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A useful adjunct to a radio station is a regular newsletter or program guide. The functions of this include:
Though printing and postage are not cheap, you may be able to find a sponsor for these costs. And if you can distribute some copies of the newsletter by email, you will save printing and postage charges for all those copies.
You could also arrange to sell (or give away) copies through local bookshops, news agencies, libraries, music shops, and so on.
The internet fits so well with radio that if your station doesn't have an email address and web site, you are missing out on a strong marketing opportunity. Even if your country is a poor one, and few of your listeners have internet access, you can use the internet as a way to connect to other stations, and bring world news to your listeners.
You may not have the expertise to set up a web site, but your station should at least have an email address. Even in the poorest countries, email access is now common. For example, when I was visiting Ethiopia in 1999, I saw people queuing up to use an internet shop at Bahir Dar. Some of them couldn't afford shoes (that's how you identify a rich Ethiopian: they wear shoes) but they had email accounts. "Why do you use the internet?" I asked a young man in the queue. "It's almost as cheap as postage," he answered " - but more certain to arrive."
Even if not many of your listeners have email access, email makes communication with you very easy for those who do have it. As explained elsewhere in this book, communication between station and listeners is the lifeblood of community radio. So if the station don't already have an email address, get one - and you'll be surprised how you survived without it.
There are plenty of free services available. Gmail (Google), Hotmail and Yahoo are among the most popular, I use Gmail due to its functionality and integration with other services, but Opera Mail (and Opera-owned scalable low-cost Fastmail) is a good option too, with its simple interface Opera Mail usually works a lot faster in areas with slow data lines, such as in most developing countries.
When you have an email address, you can announce it on air, and invite listeners to communicate you, with their comments or requests. You can answer them far more quickly than by mail, and at no cost - beyond the monthly cost of internet access. If there's an internet shop near your studio, you don't even need a computer, because you can send somebody to that shop every day to deal with the email.
A huge advantage of email is the saving in postage for newsletters. If your station has subscribers, and you send them a newsletter or program guide every month, the postage and printing costs can be quite substantial. Even if only a tenth of your subscribers have email addresses, and they choose to receive their newsletters by email, this represents a 10% saving in both your printing and your postage bills for the newsletters.
And because with email there is no cost for postage and printing, you can send special announcements to people on your mailing list, without having to budget for this. Once your subscribers' names and email addresses are entered into your computer, you can send a message to everybody on your list, with the click of a single button.
A money-making opportunity for email (which also works well with fax) is to sell subscriptions to your news bulletins. If there is something unique about your area, of interest to people around the world, you may be able to sell news subscriptions - perhaps a weekly news summary for ex-residents of your area who now live overseas, or a daily summary for metropolitan news media that want to know if anything is happening in your area. Though you won't earn much money from these subscriptions, nor do they cost you much to produce.
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