On January 10, 1887, the first issue of The American Philatelist was published for the membership of the then American Philatelic Association. In our membership surveys, the journal is the most commonly used benefit by 98 percent of APS members. It is the most-widely circulated philatelic magazine in the U.S. and, quite possibly, the world.
One recent comment, “It’s an excellent magazine. Full of information useful to collectors and featuring high production values. Not all articles appeal to my interests, but that is to be expected in a general-interest hobby magazine. Nice job!”
So how do you meet the needs of 27,000 readers with diverse interests, specialties, and capabilities? Very carefully. We convey only the most critical updates about the APS in the journal and supplement the information in the monthly newsletter and on our website. Instead, we try to keep collecting and philately as the main focus of the magazine.
I receive more feedback about the magazine, both positive and negative, than anything else we do at the APS. “Not enough U.S. articles. Too many U.S. articles. We need a children’s section. We need more beginner information. Can you print it in a larger font? I love Bob Lamb’s column. I go to the letters to the editor section first. Do you write for the magazine?” There are too many to mention, but we take all feedback into consideration and adjust accordingly.
Recently, I posed the question on Facebook of how we should approach our audience and received a good bit of feedback from our members. Our former President, John Hotchner, shared this,
Several thoughts. First, more and shorter articles. If we want to publish a congress book of wonderful research each year, dynamite, but few AP readers will read anything close to even 50% of 10+ page articles UNLESS there is a USA-critical theme like the WWI article. I disagree that the way to get to kids is a kid’s focus in the magazine. At other times I have advocated for one kid-friendly item to be in each issue that our members could share with a kid, but what will hook kids is a dedicated website that encourages kids to get deeper into the joys of stamp collecting. The Internet is where kids are, not in print magazines. I reject the difference proposed between accumulators and “real” stamp collectors, and we should studiously avoid any hint of elitism … I would do much more ‘Meet our Members’ shorts throughout the magazine; and not just advanced collectors. Finally, I would put greater emphasis on the breadth of the hobby, perhaps in association with ‘Meet the Member.’ What new interests have they picked up?”
John makes some excellent points, which is why I thought it would be worth sharing them here. Over the past year, we have shifted our focus to become more content-oriented and created a simple breakdown of what we should try to accomplish with our content, whether it’s on the website, our newsletters, or The American Philatelist:
Inform & Educate: Actively share our news and educational philatelic content with members, collectors, and non-collectors.
Connection & Community: Connecting our members and the hobby through storytelling. Attack the stigma of the “solitary collector.”
Call to Action: We must be active to grow, arm our members and collectors at large with the tools to introduce the next generation to the APS and the hobby.
In this issue, our Chief Content Officer, Tom Loebig, invites you to share your knowledge and your stories with us. Our journal remains “for members, by members,” and there is a great value to that. I also invite you to visit our website, stamps.org, and see all the great information we share with members and non-members alike. You can also help us by sharing news, information, and insights that will be useful to those just starting down the road to collecting. Please feel free to share any thoughts and suggestions with me at our mailing address or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for all you do for the APS and the hobby!
Editor's Note: This article was published in the January 2020 issue of The American Philatelist. Read the full issue online at stamps.org/the-american-philatelist