Quote: Note that this doesn't mean we don't want to reach out to new collectors; it's just a matter of focus and emphasis when we have limited resources.
If you had $100,000, how many members do you think you could recruit? It would pay for 2222 members a year. I am really interested what is the true opportunity, the cost to reach them, and the expected join rate. I know the data does not really exist but the process needs to be more analytical and less wishful. I hear the limited resources (think small, stay small) but if you had more what could you do and expect. This may open the thinking up.
I am not suggesting things like trying to run ads in senior magazines, etc.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but the online presence is a problem from my perspective. In the Strategic Plan, the website overhaul was identified to be completed by December 2017. We have made an effort to move more quickly on that and I expect to have changes rolling out in the coming months. The reality is that mobile access of the web is about 25 percent on a good day, which has led people to believe that it should not be important. It can be a chicken and egg conversation, do we need a mobile-friendly site because more people use it or will more people use it because it is a mobile-friendly site? It really does not matter anymore, mobile access is not a passing fad, so let's just work on it. There are other things - but Al is right, we need to build a better storefront. I typically avoid having sessions of thinking out loud, but prefer to come with a plan and let people react to something concrete.
I talked with the APS Board about targeting young collectors (typically defined as collectors under 50) and we are in the process of developing a plan. The trick is pulling the data to understand the targeting - but we pulled the last set, I hope, so that we can get the analysis done and move to action. The numbers, interestingly enough, have shown an age appeal shift to the APS from the 50's in 2000 to the 60's today. Basically, we seem to be appealing to same demographic as we did 15 years ago, they are just getting older.
That said, please understand that making changes is a combination of where to start, recruiting the talent, and developing the resources. The old saying about eating an elephant is that you do it one bite at a time. In Portland, Mick Zais asked Mark Schwartz to take the lead on the Strategic Initiatives and Technology Committee and he is recruiting members of the Committee. We will have a more active group moving forward and I'm optimistic the next couple of years.
These threads are generally very informative and productive and I am grateful that members share and advocate. You are not being ignored, and hope you continue to give us insight.
The detractors and naysayers will always bring up 'cost and risk'. But leadership is the ability to take a vision and 'sell' it to those who would rather look in the rear-view mirror instead of looking forward.
APS was slow to transition to online technologies and is still far behind the curve. To get the organization ahead of the curve is now going to take a large amount of leadership, courage, and resources.
It is far easier and safer to take it slow. But as you have seen, by the time a typical legacy organization comes to grips with the idea of redoing a website the technology has already leaped ahead.
There was always a decent IT vision as outlined in the last few strategic plans. But apparently there was not enough belief or 'buy-in' because there has been little or no movement towards building internal IT resources.
For example, the APS website still outsourced. There are at least a dozen people in this forum who run and maintain websites. I am one of those people, just one person, who is supporting a 30,000+ file website with more content than the APS site has many times over. I know there are others, like SouthPaw in this forum, who are professional graphics designers and are also members of APS.
Why has there not been a call to the APS membership for IT resource volunteers to work on the APS site instead of paying some outsourced company? Don
Since I'm farm fresh, having just returned to the hobby after a 30 year absence here are my recent experiences. Warning - long, boring and poorly organized: I'm a 53 IT professional living in a metropolitan area that has just over 2 million people. In addition to my old collection the death of my father a couple of years ago left me with a closet full of "stuff" so several weeks ago I finally decided to start the process of seeing how I might combine the two into some sort of whole. I learned two things very quickly, firstly that if the USPS offered something for sale over the last 25 years my Dad probably bought one (and sometimes two) and secondly that the world of stamp collecting had changed a lot.
After looking through boxes of albums, first day covers and envelope after envelope of other "treasures" I was excited to get moving so I began by trying to find someone to talk to about getting albums up to date, how I might sell or trade unwanted material for needed items and stamp collecting in general. Unfortunately I could find no trace of any of the specialty or hobby stores that used to sell stamps and supplies in the area. Although there are a couple of places that will buy collections they don't sell to the public.
