A very interesting survey conducted by OUTSIDE THE 92 seems to confirm my view that most fans would rather have a printed programme over a digital version and a digital version over no programme at all.
Clearly the main reason for not producing a printed programme is the cost. However, from my point of view, it depends where your cost centres are. In my opinion, the biggest cost is design/artwork. Whether a club pays an outside designer, has an ‘in-house designer’ or perhaps uses our web2print system, there is either a financial cost, a time cost or, more often than not, both.
However the programme is designed, it takes a lot of effort. If you have gone to the trouble of creating a programme, I take my hat off to you. However, if you then decide to publish purely an online version (either as simply a pdf version or using a platform like ISSUU) you run the risk of if not alienating at least annoying a large cohort of both home and away supporters who still clamour for a hard copy programme.
Is a printed programme prohibitively expensive?
It depends on various factors. Is the programme black and white or colour? What paper stock is used? How many pages are in the document? How are the programmes to be delivered? What quantity do you need?
The use of digital print technology and finishing equipment has brought viable print runs down in length substantially. We have a number of client clubs who only order a run of 20 programmes. They regard it as a part of the day. Some to be for the home team, some for the away, some for committee members from both clubs and the rest to be sold. Up the quantity in the case of a big cup game or local derby. If it is a league requirement that you have a programme but you are concerned about the cost of having them printed, order just 20. If you have gone to the trouble of creating a programme, have a few printed copies.
Why not get a few local businesses to take advertising space or sponsor the programme? Many will if they know that there is going to be a printed version. Use the backpage for an advert. It is prime space.
Unless you can sell a large number of programmes it is pretty unlikely that the cover price will ever cover the print cost. However, if you have no advertisers to help with the costs, our scenario will limit losses to just a few pounds. If you can get a few sponsors and manage to sell a few, you may even turn a small profit. As a business owner, I would be reluctant to advertise in an online only publication but would consider the printed version.
Is Digital the future?
If your digital programme is just a pdf version of your printed programme I don’t really understand why any club shouldn’t do both. I can’t really see the point in going to the trouble of designing a programme to then annoy a reasonable section of fans by not printing a small quantity to sell. If you have any left after the game, sell them on ebay. That being said, if your digital programme features videos of match action or interviews, I’m all for it. Make the online version feature stuff that you can’t have in a printed version. The only issue being time, effort and cost of ‘building’ an online programme. Do you have the content and or skills?
In conclusion, the printed matchday programme is alive and kicking. We have more customers than ever and, anecdotally, they seem to be selling more programmes. Make sure your programme contains interesting stats and editorial if you can. And most of all, if you have gone to the trouble of creating a programme as a labour of love, don’t just publish a pdf online to be downloaded, have at least a few printed and available to the stalwarts who are still itching to buy one.
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