Newsgroups and Mailing Lists for Business Promotion (Part I)

E-mail and Website are not the only tools for business promotion - Learn how to network with people who matter

Newsgroup is a web-based interactive forum for groups of like minded people to share information and learn from each other. Possibly the greatest networking tool ever invented, Newsgroups have no geographic border and virtually cover every subject under the sun. Anyone can select a newsgroup (from thousands !), join the discussion going on, start a new one, ask for advice or simply listens to others experiences/views/observations.

The origin of newsgroup is Usenet - a world-wide distributed discussion system. It consists of a set of "newsgroups" with names that are classified hierarchically by subject. "Articles" or "messages" are "posted" to these newsgroups for broadcasting to other interconnected computer systems via a wide variety of networks. Members of Newsgroups then download these postings from their servers using News feature of their web-browser. For example, a VSNL subscriber can download Usenet news by configuring his/her browser (Netscape/Internet Explorer etc.) accordingly. However, this process has become redundant now, as can be seen later.

While there was incredibly valuable information available in the discussions taking place on newsgroups, finding that information was really tough. In 1995, Deja News was created to provide a user-friendly interface to Usenet. Deja began archiving and indexing messages so they could be searched and sorted, turning an ephemeral and unmanageable resource into a reference tool that was fairly easy to use. Deja became extremely popular with Net users.

In February' 2001 - Google Inc acquired's Usenet Discussion Service. Since then, Deja has undergone great transformation. Google now offers a way to post messages on Usenet through Google Groups. Google has also made available full Usenet archive formerly maintained by Together, these upgrades provide you with complete access to Usenet data since 1995 and the ability to add your own comments to the more than 650 million messages already posted.

Newsgroups can be an effective way to get the word out about your product or service or receive feedback. You can easily find out what is being said about you and your product. Here is some basic information to get you started along with some tips to keep your campaign rolling.

Newsgroups and Mailing Lists

Newsgroups disseminates information in a one-to-many form. Anybody can start a newsgroup (it is still free !) or join an existing one. When a member "posts" message to a newsgroup, the message gets distributed all over the world to different news servers. People who belong to the group can respond to these postings, or just read it and other people's replies. Many newsgroups have hundreds of regular contributors, and thousands of regular readers. Earlier, newsgroups could be accessed through news reader feature of Web browser. However, Google has now removed this somewhat archaic feature and made all newsgroups accessible like any web-page. Please visit

Mailing lists are made up of groups of people who exchange email about a subject that interests them. These are not one-to-one mails - but one-to-many where each mail is sent to all members of the group. Similarly, each response is also sent to all members. Once you join a mailing list, be prepared to get lots of mail in your mailbox. Alternatively, you might want to read the list in "digest" format, where several days worth of mail are sent in a single file that you can review at your leisure. Yahoo's eGroup is a notable example in this regard.

Though both Usenet and Mailing Lists take advantage of one to many communication - there are few subtle differences. Usenet is a cooperative network of computers that have agreed to distribute 'netnews'. You might think of Usenet as broadcasting, and Mailing Lists as narrowcasting. You can access any newsgroup readily, however to access the information on and participate in a mailing list, you need to subscribe.

Usenet or Mailing Lists - which one to choose ? Actually, they are no better or worse. Some people do not like to get lots of e-mail and Usenet obviously becomes their ideal choice. On the other hand, you may be just starting to explore the Internet, and e-mail may be one of the areas where you feel sufficiently confident. Or you may dislike surfing and feel comfortable reading and responding to e-mails. However, if your area of interest is very narrow - you opt for whatever is available.

Newsgroups and Mailing lists, could be two types - free or moderated. In a free newsgroup/list, each posting is sent to all members of the group unedited. This results in a large number of posting/e-mails originating everyday in your mailbox, many of which may be of little interest.

In a moderated list on the other hand, each mail/posting is scrutinized and edited by the moderator who sends a digest of selected postings with his/her comment in many cases. It's a pleasure to join such groups/lists, especially when moderated by an outstanding person.

A Web site is not the only way to promote your business online. Many small business owners have found great success marketing their products and services through the "discussion" features of the Internet - newsgroups and mailing lists. There are literally thousands of groups and lists available to you, covering every conceivable subject. The benefit is that they allow you to reach a highly targeted group of individuals whose interests you already know and share. This lets you network with like-minded individuals; prospect for customers; share your expertise; and increase the visibility of your company.

Newsgroups and mailing lists are excellent learning opportunity for everyone aspiring to become a successful Net entrepreneur. Moreover, you get a chance to network with outstanding people in your field and share their knowledge and experience.

Be aware that newsgroups and mailing lists are like little communities. To market your business effectively through these forums, you need to understand how they operate and what type of behavior is acceptable. You need to keep in mind that Newsgroup/Mailing List are not advertising platforms but forum for discussion and sharing information.

In next issues, we shall discuss how to find right Newsgroups and Mailing Lists, acceptable behaviour and tips on how to post in Newsgroups

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol II, Issue 13; August 29' 2001

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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