My enthusiasm was dimmed but not gone so since it appeared I would have no luck with finding any stores locally I decided that I should try to find some like minded collectors to get some much needed advice from. I turned to the APS site and found two club listings within 50 miles of my location. The closest had both a web site and an info email address. Unfortunately the web site is nothing but a page of mostly dead links and an email to the "info" address has produced no results after nearly two weeks. The second club listing has no contact information other than a mailing address. So, I have no idea if either club is actually still active.
My enthusiasm was failing but it was about at this point that I found the SC Family site - without which I probably would have bagged the whole thing and shoved everything back in the closet. Although it sucks being "the new guy" and not knowing where or when to post it seems that the site is full of many patient and helpful people. I also eventually found one of the dealers listed on the APS site that actually answered his phone and will work with me on turning some boxes of "stuff" into items I need.
So, here's some suggestions I have (most have already been made in greater detail by others):
1. Get your APS club leaders to make sure they have good contact information - including an email address. Most people aren't going to drive an hour for a meeting not knowing if a club is still active! 2. As someone who spends many hours on the web for both work and hobbies I have to say the APS site needs an update. When I first saw it I thought the site was nothing but a collection of banner and block advertising until I realized that what I thought were ads were actually links to different parts of the site. 3. Although you probably don't need to offer the full functionality of your web site on mobile platforms, you do need a mobile friendly version. 4. Amateur Radio was another hobby that was "doomed", "dying" and would be "gone in another generation", but there are now more "hams" than ever. Much of their growth has come from the "maker" community who were interested in other technologies but had never heard of ham radio until the national organization (the ARRL) made a push to recruit members. Are there any groups that might find that stamp collecting (even in a small way) would mesh with their other interests? 5. Someone at the APS might reach out to the ARRL for advice as they have put huge amounts of effort into updating their web presence and recruiting and it has been working. Are there other organizations that 6. Offer something compelling to get me to join. Right now I need to know how to organize all the back of the book pages in the set of Scott National albums I just ordered and what mounts to use more than I need to know the identifying features of a stamp I'll probably never own.
George: welcome back to the hobby. And, no, your commentary is not "long, boring, or poorly organized." One thing I've learned from this SCF community (there is another philatelic SCF site) is how lucky I am. I've got 56 years of continuous collecting history, since I started at age 10 in spring, 1960. I wouldn't quite know where to begin in these times if I was a beginner stamp collector. Another option for you to get advice and meet people; and this depends on where you live; might be a philatelic library. I live in metro Denver, home of the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library. The RMPL is a good resource and has many volunteers and programs. There should be a list of libraries on the APS web site, or maybe on the RMPL web site.
Scott: I just visited the APS web site and noted a number of 2014 shows and seminars being advertised on the home page. Hopefully an oversight as old stuff being plugged doesn't give a good impression to new visitors.
Don: interesting comments. I've been trying to interpret this book, since I'm needing to create a web site for a non-profit I work with: "Creating a Website: the Missing Manual;" by Matthew MacDonald. In some ways, it may as well be written in Cyrillic. My question to you is this: how are you defining a file? You said that you run a web site with 30,000+ files and more content than the APS web site. When I visited the site a few minutes ago, I noted over 309,000 items presently for sale in the APS Stamp Store. Would each of these entries be considered as a "file?" Just curious. Steve
George - welcome back to philately, and thanks for your input. I certainly agree that clubs need to have current contact information (APS collects this information annually as part of a reporting process). Maintaining a web presence is a challenge for many clubs. Social media can make some of this easier (it's easy to set up a Facebook page, but you still have to provide content...). APS is in the process of starting a pilot of a program that should help clubs and the headquarters communicate a little more effectively and more regularly. The Society also offers (very) basic web hosting for clubs that wouldn't otherwise have a web presence but only a relative handful of clubs have used that feature.
Hi Steve, A file on a site is just like a file on your computer, it may be a document, an image, a sound file. And just like your PC, files must be managed.
But the number of files isn't that good of indicator on the quality or size of a website's content. One of the better indicators for a quality website is the ‘average stay' metric. If visitors are staying a long time, they are probably finding a lot of value. Of course this metric can be influenced by spiders, bots, and other non-human visitors but if you get enough traffic the average will be meaningful.
