05 January 2011

Paid Ezines

As with everything else, I'm behind on my reading.

Gary Mokotoff recently announced that his Jewish genealogy newsletter "Nu? What's New?" is converting to a fee-based ezine in 2011. Gary has published the newsletter for years for free. Dick Eastman commented on Gary's announcement recently in his newsletter as did DearMyrtle. Eastman writes the weekly Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

There may be other newsletters that are fee-based, but this makes at least three weekly genealogy newsletters (including my own Casefile Clues) that are now available as a fee-based service. Both Dick and DearMyrtle make some good points as to the reasons why and I'll chime in with a few of my own.

All three are independent of any major publisher or sponsor as DearMyrtle points out. And I'm partially guessing here, but I imagine that for the most part each one is pretty much entirely responsible for their own editorial decisions. I write what I want to write about in the way I want to write about it and I imagine that Eastman and Mokotoff pretty much do the same thing. I don't have any "higher level" editors I have to please or any VP in an office somewhere reviewing my content before it goes out.

Eastman focuses on technology as it relates to genealogy, Mokotoff focuses on Jewish genealogy research, and I concentrate on methods, sources, and citations. I don't write many pieces of a technical nature and Jewish research is not one of my concentrations. It is difficult for one person to write about "everything" and do it well. Each of us have low annual subscription rates, especially when you consider what one pays for bi-monthly magazines.

It is difficult to constantly crunch out free content on a regular basis as anyone who has done it on a regular basis can tell you. Writing and editing several thousand words a week takes time and is different from blogging (which I also d0). Eastman noted some of the expenses of running a newsletter in his post--all very true. Besides the expenses, there is also the time spent on tasks that have absolutely nothing to do with writing or editing. Casefile Clues is a little different from the other two newsletters in that each issue is released in PDF form. I personally have learned more about citations, formatting, layout, and design in the last year and a half than I ever thought I would.

I am certain that the three of us all appreciate the support we receive from readers and are also appreciative of those readers who let others know about our newsletters. Advertising is not cheap and we are very reliant on word of mouth. So if you subscribe to any of these three newsletters--let others know about it.

All three of us likely started our newsletters because we wanted to share information with others in our own way. Going solo is not easy either, but for me it allows me to write about what I want, using as many words as I want, without anyone telling me not to write about that, that "no one wants to read about my ancestors," "no one will read a three part series on land records," etc.

As DearMyrtle mentions (paraphrasing here) the trend towads paid newsletters is inevitable if we want to have people consistently sharing with us. This is true--time is money and I'm pretty certain none of us are getting rich . It takes a significant amount of traffic on a website to make enough money from advertising alone and it takes time spent on marketing (and not research and writing) to generate that level of traffic. Ever wonder why you see so many "how-to" websites with what looks like the same old "how-to" information? That's why--they are working on marketing and not on research.

The main websites for the three newsletters are (in alphabetical order):

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