. The most popular are notifications, messaging (API), notify, comment_notify and commentmail. But you can also accomplish a lot of email notifications using rules in Drupal 6.