Every website runs on a server which records everything. For decades there have games played with these web site metrics; many people were confused by the nomenclature and used the term ‘hits'. ‘Hits' is crazy, it logs every ‘get' and ‘post' on a web page. So a single visitor, viewing a single web page, might generate 15 hits in web server log file. (Every element on a web page get requested with a ‘get'; the file itself, all the image files, etc.). Many marketing people would brag, ‘our site has 8,000 hits per day'.
But playing games with metrics aside; it is critical to perform frequent analysis on a website logs files/stats. I have not heard much about the APS website stats. What is the average number of unique visitors per day? How long do they stay? Where are they coming from (referred sites)? Which search engines are delivering the most visitors? Which pages are the most popular? Which pages not the least popular? Which search word are being used to find the site? Which parts of the country/world are visitors coming from? What browsers are they using? What kind of devices are the using? What errors are being thrown? These are typical metrics used by IT web people every day. The fact that we hear very little about the APS website stats is concerning. Does APS staff have a handle of what is working and not working on the current site?
If we had the answers to these questions, we would not be guessing at how many visitors are using mobile devices to access the APS site. Don
Edit: If anyone is interested in what a responsive web design looks like, check out Southpaw's website at http://southpaw-design.com/. To see how it works, resize your browser window to a small size, like what you might have on a smart phone. note how the web site responds, every screen element resizes properly. Then go try this on the APS site and note that it doesn't display properly at all.
Scott's reference to the 25% mobile usage may have been specifically regarding the APS website, not the Internet in general.
Personally, I have found great variance in device usage, screen resolution, browser type, operating system, and other analytics parameters depending on website and industry. There is no one single correct answer.
(For example, the business I work for has a customer demographic that skews towards older ages, in addition to corporate rather than personal devices, so we see a lot more traditional laptop and desktop usage, traditional MSIE much more than Chrome or Firefox, etc. Our analytics are not representative of the population at large.)
The only thing we can be sure of is that mobile use of the Interwebz is increasing and not going away. I would argue that even 25% mobile usage (heck, 10-15% would do it) justifies responsive design and/or accommodating that demographic.
Your comprehensive proposal is all fine and dandy. I would posit that to do it right inhouse would be a multimillion dollar initiative over several years (staffing, infrastructure, resources). Where is that money going to come from?
IMO, it can't be hobbled together a bit here and a piece there, but needs a comprehensive plan incorporating website, ecommerce, social media and/or forums, email marketing, electronic courseware and webinar capability, media storage and distribution, process automation, scalable CRM... and that's just off the top of my head... and doing it right won't come cheap.
Don -- My apologies for lack of clarity - that 25 percent number was a reference to our own site. I happen to be in full agreement about getting to mobile-accessibility and we are working to get there. The site needs a redesign and I have folks working on that as we speak. We've tested a few subtle changes. The website is a template platform and managed in house. I don't need every cosmetic change to go to some outsourced company to make the updates for me. So while you are concerned about outsourcing the website, I don't want it overstated that we have no control on updating and upgrading content. Where we want to go is to be able to allow more than one person to manage web content - which is the first place we will take it, followed by integrating some of the information so that updating the web is not hunting for all of the information (contact names, etc). The analytics is an answer we do collect, but not something I've analyzed yet because I needed to get some of the other mechanical process issues addressed (and covering other territory).
Steve - Regarding the information, that goes back to the earlier point of using more than one person to update content on the web. That seems like a small issue, but it really does matter on the daily updates of the webpage.
Scott, No problem, we are back to the chicken and the egg. Current metrics and desired metrics are two distinct things. Given the demographics of the older membership, I would expect fewer users to access the APS site with mobile devices. (Heck, there is a significant number of existing members who aren't online at all.) But once we move the discussion to getting new, younger visitors, then we begin looking forward.
I guess I am still confused as to the desired breakdown for the APS membership vision; there are several ‘pools' that can be fished for increasing membership.
New Younger People – Probably one of the most difficult pools but one that has the largest long-term paybacks.
New, Older People – Interesting group, they have the time, the money and this group is certainly growing in this country (the graying of Americ).
Existing former members – Another difficult one since many of these folks probably left for good (in their minds) reasons. I would say that the biggest challenge is to resolve the fact that many left because they felt they were getting value.
