At the start of the season Frome Town F.C. faced the difficult decision of making the programmes digital. SF Sports owner Scott Fitzgibbon talked in Frome’s programme, about the how tough the decision was and we put to him some tricky questions from the fans.
Is the digital programme all about saving money?
SF: Absolutely not, as with all our communications, we need to look at the viability of everything involved with running a successful programme. Unfortunately sales of last years Frome programme reached an all time low of under 10 sold, with the club having to bin over 50 programmes after a match.
Why were fans not buying programmes?
The fans had clearly spoken with their wallets about the need for change with the programme. However, I believe there are a number of issues that effected the sales of programmes.
Firstly, there was initially an adverse reaction to changing printer from selected fans who felt for the printer who had been long term associated with the club. However, we weren't able to agree a way forward with them as a club. Secondly, the club had increases in the cost of entry to the ground last season from £10 to £12 which meant those extra few pounds were being spent elsewhere. However, the programme team can’t control this, and being honest following the first year, we needed to create a better quality programme that people wanted to read and looked forward to. Last season, we approached the fans on three occasions to get feedback and I hope they can see that we are continuing to listen and make changes. We’re very proud of the programme online now.
Surely advertising can prop up the programme production costs?
The lack of last years readership has deterred all of the previous advertisers. They aren’t silly, paying to be in something no one was reading doesn’t make sense. We hope that the new programme will start to attract new sponsorship with the readership increasing.
The club needs money, so is it not sensible to have them on sale?
Our main aim at the club is to get more people through the gate on a match-day. All our performance targets are based on this metric. If giving away the programme gets more people reading about Frome Town and starting to engage, followed by more turning up at games...that’s the real win for the club.
The club have been clear there is no current plans to charge for the digital version. The costs to fans were always just to cover the printing costs. With no printing the club do not want to put any barriers to the fans staying informed.
How long does it take to create each programme?
Every programme is put together over a three day period. We have a team of 5 contributors that provide articles and information. Plus the fans that help us with comments and interactions for various items. However, we would love more fans to send us information or blogs on Frome Town and their experiences. It’s been frantic with so many home games so close together. We also hope that some of the previous contributors from seasons gone by will return.
How do I register to get a programme?
The online programmes do not require any fan from any team to register with the website to view - It’s just a weblink that we share a few days in advance of the games.
Where else can I find the link?
We share this across all of the club's social media channels (at least three times in the run up to every match) as well as to the league and the opposition to help them share. We share this across Frome in multiple local Facebook groups, with the local Radio station football group and on the Frome Town supporters club forum.
Is digital forever?
We are all lovers of a printed programme. We would have loved for sales to be higher, so a printed version could have been maintained. But it’s not the situation Frome are in as a club.
The hours of effort that goes into each programme means that it deserves to be read, however it we get advertisers back. I’m sure this will be reviewed for next season.
What has the reception to the new programme been?
As expected it’s been a mixed bag, we have fans that love having a programme in their hand and something to read. However, with the ability to read the programme digitally anywhere we are getting a higher readership. There is not much difference from people checking their phones for other match updates and news. However, the upsides are that we are getting people reading about Frome from much further afield. We use stats to guide our decisions (not rule them) and in this instance the stats are very positive.
You’ve mentioned stats so far a few times. What do they show?
We have had 20 home programmes this season that have had over 4,300 readers (averaging 213 for each edition). So when you compare that to a high of 40 programmes sold last season and a low of 9. It shows people are engaging. However, we will be asking fans shortly for feedback and areas to improve. We don’t think that it is perfect. If we get more advertisers, we will definitely need more content. As nobody wants to read wall to wall advertising...even marketeers!
Do you think having no printed programme detracts from the football experience?
Honestly, it does for me. But I’m getting older and it takes me back to watching football with my dad and buying programmes and collecting those memories. But we can see the world changing and with fans checking into to Facebook, using Instagram and Tweeting their photos. Those memories are now stored digitally. And it a years time these platforms show those memories. So the matches can live on... but in a different evolving way.