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Digital Initiatives - a more realistic/pessimistic view  
 

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Pillar Of The Community

United States
1956 Posts
Posted 12/03/2016   4:54 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add chasa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Message
There are persistent suggestions that if the stamp collecting powers-that-be [APS and otherwise] would only wise up about the internet we could fix the decline in stamp collecting. I am not so sure.

The APS has had a website for upwards of 20 years. It may not be world-class but it seems quite satisfactory to me.

Websites like ours here at SCF are open to collectors and lookie-loo's worldwide. It is a very educational and fun facility. I learn new stuff every week. I think SCF is the most active and BEST of the online stamp sites. However, there are probably less than a HUNDRED regular posters here, another hundred or so occasional posters. Then maybe 300 a year who have no interest in stamps but have granddad's collection on the closet who want to know how much it is worth without expending any effort. Then, lets say there are twice as many people on the site who like to read and never post, I would say there are under a THOUSAND people In our community. We have been open what? 15 years? That is not much penetration into the English speaking globe. All for free too! When you compare our audience with Linns circulation or APS membership it is frankly miniscule. Online is not the sleeping giant.

I am the Promotional Secretary for the Precancel Stamp Society. We have 2 Facebook Pages with the same kind of attractions we have here - eye candy, gossip, expert evaluations. They have a sad total of about 20 regular posters and a few curious bystanders.

I am not one to give up easy. Just saying that improving digital outreach may be less effective than some people think.

Of course I may be way off-base. Comments??

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United States
184 Posts
Posted 12/03/2016   5:31 pm  Show Profile Check DC3's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add DC3 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Excellent observations, chasa! One idea is to enlist the help of experts in marketing. Especially guerilla marketing, with the newest and trendiest tools for the world of today. Advertising gurus could come up with wildly successful ideas, to use online and offline. A more fundamental idea is to revolutionize stamp collecting, first. Then promote it.
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Pillar Of The Community
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United States
699 Posts
Posted 12/03/2016   6:26 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Digital outreach is like selling anything. It is gets back to offering something people want to interact with. They need a reason to come back on a regular basis.
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Al
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United States
1777 Posts
Posted 12/04/2016   12:41 am  Show Profile Check TheArtfulHinger's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add TheArtfulHinger to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The surface has barely been scratched when it comes to stamp collecting and what is possible digitally. Imagine if the APS website was something like the Wikipedia of stamp collecting - if you could get in depth articles on almost any topic you can think of - printing methods, inks, papers, any stamp ever issued, digital exhibits, access to a fully digitized APRL, etc. Imagine tools that would enable you to take a picture with your phone and instantly ID a stamp, apps that would create custom album pages on the fly, etc. All of those things are heavy lifts in terms of resources and may never happen, but if they existed they'd be a great boon to the hobby. Digital outreach isn't just social media, it's also coming up with better tools for collectors to use and better ways to find the information they need. The problem is that there's probably not enough of a market out there to justify the time and expense required to build such tools, but some things can still happen incrementally that would be less resource intensive.
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United States
184 Posts
Posted 12/04/2016   02:00 am  Show Profile Check DC3's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add DC3 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Great post by TheArtfulHinger...You are a true visionary, and we should see most of what you said in the next years, if there are enough people like you in the required domains of expertise...
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Posted 12/04/2016   07:40 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I disagree with quite a bit of Chasa's post.


Quote:
...The APS has had a website for upwards of 20 years. It may not be world-class but it seems quite satisfactory to me...

I do not understand the point here. First, if the APS website content is ‘satisfactory' than would we not be recommending it often to new hobbyists who come to visit this forum? I have seen that we occasionally recommend the APS Store in some posts but I cannot recall ever seeing anyone link the APS website to a new hobbyist as a great place to get general stamp collecting info. But putting aside the discussion about the APS website content; can we really draw any conclusions regarding the value of any digital initiatives based upon the performance of a single website? Instead should the context not be ‘what is possible'?

