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Newsgroups or Discussion Groups

A Newsgroup is where people with similar interests get together to discuss a specific topic. The variety of Newsgroup topics is vast. If there is a subject that interests you, there is probably at least one newsgroup focused on that subject.

Usenet

Newsgroups are based on a public domain network called Usenet. The term "Usenet" refers to the network of machines around the world that exchange newsgroup articles. "Newsgroups" are the various groups dedicated to exchanging information about any given topic.

How It Works

Most if not all ISP's (Internet Service Provider, such as Telus) are connected to Usenet. Each has a news server that connects to one or more other central news servers around the world. These servers co-operate and exchange newsgroup postings on a very regular basis.

A newsgroup article propagates from one server to another, starting from the server where it is first posted. Your server then sends copies of the article to its "neighbors" (i.e. to servers with which it has agreed to exchange articles). Those servers in turn send copies to their neighbors. Eventually every server that carries the newsgroup has a copy.

Any person may post an article to a newsgroup, or respond to an article posted by any other person. You can simply read the articles other people post, and never post anything yourself (It is recommended that you lurk for a while on external newsgroups just to get the hang of what people tend to post to a group).

How To Subscribe

To read and post articles in a newsgroup, you need the appropriate software called a newsreader. There are many newsreaders available, some are free, others are shareware, and still others are available by retail. Some examples are WinVN, Agent, NewsXpress, and Gravity for the PC, and NewsWatcher and InterNews for the Macintosh. Many people simply use the newsreader function of Outlook Express, and this is more than adequate, especially for the Usenet beginner.

Another alternative is using one of the many Internet web browsers that have their own newsreader component as a part of their product. For example, in Google, go to the search page of google and click on Groups from the menu. This will take you to Groups search page with a directory of Newsgroups. The most common subdirectories for businesses are located in alt, biz and misc. Among the many newsgroups that touch on alternative medicine are:

alt.health.ayurveda alt.hypnosis alt.magick alt.meditation alt.paranormal ba.politics bit.listserv.c+health bit.listserv.medlib-l misc.health.alternative rec.food.veg sci.med sci.med.nutrition sci.med.pharmacy sci.med.telemedicine soc.culture.french talk.politics.medicine

Run a search using a keyword related to your online business that you would like to promote from the groups search page of Google. The result will appear chronologically, the most recent one being at the top. Check out the most relevant Newsgroups from the results. If your search produces a very big list of results, try the advanced search option. Try reducing the time frame of postings. By default Google searches within all messages posted from 1981.

An example of how you could use a newsgroup

Below is an example of how a newsgroup can be useful. Let's say that you just spent $20,000 on a new speedboat. You are really enjoying you new boat but notice that the engine always smokes when at low RPMs . You consult the owner's manual and find noting about this, you even call dealer back and tell him about the problem but they say that it is a normal condition. You aren't happy with the lack of answers you received, so you log onto your ISPs Usenet server and search for newsgroups containing Yamaha. You go into the newsgroup called rec.boats and post a message about your situation. A few hours later you return to this newsgroup and low and behold, many other people have had this problem with this model of motor and the manufacturer even has a recall out and will fix the defect at no cost. The person at the boat marine dealer either did not know about this recall or chose not to tell you, but because you had access to the wealth of information available in the newsgroups you were able to find the information you needed.

Benefits of Using Newsgrous

  • Establish yourself as an expert

  • Establish yourself as an expert of your chosen field. People will prefer doing business with you if they know that you are an expert in your field. Post important and relevant information in your chosen Newsgroup, answer to the questions posted. Very soon, people from the Newsgroup will start considering you as an expert and you will be amazed to see quantity of new visitors checking out your site.

  • Conduct market survey

  • Newsgroups can be a great source of marketing information. By asking questions in relevant Newsgroups you can find a way of figuring out what people think about your product, your website, etc.

  • Get new clients

  • There are Newsgroups, which are formed with the sole purpose of various announcements and promotions. Prudent use of these Newsgroups along with your relevant Newsgroups will definitely increase your site traffic and get new clients.

  • Promote your site

  • In relevant groups you can post announcements about your site launch, press releases, product information, etc. Participation in the discussions in your subject matter with your signature file, which should include your website address, will help getting new visitors and increase the quantity of backward links to your website.

  • Get answers to your questions

  • You can't be an expert in every thing! Often, you will need answers to various questions. Ask them in relevant Newsgroups along with your signature file. Not only you will have answers to your questions, along with this you will also promote your site.

  • Make friends

  • Newsgroups can be a great place to find like-minded friends and partners.

Posting do's and don'ts

You have to be very careful with what you post in a Newsgroup. Before making your first post, go through the FAQ and posting rules of the Newsgroup and read some of the postings. You want to position yourself as an expert not an idiot! Some Newsgroups users are pretty aggressive. If they feel that you are spamming their precious Newsgroup you will be flamed in no time.

Here are some basic rules:

  • Don't post commercials, advertisements or press releases; unless the newsgroup specifically mentions that it endorses these things.
  • While posting a response, stick to the original topic.
  • Quote only the portion of the message you are responding to not the whole message.
  • Don't cross post. This means, do not post same messages in several relevant Newsgroups.
  • Never post unrelated messages to Newsgroups. This is considered as spamming!
  • While posting a message be specific and concise in the subject line.
  • Post your signature file with each and every message. This is important for your web promotion!
  • Check your spelling and grammar before posting a message.

The idea is to make valuable contribution to the Newsgroups and by doing so at the same time promote your online business. Ask questions that you perceive useful to you and others. Post responds to messages, which are informative, thought-provoking and of high quality. Soon you will build credibility among your fellow Newsgroup members and start receiving a flow of loyal customers.

Advantages

  • You don't need a fast connection to the Internet.
  • News articles don't fill up your e-mail inbox.
  • Newsgroups can be searched by keyword.

Most newsreaders are designed to thread related articles. Threading means that the original article and its responses are kept together, so you can follow the entire discussion. As a user you can start a thread, post messages to a thread and make responds to other postings

  • You can drop in and read the most recent Usenet news when you have time, since our news server automatically deletes old articles even if you haven't read them (one week or less for most Usenet newsgroups; thirty days for UBC newsgroups).
  • If the newsgroup is moderated, only relevant content will be posted. All articles in a moderated newsgroup are first e-mailed to an appointed moderator, who reviews them and decides if they are suitable to be posted. The discussions therefore don't diverge from the original direction of the newsgroup, and flaming - a Usenet term for posting insulting or provocative articles - and other inappropriate commercial or junk mail postings can be controlled and monitored.

Disadvantages

  • You need a newsgroup reader program, but as we mentioned above, many Web browsers and e-mail programs come bundled with newsreader software.
  • Spam, which is unsolicited junk mail such as get rich quick schemes and other propaganda, is common in newsgroups.
  • It can take up to a few days for newsgroup articles to spread through the entire Internet.
  • Not all newsgroups are available to everyone on the Internet, so you might not reach your intended audience. For example, UBC newsgroups are only carried on the campus news servers, and therefore are only available to individuals with UBC accounts or subscriptions. Other newsgroups that have worldwide distribution may not reach everyone on the Internet because the administrator of their news server chooses not to carry them.

You can't control who reads a newsgroup. Anyone with access to a newsgroup can read the articles and, unless it's a moderated newsgroup, respond to articles or post their own.

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