By Michael Baadke
American Philatelic Society executive director Scott English has outlined a plan that seeks to update the society’s digital resources and attract new APS members.
English presented what he calls his “membership modernization” plan to the APS board of directors during Ameristamp Expo, the society’s annual winter show and convention held in Birmingham, Ala., in late February.
His goal is to grow APS membership by upgrading the society’s technology tools and changing how they are used. In 2017, he raised $150,000 specifically dedicated toward that goal, including a substantial donation from World Stamp Show-NY 2016.
Pointing to a steady decrease in APS membership in recent years and increases in the average age of current members as well as new applicants, English said that reversing these trends means reaching a new audience.
“What I’m talking about doing is adding an entirely different element to our society that focuses on a different group of people so that they want to access and enjoy the hobby for a long time to come, too,” English told the board.
To achieve this, English suggests the society must adapt quickly to use technology to reach and welcome that new audience.
His comments echo remarks made during the Dec. 20, 2017, telephone conference involving stamp dealers and hobby leaders in the Council on Postal Collectors.
At that time, English observed that there are a number of technological tools available that “we can be using and leveraging a little bit more effectively than we do now.”
English connects these efforts to what he characterizes as the goals of the society when it was formed in 1886: a code of ethics that allows collectors to protect themselves from fraud, and the formation of a national organization to expand the market for buyers and sellers.
He has stressed that the society needs to be recognized by collectors as a reliable and trusted source for digital content, online stamp sales, live events and online education.
“The average American now spends 23.9 hours online a week,” English told the board.
“There is a very active online community for buying and selling stamps,” he added, noting that individuals using the APS Stampstore can rely on established safeguards.
“This one thing is a guarantee: Every person you buy from on Stampstore, you know who they are. Or we know who they are,” he said.
“Thanks to our code of ethics and our ability to know who they are, you have a safe place to buy and sell stamps,” he added.
His plans include promoting and marketing the society through online efforts including email. A new content management platform is in place, he said, and a website redesign is underway.
The effort also will include shaping a dedicated website for the American Philatelic Research Library and expanding online education opportunities and live events such as webinars, which later will be made available on demand.
The society’s website and network services are currently outsourced, and English expects to see information technology management brought onto the APS staff.
Other areas of focus include creating new content such as articles, stamp news and video resources; revising the Stampstore to offer self-posting sales options; strategic partnerships; and digital subscription updates.
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He reported a projected investment of $45,000 over three years, and described the three-year plan as a pilot program.
“That tells us whether something is working or not,” he told the board.
Indicators that the program is successful will include whether it is highly utilized, provides value for membership, and can generate revenue for the society, English said.