Saturday, December 02, 2006

What about paper vs. online newsletters

On a certain surname mailing list at, there is a gentleman who wishes to begin publishing a new "such and such" family history newsletter in paper format charging folks $30-40 per year for 10 issues.

Ol' Myrt's suggestion is that the newsletter will reach more people if it is not limited to paper copies mailed to subscribers. Placing such a newsletter on the internet widens the audience who may even stumble across it through a Google search, 24/7 even years after the publication date. Paper copies succumb to the ravages of time. I suggested that if the file is created in Word or MS Publisher, etc., it can be converted to .pdf format, so the pages will print out the same for everyone, regardless of printer. Also there will be no attendant snail mail fees.

When the creator of the proposed newsletter replied to my suggestion, it was to say that:

-- He is worried folks would just forward the digital version of the newsletter to others without paying the subscription fee.

-- He is worried about people who do not have computers.

-- He didn't intend to live off the proceeds of his newsletter.

-- He wanted the newsletter to include copies of source documents.

WAY TO GO!! Providing copies of source documents proving family relationships is very valuable to his readers. But I am not concerned about people paying for something and sharing it willy-nilly with non-paying friends. Most are honest enough.

AFTER SLEEPING ON THE SUBJECT, Ol' Myrt realizes that the gentleman in question perhaps:

-- confuses a web site with the typical genealogy mailing lists where graphics are not allowed.

-- uncomfortable with the process of inserting a scanned copy of a source document and placing the "picture" in Word or MSPublisher (or any such word processing or newsletter creating program.)

Perhaps this wonderful researcher is great at research, but is more familiar with the old-fashioned "paste up" process of taping a copy of an ancestor's document on a page before printing the newsletter at the local photocopy shop.

So what do you think, DearREADERS?

1. Would you personally prefer a hard copy or a digital version of a newsletter to save or print out on your own computer?

2. Do you think that more people will benefit from the newsletter in hard copy or via the internet?


Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE, your friend in genealogy

Snail Mail Address:
227 Bellevue Way NE PMB 544
Bellevue, WA 98004

1 comment:

  1. Call me a dinosaur, but my vote is first for paper:

    Web sites offer wonderful advantages that would be prohibitively expensive in all but a few print publications--full color illustrations, flexible length, search tools that can substitute for manual indexing, etc. There are ISPs that offer hosting for free or minimal cost, supported by advertising. BUT...

    Web sites are ephemeral--they come and go for all sorts of reasons (owner abandons or stops maintaining the site when costs go up, after losing interest, or due to illness or death). Print newsletters cease publication for the same reasons, but it's less likely that we'll lose all traces of them.

    Web sites are not being preserved for the long term in any comprehensive way; current efforts are spotty, experimental, and not yet integrated into libraries' standard operating procedures. I think it much less likely that, in 25 years, a prospective researcher will be able to find today's family Web site vs. its newsletter in a library's collection.

    And...managing a Web publication introduces new problems, such as site security, possibly dealing with spam blockers, and users' expectations for support when they experience problems that may or may not be of your doing. There are ways to set up a Web site that is open only to subscribers, but it might be too big a hassle for a small publisher.

    Yes, absolutely, some people would forward copies of a digital (or print) newsletter to others--they think they've "paid" for it via subscription, and therefore they own it. Cheaters will always find a way to cheat. The rest of us must continue our efforts to educate people about citing sources, copyrights, and not killing the goose that lays the golden egg!

    Karen S.