Chasa makes the point that the SCF site,
Quote:
...It is a very educational and fun facility. I learn new stuff every week...
Can the same be said about the APS site? I go to the APS site about once or twice a month. In my opinion the APS website ought to be the ‘go-to' website for stamp collectors; it ought to be a ‘world class' or leading site in our hobby. Websites need to have a constant flow of fresh, new content and features to get people to visit every day or two. Look at the revision history on the APS site; the ‘daily updates' are mostly things like ‘added a new book for sale' and ‘added a new stamp show date'. This is not the kind of daily content updates that will encourage visitors to visit every day.


Quote:
...are probably less than a HUNDRED regular posters here, another hundred or so occasional posters...


I disagree with this estimate and am unsure where these numbers come from. Yesterday, we had over 350 members log in; and there was well over 1000 other non-member visitors who viewed the forum. What stamp club can draw over 1300 people for a single monthly meeting? And this is only one philatelic website. The number of visitors to this forum can be compared to the number of visitors at a local stamp show; except that it occurs on a daily basis. In my opinion the numbers demonstrate that the hobby has transitioned to being an online hobby.


Quote:
...I am the Promotional Secretary for the Precancel Stamp Society. We have 2 Facebook Pages with the same kind of attractions we have here - eye candy, gossip, expert evaluations. They have a sad total of about 20 regular posters and a few curious bystanders....


I went to the Precancel Stamp Society Facebook page. It opens with a post from July 12, 2015 about an announcement that it will be attending the World Show at NY. The latest user post was added over a month ago; the next most recent post is over 6 months old. I did not see anything that rates as ‘eye candy, gossip, or expert evaluations' but perhaps I was not looking in the right place. This there a link to this content so I can take a look?

When I go to the Precancel Stamp Society webpage, it too is also woefully out of date. It is not mobile friendly; which means that over 50% of all current online users cannot view it properly on their devices (same as the APS site).

How we to draw conclusions about all future digital initiatives using existing, out-of-date websites as the measurement tool? It is completely understandable why you would called the traffic to these online resources as a ‘sad total'. Like most things in life the return you get is based upon the investment you make. The days of throwing a static web site up and updating it once or twice a year are long gone.

I am not one to recommend expensive, risky things. Nor am I some totally geeky person (I have never owned a cell phone and refuse to buy one). But I can read, and I understand that online technologies are the new playing field; the numbers are undisputable. APS has tried many, many traditional recruitment methods yet the membership numbers continue to shrink. But even with their decades and decades of experience in attracting and retaining members via traditional methods, this has had no positive effect at reversing the membership attrition.

APS, and many other organizations, has been hemorrhaging members since the internet became popular. The reasons seem apparent; hobbyists found the same benefits online for little or no cost. Suddenly philatelic organizations which traditionally charged members for access to information were now completing with huge amounts of free, real-time online information. Why join APS to get a discount on its stamp identification service when they can join this forum and get the same information in real-time and for free?

So far, philatelic organizations have been incredibly slow to change and adapt to this change. The reasons for this are not technical, it is fear. Fear that they are losing their traditional sources of membership and income. Unfortunately this is happening no matter what they do. Seems to me that a tipping point has now been reached; fearful or not they must do something quickly or they will reach the point of no return.

