|THE INFLUENCE OF THE INTERNET ON DX CLUBS
By Anker Petersen
Lecture made at the National Mexican DX Meeting in Oaxco, August 2000
Originally published in the Electronic DX Press, et al
My name is Anker Petersen and I come
from Denmark in Northern Europe to attend this National Mexican
DX Meeting in Oaxaca. I have been active DXer since 1957 and my
main interest is to listen to domestic broadcasting stations in
the tropical bands: 60, 90 and 120 metres. I also attended the
4th National DX Meeting in Tehuacan two years ago and I am very
happy to be able here to meet so many good friends again. Throughout
these two years I have stayed in contact with some of you via
electronic mail on the Internet. That already brings me to one
of the important aspects of my lecture.
I am Chairman of the Danish Shortwave Club International which is 43 years old, so I hope you will permit me to use our experiences with the Internet when talking on this subject. We have about 350 members who live in 42 countries in all continents of the world. During all these years we have published a monthly Club magazine in English, called Shortwave News (SWN). Thus we are without doubt the DX-Club with printed magazine with the most worldwide coverage.
With the introduction of the Internet, we began around 1993 to correspond via electronic mail with each other within the Board and Editorial Staff, and also with our members around the world. Since this is both cheaper and much faster than ordinary mail via the Post Office, this way of communication has expanded greatly especially during the past couple of years and we rarely any longer use telephone or telefax or send letters to each other. Our Chief Editor receives nearly all the pages from his subeditors as attachments to e-mail, and since they are in digital form, it is much easier for him to put them into the magazine in the right layout.
In the beginning of 1996 the DSWCI began to use the Internet to publish weekly electronic DX-newsletters to our members. We called it the "DX Window" and it contained the best DX-loggings and news on shortwave broadcasting which the members sent us via e-mail. It was free of charge and was distributed to all subscribers as electronic mail. It soon became a big success, because our members received the hot DX-information while the stations still could be heard and several non-members soon joined as subscribers and sent us their loggings and news.
The bulletin expanded quickly, so we had to appoint a Chief Editor and some subeditors who as specialists could take care of their specific regions of the world (Latin America, Africa Indonesia, etcetera). It took many hours to edit and distribute each DX Window, so we had to share the burden by shifting the responsibilities between two or three DXers from week to week. Since the Internet is global, it was not a problem for us to have editors in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, United Kingdom, Taiwan and Honduras ! That worked just perfect!
For more than a year our Chief editor was doing his job from Taiwan receiving inputs from his co-editors in Europe and Honduras! Today there are several similar weekly or monthly electronic DX newsletters available free of charge on the Internet. Some of them even issue extraordinary bulletins, if something special happens. Let me mention some of them which are all edited, before they are sent out as e-mail to those DXers who have asked for them:
|Cumbre DX, USA (which is also broadcast on certain shortwave stations)
DX Listening Digest edited by Glenn Hauser, USA (also broadcast on SW)
Numero Uno by Gerry Dexter, USA
Conexión Digital by Nicolas Eramo, ARG with news from some of the best DX'ers in LAm
Boletín Banda Tropical by Jorge García
|Venezuela Chasqui DX by Pedro Arrunategui, Peru Noticias DX by two DX Clubs in Spain with Pedro Sedano as coordinator
Broadcast DX by Wolfgang Bueschel, Germany
Jembatan by Juichi Yamada, Japan concentrating on Indonesian stations
Relampago DX by Takayuki Inoue Nozaki, Japan concentrating on stations in the Andes
An even more advanced kind of distributing
hot DX-information as e-mail via the Internet is the daily electronic
DX-newsletters. I am aware of two existing nowadays: - Hard-core-DX
issued by the Finnish DXer Risto Kotalampi from his home in California.
It has more than 500 subscribers around the world and is the biggest
of its kind.
Electronic DX Press issued by Bob Padula in Australia which is just two months old in this format. In both cases, when a DXer sends an e-mail with hot DX news to a given address, it is immediately forwarded automatically to all subscribers without editing by the owner of the network. Thus every subscriber anywhere in the world gets the DX-news within minutes after it was sent from the sending DXer.
The second aspect of getting DX-information from the Internet is by searching or browsing the millions of home pages on the World Wide Web. In this case, the information is not sent to the individual DXer as e-mail, but he has to find it himself, eg: by using the browser programs from Netscape or Internet Explorer. The information is still free of charge, but he has to stay longer on the Internet to get it, thus the telephone bill will be higher than when receiving e-mail. Most of the bigger international and domestic broadcasting stations have their own home pages, and you are often able to find their current frequency schedules and program schedules there. Many DX Clubs also have their own home pages which contain a lot of information relevant for DXers.
A few other useful websites are:
|The European DX Council||Latin American Music Styles|
|Actual Grey Line Map||Solar Terrestrial Activity Report|
|Cumbre DX||Links to radiostations around the world|
|Danish Shortwave Club International|
The third aspect of the Internet, I
will mention, is Real Audio. By using advanced technology, the
broadcasting stations nowadays are able to transmit their radio
programs via the Internet. If the owner of a Personal Computer
has the software required, he or she will be able to hear the
radioprogram in good quality directly in the loudspeakers of the
computer, even if it comes from the opposite side of the Earth.
Many hundred, maybe more than a thousand broadcasting stations
in all continents can be heard via Real Audio today. Some Shortwave
Listeners prefer this instead of hearing the stations on shortwave
with all its disturbances. But remember again that the telephone
bill will be high as you pay for every second being on the Internet.
Several international broadcasters have even reduced their shortwave
broadcasts for instance towards Western Europe, because they can
be heard better nowadays via Real Audio or Satellite which often
are distributed through our cable networks with perfect quality.
