I disagree with quite a bit of Chasa's post.
...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,
...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.
...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.
...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.