Sometime in 1903, the word 'newsletter' was invented to describe small leaflets containing news of interest to special groups. Decades later, it was reinvented to change the way the Internet and its users dealt with information.
Why newsletters? For a number of reasons. Domainstats says the total number of domain names registered worldwide right now is 36,129,051. Netcraft says there are approximately 27,585,726 Web sites, while Nua Internet Surveys pegs the number of Web pages at over a couple of billion.
Imagine these figures without newsletters, and the role the latter play are highlighted at once. Given the huge amount of data floating around, how would you find the time and energy to get what's relevant without wading through a lot of irrelevant stuff first? Without newsletters, it would be next to impossible for you and I to cut through the clutter.
Mansi Joseph agrees, when I mention this. "I need my daily newsletters," she says. "I work for a market research firm that conducts surveys gauging consumer responses to new brands. Without newsletters on emerging trends around the world, it would be impossible for me to collate my data".
That's reason number one, then: Newsletters bring the latest around the world to your desktop.
Before newsletters, the Internet was a hybrid medium that only barely touched the border of mass communication. Yes, it was accessible to anyone and everyone with a modem, but the information you wanted had to be hunted down from Web site to Web site. Sites functioned as notice boards, in a sense, compelling users to visit them time and again for updates.
The minute newsletters took hold the Internet's role as mass media changed. Suddenly, it could reach out to approximately 332.73 million users on a one-to-one level. It could now combine elements of interactivity as well as interpersonal communication to disseminate data, and could also -- God be praised said the people in advertising - personalise all messages.
Reason number two: Newsletters change the way information flows.
There're more. Kaushal Sinha, management student and resident smart cookie at his hostel in Mumbai, says: "Newsletters have helped shift the communication process in favour of the user". What he means is that while traditional media (like television and radio) push information to users without their asking for it, the Internet pulls users to the kind of data they want. Newsletters simply take this a step further, sending out nothing but relevant, categorised info to those interested.
That's reason number three: Newsletters have put users in charge.
So, what kind of information can you expect? Just about anything, really. Netscape's inbox direct allows subscribers to connect to publishers directly, and track any topic under the sun. E-newsletters.internet.com lists free and paid newsletters available online, and all you have to do is scroll down and keep selecting. Those interested in publishing their own, or those looking for specific newsletters can get help too. Sites like newjour do nothing but list new journals and newsletters available.
Rashmi Gupta, home entrepreneur and mother of two, sums it all up. "If there weren't any newsletters, I'd probably give up surfing. Not everyone has all the time in the world".
30 YEARS OF EMAIL