On-line Newsletter Pros and Cons #galicia

Mark Heckman

Several folks have proposed putting our newsletter on-line.
Advantages that have been cited include i) saving money on printing
and postage, ii) speedier delivery, iii) more photos - even color
photos, iv) easier indexing of articles on the web site, v) less
volunteer labor, and vi) ability to restrict access to members via
password protection. All of these advantages are real.

This isn't the first time that the suggestion has been made, however.
I want to point out some of the reasons why we haven't yet moved the
newsletter to the web (other than the fact that we don't have a
newsletter editor, of course, which is a major factor). I'm not
arguing against doing so; I just want to point out that there is no
free lunch.

1) Restricted access. If we want to restrict access to only paid
members then we will have to find a web server other than JewishGen.
Our agreement with JewishGen forbids selling access to any
information that we put on their servers. There would be some effort
involved to move our site, or additional administrative overhead to
manage two sites if we kept our main site on JewishGen. We would
also probably have to pay for the new web space in order to have a
server that is fast enough and that has enough disk space to serve up
the large newsletter files, which JewishGen's server seems to do.

2) Download speed. A PDF newsletter file would probably be on the
order of 1 MByte in size (the more photos you have, the larger the
file -- color photos generally are larger than black and white).
That can take a while to download if you are on a slow connection. I
know that folks in England pay for their Internet connect time by the
minute, so this may also be an expensive proposition for them. If it
is too slow or expensive then, effectively, it is like having no
internet access to the newsletter at all. I don't know if this is a
problem or not, so here's a question for people outside of North
America: how long does it take to download an issue of the Belarus
SIG newsletter >from the JewishGen server?
Please also tell me what kind of computer you have, how fast it is,
and what kind and how fast your internet connection is.

3) People with no (or limited) internet access. I know that
computers are cheap, etc., but the fact is that there are several
hundreds of members who don't have internet access, for whatever
reason. If we had started as a purely on-line organization, as did
Belarus SIG, then this wouldn't be an issue, but we didn't, so we have
members who have come to expect and depend on a printed newsletter.
We can print out and mail newsletters to just those members, but that
will require administrative overhead to keep track of them, plus
labor and money to print, address, and mail the newsletter. The
total cost and effort will no doubt be much less than that to print
and mail newsletters to every member, but mailing costs and labor
don't disappear entirely unless we don't mail to anyone.

4) Indexing. I don't see why on-line newsletters are any easier to
index than are mailed newsletters. I suppose the advantage comes
from having the newsletter editor made part of the web site
administration, so he or she will be more likely to do the indexing
on the web. But this presupposes that the newsletter editor is doing
indexing and has web skills, or else that there is another volunteer
with web skills to do the indexing. In other words, on-line indexing
can only be done if there is skilled volunteer labor to do it. Come
to think of it, that's true for just about anything the SIG does.

--Mark Heckman
Davis, California

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