If philatelic organizations want to bank on their out-of-date, non-competitive websites, or keep blaming and replacing the staff, or keep trying the same things that have previously not worked at reversing the trending membership losses; then I too am not positive about the future for them. In my opinion the window of opportunity is just about closed for them. Other online resources, like this forum, have been gifted a giant head start on capturing the hearts and minds of hobbyists. Organizations like APS are faced with not only developing and delivering online value but now also need to figure out how to recapture those users it has lost to the other competitive online resources.
Don
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Valued Member
United States
325 Posts
Posted 12/04/2016   12:16 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add knuppster59 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I agree that the APS website is not a place that is going to draw in collectors or people interested in the hobby. I only go there to access stamp store and sometimes download an old AP to read an article. The interface is pretty dreadful and as others have said something the content leaves much to be desired. They do have so nice resources available, but I am not sure it even compares with Linn's refresher and beginner articles.
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Pillar Of The Community
United States
731 Posts
Posted 12/08/2016   2:35 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Climber Steve to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Artful Hinger wrote: ".....if you could get in-depth articles on almost any topic you can think of......" One thing coming to mind for me immediately is the whole issue of copyright and obtaining permission for use. APS monthly and APRL quarterly publications are already on line.

An option to overcome all this is somehow obtaining permission from the specialist societies that are APS members to allow use of their material on the APS site. But somebody has to do all that negotiating and handling of the paperwork. It can't be done electronically when you're talking about formal negotiated and signed agreements that may require legal review.

Don wrote: ".....why join APS to get a discount on its stamp identification service when they can join this forum and get the same information in real time and for free....." I think it depends on how one defines "identification." Members of this site are quite adept in identifying certain items.

On the other hand, I recall a thread couple years ago about whether or not a couple of Madeira overprints were genuine or not. I was the only member answering that query. And for some stamps, the only way to fully identify is in person by a member of the APS expertizing committee. Some items can't be identified and/or expertized based upon an online scan. See the cover story in the December issue of the American Philatelist.
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Edited by Climber Steve - 12/08/2016 2:44 pm
Pillar Of The Community
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United States
1777 Posts
Posted 12/08/2016   4:24 pm  Show Profile Check TheArtfulHinger's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add TheArtfulHinger to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I do understand fully that there may be legal reasons why some/most/all items in the APRL can't be fully digitized and made available to anyone with a login. Anything in the public domain should be no problem, though, and there should be quite a bit of that kind of material. Tracking down copyright holders on obscure philatelic publications would probably be a fools errand and I'm not suggesting the APS devote full time resources to doing that, except maybe in certain circumstances where it would make sense.

Mostly what I'd like from them is online information on how to identify fraudulent material in any given area, most other things I'm OK waiting for. If there's an eBay auction, for example, I don't have time to wait for a reference book to arrive from the ARPL. It would be great if I could simply log on and view some reference material that would help me determine genuine-ness or not. This is not meant as a substitution for expertization, by the way, but simply as a helpful tool to the collector. If I'm just doing general research and trying to educate myself more deeply on something, I'd have no problem waiting a week or two for a book to arrive.
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Canada
110 Posts
Posted 12/08/2016   8:28 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add oceanguy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I would have to agree with The Artful Hinger, that the online/digital potential related to stamp collecting has barely been scratched. I am hopeful that one day there will be the kind of online resources for stamp collectors that exist for many other hobbies and interests. I am a new collector, and have just been collecting for three months and was surprised that there are not more robust online resources available.

The most valuable resource I have found so far? This site! By far the BEST stamp forum I have come across. People here are nice to new collectors and very generous with sharing their knowledge. This is a special place, as there does not seem to be as much drama or infighting as other forums. I like the idea of joining a philatelic organization, but am waiting for them to modernize what they offer online. For now I am just grateful for this forum! Thanks to those who make this site possible!
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Pillar Of The Community
United States
1238 Posts
Posted 12/09/2016   10:27 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Online is merely a platform. Content is king whether it is online or printed.
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Pillar Of The Community
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United States
699 Posts
Posted 12/10/2016   06:18 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add angore to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
If you happen to put the content on the medium (online, telegraph,etc.) people are using it is usually more efficient to reach people.

One challenge for APS is that is not a specialist society. You will not see what you see at PNC3 there. The APS monthly magazine has mostly generalist articles with a lot of APS internal operations (President's message, ED message, Deputy ED message, Circuit section, etc).