This spring, when I edited the second edition of the Domestic Broadcasting Survey, I made some observations which I wish to share with you concerning the still down-going trend in the number of active frequencies of Domestic Broadcasting Stations in the Shortwave Bands between 2200 and 5800 kHz. During the period 1973-1997 452 stations out of 1136 being on the air in 1973 disappeared from these SW bands or an average of 19 closing down per year. But in 1997-2000 the decrease has drastically increased to 212 stations or 71 per year ! There are still some 472 Domestic Broadcasting Stations to hunt for on the Tropical Bands and at the same time interfering broadcast and utility stations are disappearing. So do not give up your DX-ing on the Tropical Bands! But pessimistic views indicate that most Domestic Broadcasting Stations on the Tropical Bands may have closed down by year 2007!
The biggest decrease in the number of stations using the Tropical SW Bands during the last three years was noted throughout Asia and in Southern Africa . The main reason for this is that FM-networks are still growing in most parts of the world and replacing the need for shortwave transmitters. Today, the majority of Domestic shortwave transmitters can be found in developing countries with vast areas where it still is too expensive to establish a network of FM-stations that can cover the whole country.
I have just given you a quick introduction to what the Internet today offers to the DXer who have access to that from a Personal Computer at home or at work, or at a library or a Cybernet office. It is evident that the Internet as a new media is able to provide DXers with useful information much faster than the printed DX-bulletins. But the Internet also offers so many other challenges to the user like surfing on the home pages or playing games, that he or she easily may find this more interesting than the traditional hobby of DX-ing.
Let me now speak about the core of the subject of my lesson: The influence of the Internet on DX Clubs. At the annual Conference of the European DX Council which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark last November, the European DX-Club Representatives discussed this issue, but did not reach any conclusions. The question was raised: "Is there still a need for all the national and local DX Clubs in Europe, and for the European DX Council itself ?" Somebody suggested that the clubs merge across the borders to be able still to publish printed DX-bulletins. I will use our experiences in the Danish Shortwave Club International as an example, but the situation is similar in many other DX-Clubs in the world.
First the failing interest for shortwave listening, especially amongst young people who are more attracted by the Internet and other challenges. During the last several years, the DSWCI did loose about 25 members per year, but two years ago we lost 35 and last year it was 49. This is a serious development, so in April this year we issued a questionnaire to our members in order to analyse the situation. 75 members in 20 countries have answered the questionnaire, and I will now give you the results of that: Those who answered had a span of age from 27 to 87 years. The average age was 52 while it was 49 at our survey two years ago. 95% of our members are above 30 years of age and 81% above 40.This again confirms that it is very difficult to attract younger people to our hobby. Today 76% of our members have access to the Internet. Two years ago is was only 38%. It is fantastic to note that this number has doubled in just two years! However, this new media gives us much competition.
First of all, it can offer so much information from all parts of the world and much entertainment, that the DX-hobby with all its disturbances becomes much less attractive. Secondly, the time a DXer spends in front of his Computer cannot be spent in front of his DX-receiver. Thus in most cases, less time is devoted to DX-ing. Thirdly, DX Clubs are competing on the Internet to bring the hot DX News, and several do that free of charge. For some DXers this is sufficient for their DX-ing, and they drop Club membership. Particularly our treasurer has noted the effect and we had a big deficit in our Club economy 1999! Our monthly magazine, Shortwave News, normally had 32 pages, but this year we have had to reduce every second edition to 16 pages in order to save printing and postage costs.
You might ask: "Why do not cease issuing printed bulletins and just send out an electronic version ? That would save a lot of money to printing and postage!" Unfortunately, it is not that simple. 24% of our members have no access to the Internet and that equals to 82 paying members. We cannot just neglect them by ceasing printing SWN and only publish it via the Internet. Furthermore 11% have only limited access to the Internet.
In the questionnaire we asked them to mention their preferences on how the Club shall provide them DX-information in the future. 37 % of our members prefer a considerable increase in membership fee in order to get a SWN of about 32 pages 12 times a year, but most will accept a mix of hot news via the Internet and some kind of a reduction in the publication of SWN. However, in their letters many warned us that publication of SWN only every third month would be too rare. It is remarkable that even amongst those with full access to the Internet two thirds still want to receive the printed SWN. On the other hand, 19% wish to receive SWN only via the Internet for a lower membership fee and not in printed form.
About half of our members wish to receive a weekly news bulletin via the Internet (like the DX-Window) in order to get the DX-news before they get too old. About half of our members also wish to be kept informed about new addresses of radio related homepages. This would be most relevant to publish on our home pages. As a consequence of these results of our survey, the DSWCI Annual General Meeting in May decided to put all pages of "Shortwave News" on our home pages on the World Wide Web. Our members will then get a personal username and password, and then be able to read our members' bulletin via the Internet. A special, reduced membership fee is now introduced for those members who just want to get SWN electronically via our Homepage and not in printed version.
|Electronic mail is replacing letters sent via the ordinary postal services
Electronic mail is the fastest way to distribute DX-information. In extreme cases, you can get the e-mail while the new station is still broadcasting
Digital editing of DX-bulletins is much easier than using the typewriter
Most radio stations and DX-Clubs have their own home pages on the Internet
Many radio stations broadcast in Real Audio via the Internet which makes Shortwave broadcasting old fashioned
Generally, the DX-information on the Internet is free of charge
Most European DXers have access to the Internet
A majority of these DXers spend more time in front of their Personal Computer and less time in front of their DX-receiver
Several DXers find the free DX-information available on the Internet sufficient for their personal DX-ing and they quit paying membership in a DX-Club