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How goes the electronic delivery revolution? Or, like the poor, will print always be with us?

Just about 20 years ago, the NewsNet online service was going to revolutionize the way business subscribers get information. NewsNet vice president Gary Reibsamen set the newsletter association up on a complimentary basis that included a little desktop mini-computer. I wasn't ready to get what I didn't know would come to be called "e-mail."

"Tell Gary if he wants to talk to me to pick up the damn phone," I remember snarling at my assistant.

Fast forward a decade. I'm at UCG and we're dunking our toes into the world of electronic delivery. Our selling message was that electronic delivery was days faster than First Class mail and you got the nifty achival function--unlike paper where the issue you're searching for seems always to be missing from the notebook.

"Nice," our prospects were saying. "How much cheaper will it be now that you don't have to print and mail?" Not the response we were looking for.

How far we've come.

Or have we?

Successive waves of technology have washed over us. The internet "has changed everything." Just about every publisher has a website. An increasing number of publications are available online. But I'm going to make the Luddite suggestion that it may just be that the newsletter industry is in danger of getting the technological cart in front of the subscriber's horse.

* Print is still the workhorse. NEPA conference chairman Tom Hagy reported that last year's new electronic newsletters have doubled (14 percent to 30 percent), but that's still less than one in three.

* Efforts to "convert" go on. Evan Hendricks at Privacy Times tells me his current subs are about 50-50 print and electronic, even though his audience is 100 percent organizations and professionals who sit at desks with computer terminals.

* Many publishers now offer the print-online option at the same price, but charge a bit more (10-12 percent) for both.

www.Ragan.com

I checked out the Lawrence Ragan Communications website to see what they were doing online.

When I interviewed Mark Ragan a couple years back, he said they were worried corporately about whether they were "giving away too much online," and they still offer a lot for free.

I read great coverage of the recent IABC confab in The Ragan Report and then an intriguing article in Corporate Writer & Editor. The purpose of the piece was to provide subscribers ammunition to protect their in-house publications from the pointy-headed bean counters. But it also made some points newsletter publishers infatuated with online editions should consider.

The article cited research that shows:

* People do not like to or will not read longer articles online. They scroll and click looking quickly for specific needs.

(Llewellyn King has pointed out that reading with concerted concentration is more difficult online--that complex, investigative articles are much more effectively presented in print.)

* When asked, 67 percent of resondents said they prefer print. As time goes by, perhaps we can get to the 50-50 breakdown experienced by Privacy Times. But print will be around for as long as anyone reading this will be in business.

* Print reaches readers without easy access to computers.

* And, I was fascinated to learn, reading speed is 25 percent slower on screen.

Just some food for thought about the continuing virtues of the print newsletter.

What began this train of thought? I changed my address to receive NL/NL, and between Rhinebeck and the fulfillment house (and the post office), I missed about three issues. Didn't matter, I thought, I was reading it online and not missing anything.

But now my print issues are back and I found myself holding one and thinking, "This is really so much better, I like this."

Perhaps just the old fuddy-duddy I'm becoming, but I suspect there are a lot of people like me out there in our prospect audiences.
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Title Annotation:DM Notebook
Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 31, 2005
Words:637
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