The education aspects should be run by like the journal with an editor who manages content.
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Al
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Posted 12/10/2016   07:15 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I agree with Al. When your primary value or core competency is about delivering information (content), then being good at reaching folks is paramount. It doesn't matter if the technology is smoke signals, Morse code, telegraph, telephone, printed matter, television, radio, or the internet; you have to have the vision, culture, and resources to reach people.

APS relied upon The American Philatelist magazine for decades. It served its purpose very well and became the technology that APS counted upon for much of its income (members joined to subscribe). But just like every other print publisher, the bottom fell out when the world changed around them. The number of print publishers who have been able to reconfigure themselves in today's internet enable world is small, those that have thrived even smaller.

APS culture needs to embrace IT and start assigning some significant resources to it. If only 25% of the cost overruns on the new building had been applied to IT than APS would be in a much better situation now.

A good IT person, who properly guides APS to the correct solutions, will easily pay for themselves. Consider the current website situation. APS has invested $100,000+ in it but now finds that it no longer reaches 50% or more of online users. The APS website is now strictly a 'desktop only' website.

To upgrade they will not be able to reuse the existing design and code, very little (if any) code will be able to be reused. Whatever money was spent on the old site will be lost. So instead of staying in the same outsourced boat, why not grow the core competencies the organization really needs for its future? If a new IT person does nothing more than ensure that the new website is designed with reusable code than they will pay for themselves.

Outsourcing one of your core competencies is a fool's errand, it is false economy any way you look at it.
Don
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Pillar Of The Community
United States
2696 Posts
Posted 12/10/2016   1:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add floortrader to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
OFF - THE- WALL - RESPOND , I agree with DON /51Studebaker, "In my opinion the APS website ought to be the go -to-website for stamp collectors ." The problem is those sites are boring and you can only read so much about the next sale of a inverted Jenny or the next new issue about the Royal Family from Upper BongoLand .They need content that makes a person want to comeback too.
You need to have a site that is going to entertain and educate the reader . You also want a site that a person wants to come back to see what new respond others have posted . If I post a page of my album with the German Blue Flea with all the different types ,it may get one or two responds and nothing after that . If I post something like this ---NEW YORK SHOW 2016 WAS A BIG BUST -- then you have a desire to come back to see all the different responds or even add your comments .
People want to see what other collectors are doing and how they are doing it .They want to see real life experiences not textbook stuff about the history of ICELAND or anywhere else.The APS magazine was so boring that I actual told them not to sent it to me .
I wanted articles about how and where to find those difficult 25 cent stamps and other articles about who has all those modern U.S. recent issues used . Maybe something about repairing a album binder . How about a series about HOW STAMP DEALERS CHEAT CUSTOMERS ,I am sure a lot of people would save those articles.
The APS is run and controlled by a group of suits that like to walk around stamp shows with their colorful badges. They have lost a whole generation of collectors and now losing the next generation as being relavent to the hobby .
Not to be all negative , they need to be heading is make a bigger presence on eBay or something on member eBay selling pages , they need to look at STEINER PAGES , they need to make a impact in the 20 cents to $5.00 per stamp market place with their VISA CREDIT CARD as a payment device , don't discount this last idea, because that whole credit card set-up could save the APS both financially and new membership source .
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234 Posts
Posted 01/07/2017   02:59 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add 91stang to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Evrything that I have just read from floortrader is the truth, IMO. This site gets me real time info both good and bad sometimes...but I like the hell out of it. I also dropped the APS mag...boreing..If we don't grab the young readers attention of tommarow about/on stamps...its all over with I think. And yes the APS needs to do more with their decripited wed site....boreing...


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Posted 01/07/2017   03:24 am  Show Profile Check kcaramat's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add kcaramat to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Now were are getting into the meat and potatoes of the APS problems. The last 3 posters have hit the nail on the head. That APS magazine is a complete waste of paper and/or digital space. I dropped my membership, just couldn't justify it anymore. It's time to get on the cutting edge. Drain the Swamp !
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