Existing hobbyists who have never been members – Hard to find and sell the idea of membership; we have to assume that this group has previously heard of APS and made a decision to not join for whatever reason(s).
With money being spent on surveys and gathering input, which group(s) is APS trying to attract?
Lastly, why is there no organized way to bring the various existing web people together under a APS umbrella? Why not try to pull the various APS member sites together? (Both in reciprocal links and as a organized group?) Why doesn't APS offer a snippet of code for other web site owners to use in their website to encourage APS memberships? (More than a simple 1998 banner, we want a piece of code that credits us with any new members that join from our websites.) Why doesn't APS have a website contest each year? (I know there was one for Chapters but it no longer seems active. It also was exclusively for Chapters, individual site owners couldn't enter.) I think there are a lot of online hobbyists who feel quite a bit like the child.
Dan, Understood and I agree with most of your post. I respectfully disagree on the costs. I think the APS could easily form an existing group of APS volunteers, with staffer oversight, who could rock the site.
Looking at the recruitment numbers from 2000 to the present, it is interesting to see the demographic breakdown. I just got the number and want to plot them out to have a better representation, but it appears our core appeal remains the same - only that that group is aging. For example, of new applicants in 2000, 37 percent were under age 50, most falling between 30 and 50. Last year, 17 percent of new applicants were under 50, same concentration.
I don't believe there is a "group" we should target (we identified 8 different groups in the strategic plan), but three that should be the heaviest concentration: the 30-50 group looking for a tangible hobby and social network to go with their otherwise demanding life, existing collectors (former and never members) that do not belong now, and retirees looking for a connection to travel, socialize, and keep mentally challenged.
Another statistic we identified in our plan was there are approximately 10,000 members of local APS-affiliated chapters that do not currently belong to the APS. Even if we could get a join rate of 10 percent, you are talking 1,000 new applications. That is the reason why the membership committee has been working on an outreach program to promote the Society and gain more recruitment power. But, if you've been to a local stamp club lately (I've joined more than 20 in the last year as I personally visit them) and I am either the youngest member present or occasionally, the second youngest present.
So that goes back to improving our website, our online presence and how we communicate - targeting that 30-50 group. That is why we are working on improvements to the site and ways to reach out to collectors in that age group, that would include more information reaching them electronically. I don't have the final options available at this moment, but we continue to work on them and hope to have a presentation for the Board in October.
From my view point, what you've said about the demographic says to me that technology may be largely part of the cause and if so, also part of the solution. It seems that's understood; that APS has not advanced technologically as fast as technology has advanced and that needs to be fixed. Its apparent from you that within the APS body, plans are being developed and implemented.
Perhaps this has been done and I've missed it, but have APS members been polled about what they want to have/see from the APS? That may be opening a Pandora's box, but there may be some good input. It wouldn't be too difficult to do the polling.
For those club members that are not in the APS, will you first find out why they haven't joined to determine what is need to get them to join? Perhaps the officers of the clubs could poll members and communicate results to the memberships folks?
Regarding tech. development, 29,000+/- APS members. If 10% are tech. savy enough to develop wed sites etc., and if 10% of those agree to assist, you'd have 290 IT folks working with you. That's perhaps over simplifying it, but I guess the point is have you considered asking them to assist their society and its members? I'm not tech savy and don't begin to understand how difficult it may be logistically to make that work, but its something to explore.
Scott, Thank you, your post clarified the membership target for me.
If the 30-50 year olds are the target, then a responsive website is a must. This age group is primarily online with mobile devices. Pew Research 2015 data for 30-50 year olds shows that 83% of them own and use smart phones. For this age group smart mobile device usage has been greatly increasing over the last 5 years while use of desktop computers has stayed flat. (Pew data is based upon a national sample of 1,907 adults ages 18 and older living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia taken during the March 17 through April 12, 2015 time period.) http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/...ership-2015/ You may also want to revisit the APS heavy use of PDFs. Using PDFs puts you at the mercy of the viewers system, while there has been some movement towards a responsive PDF it would certainly, at a minimum, require all existing PDFs to be converted to a newer format. A rewrite of the APS website without supporting ubiquitous computing would be a colossal misstep if the desire is to target 30-50 year olds. Don