The following is a basic rundown regarding what the Usenet is and provides links for more information in both utilizing Usenet and how you might gain Usenet Access. Newsgroups, Usenet news, whatever you want to call it, if you're stuck in the world of Torrents, you owe it to yourself to take a few moments and learn about what is surely one of the Internet's oldest file sharing technologies.
The Usenet is the Internet's oldest and largest online sharing community, providing just about anything and everything binary or aasci you might want. It predates the web itself and it's powerful.
According to Wikipedia, The Usenet was the initial Internet community and the place for many of the most important public developments in the commercial Internet. It was the place where Tim Berners-Lee announced the launch of the World Wide Web, where Linus Torvalds announced the Linux project, and where Marc Andreessen announced the creation of the Mosaic browser and the introduction of the image tag, which revolutionized the World Wide Web by turning it into a graphical medium. Today, the usenet is significant in that it is one of the largest communities online for the unfettered sharing of public discourse, which includes the sharing of files.
Because for the most part it suffers from a learning curve, and this in turn is because, mostly it has been the domain of computer nerds and hackers. These types of people are notorious for opposing anything that might make their specialized knowledge easy to understand, or accessible to others.
As a result, the Usenet has for the most part been kept under wraps and under the radar and just as introverted teenagers everywhere always have their latest indie band that's only cool to themselves, there are entrenched interests, namely those that understand how to navigate it and operate within it that wish to keep the usenet to themselves so they can feel special. If the average internet user used the usenet as easily as Facebook or Twitter, then they would have to find some other way to feel cool and better than other people.
Of course, the irony of a system designed for mass propagation of information sharing that is closely hoarded seems to fall on deaf ears. It's bad enough that you actually hear a common quote derived from the movie fight club, which suggest the first rule of Usenet is that you do not talk about usenet.
Well, that's just stupid, it not only goes against the point of why the usenet was created, The Usenet was designed from the start to be a public resource for the propagation of information, The fictional fight club idea is one forged from the beginning with secrecy in mind. With that said, we're here to talk about the Usenet, and subsequently to continue on its purpose which is to be a forum for everyone.
Perhaps the best way to understand how the Usenet works is to think about the usenet as one big publicly accessible and publicly shared email account. A publicly accessible and publicly shared email account where people can post messages in an organized fashion, and just as you can attach files to your email messages, and receive files attached to email's sent to you, you can attach a file to a usenet post and you can retrieve files attached to usenet posts made by others.
Furthering this analogy, just as you need an ISP to host that email account, to use the Usenet, you need to have a usenet account hosted by someone to access the usenet.
It's really that simple, a mass public shared email account where people share stuff, that stuff can include anything and everything from thoughts and ideas, to announcements and text messages, to images, and music, to whole computer programs and video files and of course, let's not forget spam.
Anything and everything that constitutes a computer file can be found on the Usenet.
At the simplest level this might include a simple groundbreaking message, like Linus Torvalds announcing to the world the first linux Kernel.
Or you might find on the Usenet a discussion about any number of topics surounding politics, religeon, culture, cooking, home improvement, parenting, or whatever people discuss.
You may find people shamelessly self promoting themselves, such as a post by the latest indy underground band in Seattle looking to gain exposure. Such a post might include photographs from their latest gig, an mp3 sample from their latest demo, or their entire recorded discography attached to another post, or even video shot of their latest gig.
In other words, you can find information, pictures, music files, video files and more. Just like you can send and receive emails with any and all kinds of attachments with your email client, with the Usenet, anything and everything that can be binary encoded and attatched to an email can be found on the Usenet.
You will need to secure an account with a Usenet provider for Usenet access, and install a program that will allow you to browse, view, and download content from the Usenet.
There are many Usenet access providers that can supply you with an account. The quality of your Usenet experience will vary greatly based upon the quality of the service you use. You want to look for a Usenet service that provides good performance, maintains a large backlog of articles and posts (otherwise referred to as retention), and of course provides the kind of features you desire. Usenet access accounts range on average from $10 to $20 month or more depending on what features you're after.
To learn more about Usenet here are a few helpful resources...
A great start in getting yourself acquainted with the Usenet's past present and future
Reddit page that dives deep into the Usenet and how to utilize it to its fullest
How To: Kick Your Torrent Addiction With Usenet. Great introduction to the Usenet