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Getting the Word Out

This rant is about the importance of print magazines and newsletters to the hash community. Since I wrote this piece, I’ve realized that there are many more on-line hashers than there are hashers who subscribe to print publications, but I still endorse what I said. Please support your favorite hash magazine or newsletter!

Dear Hashers,

The recent death of Tim “Magic” Hughes, publisher of Harrier International, the World Hash Handbook & Directory, and several books on hashing, has got me thinking about how hashers get the word out to other hashers.

Most of us found hashing through word of mouth. Word of mouth is arguably the best way to recruit new hashers – like the CIA or the Shining Path, we try to attract like-minded people with the right backgrounds and attitudes. If we advertised in newspapers and magazines, who knows what kind of losers would show up?

But once you’re in the hash, how do you get information out to hashers in other chapters or kennels? Suppose you want to publicize a new group or advertise an interhash. Is word of mouth enough? Of course not – you need a more effective way to send your message to the hashing community. What’s the “hashing community?” Depending on the importance of your news or the size of your event, the community could include hashers in your city, area, state, province, nation – even the world.

Most people who read this will read it on-line, and will be quick to say that e-mail and the internet is the best way to reach other hashers. It’s certainly the quickest way, but how many of us get our news on-line?

At any given time, there are 300-400 subscribers to Hash-L, the largest of the hash e-mail discussion lists. The other e-mail lists (Southern California, Europe, and Singapore, to name three of the larger ones) have much smaller subscription bases, and most of their members are also Hash-L members. Let’s figure there are about 600 hashers (and that’s really rounding up) on Hash-L and the other e-mail lists. What about the surfers, hashers who read web pages but don’t subscribe to the e-mail lists? No one knows, but let’s take a wildly-optimistic guess and say there are twice as many surfers as listers. That gives us a worldwide total of 1,800 on-line hashers. That’s not a very large number.

According to the most recent Harrier International database (compiled in mid-1997), there are/were/have been/might be “over 90,000 hashers from 1,860 kennels (past and present) in 184 countries since 1938.” Okay, but how many hashers are there really . . . that is to say, how many hashers are there now? Knowing that the HI database contains several defunct kennels, let’s assume there are 1,800 kennels worldwide. If you figure an average active membership of 20 hashers per kennel, there are at least 36,000 hashers in the world, 34,200 of whom depend on print, faxes, snail-mail, and smoke signals for hash news. Holy Silent Majority, Batman . . . that’s 95% of us!

Anyone who’s been on an interhash organizing committee will tell you getting the word out is hard work – they devote hours and hours (and lots of money) mailing and faxing fliers to kennels and individual hashers. But you can’t even do that unless you have a reliable directory of hash contacts. Can you get hash contacts on-line? Sure, but let’s go back’ to the numbers – worldwide, only five per cent of us do that. Is five per cent enough to spread the word to the other ninety-five per cent?

My point? Don’t sell print short. Even though the subscription lists of the major hashing magazines and newsletters are small, these magazines and newsletters reach many more hashers than the numbers indicate. Magazines and newsletters don’t go only to individual subscribers – many issues go to hash chapters to be shared by all members, and even issues sent to individuals are commonly read by two or three additional hashers each. And don’t forget Magic’s World Hash Handbook & Directory – there were almost 2,000 orders for the latest edition.

[Since this rant was written the biennial world InterHash has begun publishing its own World HHH Directory, which reaches thousands of hashers worldwide.]

Knowing the importance of print over electronic media, but unwilling to take on the enormous additional responsibilities of maintaining a subscription base, printing & binding a newsletter, and mailing it out, I chose to share hash information via the Internet. But even though I primarily serve the on-line community, I try to remember most hashers rely on print newsletters and magazines. That’s why I provide upcoming event information to print magazine editors. That’s why I share information with hash scribes and onsecs, who download material from this site to share with unwired hashers.

I put a lot of work into the Half-Mind Catalog, but even so, what I do is easy compared to what print editors do. Thanks for your support, but don’t forget to support your favorite newsletter or magazine, too.

- Flying Booger

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