Newsletters vs. Diskmags vs. Online-Mags

Written by Adok

Once upon a time, to be precise in August 1998, a new newsletter called demojournal was founded. You may have read the review of its first issue in Hugi #12. Demojournal #1 then was a small, pityful textfile with 10 kbyte of articles, mostly childish texts, solely written by its editor. The journal was supposed to be released weekly and was to be spread by e-mail to its subscribers.

What nobody dared to believe: Since then, it was indeed released on every Monday, once even on a Sunday. With no breaks.

And the journal quickly found support and grew. Issue 13, finally, already had 130 kbyte of text, in spite of the fact that it had been made in six days only. A diskmag with a same text-per-time-ratio that was made in three months would have had 1950 kbyte of articles, which has not been reached yet. Demojournal #13 had more news than any demo scene news site on the net had gained during a week, and some good articles, too. All this was done without much advertising, as far as a reader sees that: There has just been some talk on IRC and posts to newsgroups and uploads to FTPs on own directories.

An editor of a diskmag or an online magazine will certainly be stunned now. How did that newsletter manage to gain this success, although it's just a text-file spread mostly by e-mail, and had a pityful start?

In effect, there are some advantages of newsletters compared to diskmags and to online mags. Demojournal is just an example for such a newsletter. There were other newsletters in the past with a similar success, such as Demo News or TraxWeekly. Because of the recent success of demojournal, I got inspired to write this article with the purpose to compare diskmags and newsletters and find out what their advantages and disadvantages are. I am mostly referring to the concept of weekly newsletters in general, and at some points to demojournal in particular.

First and most importantly, an advantage of weekly newsletters upon diskmags is simply that they are weekly. At this point, I assume that the newsletter gets released in a reliable manner, like it was the case with TraxWeekly in its high time and is the case with demojournal now. A weekly release manner is something unique of this kind of newsletters, as no diskmag gets released that often. In contrast to online mags, demojournal always has a certain size (average: 50 kbyte), and certain topics are covered in every issue (news/interviews/reviews/charts/scenerslist), while the online mags like Network or Orange Juice are not reliable concerning the content.

Therefore newsletters are also a better resource for posting news than diskmags: Newsletters are released very often, while, since diskmags seldomly come out, it is no use posting news until a week before the release of the mag.

Getting articles for a newsletter is easier, too, because you do not have the long deadlines of diskmags, which make people lazy. On the contrary, they know that they have to submit their articles in a couple of days in case they want them to get published in the next issue. Diskmags, by contrast, have long deadlines, which is why after a long "dead" time most articles rush in during the last weeks before the release. Online mags even have infinite deadlines, which consequently do not help pushing the people to write articles.

Nevertheless, online-mags are also good news resources, and partially good article resources as well. The reason is that you can publish the news and articles immediately, and as the well known online-mags are well visited, you, therefore, can get your news items spread fast. But apart from the mentioned thing with motivation, there are also other advantages of newsletters.

The fact that newsletters are text-only is a plus: It makes them small, hence able to be distributed via e-mail. They could easily be spread, as everyone could afford downloading them without any risks. Furthermore, in this way reading is comfortable: You get the newsletter by e-mail. Neither do you have to download a lot as it's the case with diskmags nor you have to go to a web site containing the mag. And you can read the newsletter anywhere. Any computer system allows browsing text files in standard ASCII format.

A third advantage, now again regarding getting support for the publication: The reader has to subscribe to the newsletter to get it regularly. In case of demojournal, the mailinglist is not automated yet. You cannot simply send a mail to a Majordomo server with the body "subscribe newsletter", but every subscription wish will be read by the editor of demojournal. Therefore the editor keeps contact with the readers, and can get them to write articles more easily.

What are the disadvantages of newsletters? Most of all, the editor is busier because he has to do many jobs every week, which diskmag editors only have to do every time when their mag is going to be released, and which online mag editors only have to do from time to time or not at all, if their mag is automated. So the newsletter editor spends more time on assembling his newsletter and has less time to write articles himself and to keep contact with the readers. As everything is made in a hurry, articles are less edited, which results in more spelling/grammar mistakes than in most diskmags. And all the writers have less time to finish their articles, which makes it hard to prepare a long article for the very next issue. You have to prepare them for future issues.

But the person that gets most stressed by publishing a newsletter is its editor. He really has to have a lot of endurance. Not everyone has that much endurance. Diskmag editors even do not need it. And editors of online magazines need the least endurance. But you see what kind of magazine little commitment results in.

The atmosphere of a newsletter is different, of course, from a real scene magazine because of no music, no gfx, and no coded interface. However, the freshness of a newsletter makes up for the atmosphere of the non-existing interface.


What should newsletter concentrate on? What should diskmags concentrate on? What role do online mags have?

Newsletters are best for news, messages, adverts (i.e all the regular things in demojournal), party invitations/results and partially charts, real articles and interviews as well.

But newsletters should mainly provide information for the CURRENT time, whereas diskmags should be publications that inform and entertain its readers ALL times - short after their release as well as in the future.

Therefore diskmags should focus more on real articles, long reports, essays, poems, novels etc. and also pay attention to the optical point of view.

Online magazines are actually just another form of newsletters and diskmags. You can make online magazines that fulfil the purpose of newsletters as well as online magazines that fulfil the purpose of diskmags - or both things. Just the technical point of view is different. The medium online mags provides new facilities, which, combined with a committed editoring team and good content, could lead to a new experience. The two latter things, however, are missing in the online mags of today.

However, demojournal is one of the best examples that traditional diskmags/ newsletters still have a great potential if they are well-made.

- adok^hugi