This article is contributed by Keith Whisler, Technology and Research Analyst, Printing Industries of America. He also manages Printing Industries of America’s Production Manager Listserv Group.

Eleven years ago I began working with a large multi-facility commercial printing company, and one of the first things they did was include me in the company’s prepress listserv. It was nice at first because, being new, I didn’t get much email. The listserv provided a steady stream of messages to read. Many of which looked interesting, so I began saving them in a separate folder.

As time went on, however, I found the listserv to be a useful resource. It was like having over 100 counterparts instantly available to answer questions and provide support. If I couldn’t remember a setting in an application, I just had to ask the question on the listserv to receive multiple answers. Have problems with a file or project? ­Ask the listserv. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked to have an InDesign file back saved. If something came up that I knew was previously posted on the listserv, I could browse through my archives. It was a great tool that our organization took full advantage of.

Nowadays we have Twitter, LinkedIn Groups, online forums, blogs, and an assortment of other social media and information sharing services. All of these have great features and are very useful, but do they replace the good ole listserv?

Twitter is great to get an idea out to your followers as long as it is short and sweet. LinkedIn Groups are a great place to share ideas within a specified topic, but maybe not to get answers to questions. You can also muddle through some of the sales pitches that are tossed in to your LinkedIn Group. I’ve used online forums many times to find answers to questions, but it usually takes some time for a response, so if the answer isn’t already posted, I bail. As for blogs—well they’re good for ranting I guess.

The listserv, however, is specific to a group or organization, so there is usually a common interest, whether it is research for a law school, information to share within the medical community, or questions and answers in a large company or user group. The postings tend to be relevant to the members. This information also comes to you via email. I know—who needs more email? Keep in mind that setting filters is a great way to organize these messages into their own directory, and unwanted messages can be easily deleted.

So are the days of the listserv over? I think not. All of the above mentioned resources can and should be used to help us share and gather information, thoughts, and ideas. It really depends on what you are looking for and how much time you have. Keep the good ole listserv around. It may still come in handy.

Printing Industries of America has a number of listserv groups available to members. Click here to see if one fits your interest. 

To find out about resources from our Center for Technology and Research, including the Production Listserv, Consulting, and Custom Training Services, visit