Digital vs. Print – Where do you stand?

Posted by:

Last week many genealogy blogs published the news release sent by Leland Meitzler of Everton Publishers announcing the new Online Edition of Everton’s Genealogical Helper. The electronic publication, which debuts on July 1, 2008 with the July/August issue, will be identical to the paper edition but with added hyperlinks to the Web site addresses published within its pages.

Diane Haddad, managing editor of Family Tree Magazine and its primary blogger at Genealogy Insider, went a step further and asked Would You Read an Online Magazine? referencing Dick Eastman’s recent post Printed Newsletters and Magazines are Disappearing. Diane summed up the debate in one sentence:

The entire publishing industry is caught up in the “digital vs. print” discussion, with some swearing it’s just a matter of time before all print publications go away, and others insisting people always will want to curl up with a paper magazine or book.

Genealogical societies are also grappling with the new paradigm. The News & Notes, the Southern California Genealogical Society quarterly, announced that the May/June/July issue will be the final print version delivered to members’ mailboxes. Editor Alice Fairhurst noted that it is “transitioning to virtual… due to the rising cost of postage, and the fact that most people have internet access.

The California Genealogical Society and Library publishes news and information in three formats: a print newsletter (the CGS News), an electronic newsletter (the CGS e-News) and this blog. In response to the suggestion that this might be information overkill, CGS News Editor and former school administrator, Jane Hufft, quotes the old rule in teaching – “eight repetitions for the average learner.”

Each of the society’s periodicals have unique attributes that are not duplicated in the other two.

The CGS News, a benefit of membership published bimonthly and mailed to members’ homes, features lists of the society’s newest members and their research surnames and places; lists of new books and media in the library and original content, such as Nancy Peterson’s two-part report “Post-1906 Immigration and Naturalization Records.”

The CGS e-News, started last year by President Jane Lindsey with the technical assistance of Kathy Watson, is a monthly electronic newsletter that is e-mailed to all society members who have e-mail addresses (currently 93% of members) and to non-member subscribers. The e-News publishes CGS Ancestors, a place where members can submit interesting old family photographs with a bit of history; Suggested Links from the Blogsphere and Did You Miss These Posts from the CGS Blog?

The California Genealogical Society and Library Blog recently celebrated its six-month “blogiversary” and continues to experiment with new ways to promote society events and feature the work of its volunteers.

There is one significant difference between the CGS print periodical and the electronic ones – the way that readership is measured. Traditional media report the number of subscribers or the number of issues printed. We know how many copies of the CGS News are printed and mailed out to members and subscribing societies but we don’t really know how many of these issues are actually read.

With electronic media we have a few more tools in the toolbox. Constant Contact, the e-mail, marketing and survey software used to produce the CGS e-News, provides a report to users that tells how many of the e-mails are actually opened. The results, although high by industry standards, are disappointing: only about 53% of members actually open their CGS e-News.

Blog statistics, such as the number of visits to a blog, or the number of page views, are readily available from sites like Sitemeter or ClustrMaps.

At least for the now, CGS members have three unique periodicals they can read to obtain society news. Which do you prefer?