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I have a couple of simple newsletter lists, for distributing new book reviews, which I manage using Mailman. I log how many people initiate signups to those lists, so I can tell that only 30% or so of those actually go through the "confirm" stage (replying to an email to complete their subscription).
Some of this is due to "signups" that are obviously from bots (random strings of 8 characters @ gmail or hotmail), and some of it is probably from what the confirm requirement is there to avoid (people being signed up by other people), but even so the completion rate for genuine subscription attempts appears to be under 50%.
One possible problem is spam-filters eating the confirmation request messages, but there's not that much I can do about that. What I can do is to present the best possible message after the web signup, to try to get people to complete the subscription. And here's what I have at the moment.
thank you for your interest in my reviews list.
To complete your subscription, you will have to reply to a "please confirm" email, which should arrive shortly. (This is to stop other people subscribing you without your consent.)
Privacy Note: I will not use your subscription address for anything except sending you book reviews, nor will I divulge it to any third party.
Does anyone have any suggestions for improving this, or better yet any usability studies that would be relevant?
The other place usability could be improved is on the pages that have the signup box. At the moment my main site just has
Subscribe to receive new reviews by email (details)
individually  monthly 
your email address
Your email address will only be used for sending you book reviews and will not be divulged to anyone else.
(The "details" page has an explanation of how often mail is sent and other details.) This is functional, but perhaps not as encouraging as it could be.
Spam bots aren't an issue as my lists are announcement-only and everything is moderated. So there's no point imposing a captcha on potential subscribers.