Presented for discussion at Council on 09 June 2020
There are three proposals on the table:
1. For this year Ranger should continue to be hard copy. Given that there is currently no sponsorship, the DSA will have to fund the publication and distribution. The Council will be asked to vote on this option.
2. Alternative forms of Ranger should again be investigated.
3. Moving forward, the purpose of the Ranger should be reviewed.
At the end of the discussion at 1645, the Chairman will ask for a vote on the proposals.
Background to Ranger
Ranger was an opportunity that was seized and developed. From the early days of two issues per year, the publication has become an annual publication. It was very much driven by Alan Gordon.
Funding is now becoming a critical issue. Nevertheless, the situation does present the opportunity to rethink The Ranger Journal and the future of the DSA.
One of the original aims of the 'new' Ranger was to increase DSA membership – it definitely achieved this over the first few years but then new group tailed off badly to become almost not happening. A possible cause was that the Geo/Hydro technology and the operational roles were racing away from the traditional equipment/roles that DSA members knew. Despite trying very hard to keep up, in the main, the serving personnel did not see a connection with their life, interests and Ranger.
For the potential advertisers, the Ranger had a unique selling point. Copies were addressed personally to the incumbent of a post, not to the appointment. Therefore General Whoever opened it himself not his staff clerk who then chucked it on a pile of other 'junk' mail. (Or so it is assumed). This was a winner as far as commercial advertisers were concerned; not only did they pay to advertise, but they could also write a very targeted article for the magazine.
The distribution list was initially compiled by Alan Gordon by visiting key appointments across Mil Svy, Hydro, Gunner Svy etc. – e.g. Svy 1, Svy 3, Head MRLG, Hydro Appointer (their Svy 1) etc. MRLG were particularly keen on the idea. Then every six months emailed these people were emailed and updated the list. It worked a treat but did involve effort. To collate the relevant email addresses and to keep them up to date, all of this work would need to be done again.
Ranger distribution, as recently provided, indicates that Ranger still has a wide distribution. Much of this distribution drawn together in the early days of the Ranger Journal genesis? Why do we send out Ranger to such a wide distribution? Is there any direct benefit to the DSA? Do we know whether any on the delivery, outside the membership, have actually taken an interest in the DSA? How much of the distribution is historical and a vanity distribution? With DGI and other geo industry bodies, the Journal was a business arrangement of mutual support. There was a cohort of geospatial industries looking to MoD contracts. The Journal distribution suggested a means of being seen by the MoD. Apart from enabling the publication of Ranger did DSA benefit from the arrangement? Was there an increase in membership, a growth in cash assets and a broader recognition in the geo world. In particular, does Ranger have any material impact on the military geo world? Was or is Ranger a suitable means of communication with the membership?
At the end of the document is a copy of the distribution list.
A previous review of Ranger
In 2013 a meeting was held to consider the future of Ranger. The decisions were:
a. RANGER will be a softcopy publication on the new DSA website.
b. An Editorial Board of some Council Members and also Corresponding Members was requested and this should go to Council for approval. The rationale is that we need to engage with:
i. current Army, Navy and Air Force personnel who have a GeoInt role;
ii. manufacturers and others who are mentioned in articles with a view to obtaining advertising revenue as well as technical input.
c. Advantages of softcopy RANGER were discussed and certainly it was seen to be an advantage to HM Ships, therefore a corresponding Naval member of the Editorial Board was believed necessary.
d. Ranger should be published more than once a year, probably quarterly; and TK would notify current recipients of RANGER, by E mail, that there was something to look at the website.
e. Hardcopy may be developed later but that was secondary to getting a good softcopy version up and running
f. An Index spreadsheet would be produced by DJ of the articles published in Ranger; starting with the forthcoming edition and then bringing historic lists onto the spreadsheet which would be published on the website when up to date.
g. There needs to be a change programme so that RANGER can be monitored with a view to seeing how it is viewed, costed and developed.
h. The website itself needs to be looked at with the notes from Mike Nolan reviewed.
CC will do this initially and pass back to Council before it goes onto the website.
Council apparently did not accept the recommendations and continued as hard copy.
A view is that Ranger is a means by which DSA "promotes the sharing of knowledge…….." and also "document and preserves …. Heritage". That is not to argue that Ranger must continue forever, or that it cannot be changed. Still, it is worth acknowledging that a magazine of some format or another has a powerful capability. It also meets the more direct need of providing something which is assumed that members appreciate and value. The questions are:
Do we need anything remotely like this at all?
Do we need it to be in the current format?
There is a gut feeling that DSA should produce something.
Change the Format?
An electronic format can reach a large portion of the members with ease and can do so (for those who can receive it) in a satisfying manner. It will have the merit of substantial cost reduction, saving on both print and on physical distribution costs.
Are any members disadvantage to an electronic change?
Finance aside, if DSA is to go down a route such as this, it would be wrong not to do so without actually considering whether any members are disadvantaged and if so what we are going to do about them. It would be legitimate to say we'll take the risk of losing them, but the question needs to be asked.
What about non-members (and people who don't know about us yet……)
The question becomes slightly trickier than that, however. The current Ranger has an extensive distribution list, such as HQs, Ships and units. An electronic format really needs an addressee. A paper Ranger can have an HM Ship as an addressee and is then available to all that ship by the simple act of lying around on a table. Would an equivalent electronic process be possible?. It can be emailed to targeted "correspondents" in HQ, such as Geo Sections in an HQ, but there is a problem arising now from the personalisation of MOD open addresses. There are significant problems with distributing a soft copy version. With DGPR and the MOD e-mail address system it would be extremely difficult, and time consuming, to obtain and maintain the address list even to a much reduced distribution list. Anyone who moves and fails to notify DSA or switch the address closes the door to DSA. Even then, the notion of a "targeted correspondents" does not address the idea of the casual reader.
It could be a mistake to be driven by costs alone. While it looks obvious, and often seems the only answer, to cut expenses to match income, there is nevertheless an alternative strategy which is to match income to costs. Currently, this approach is failing. DSA has been unable to gain traction on that score in the last couple of years, but did well enough in some of the previous decade or so.
A strong feeling is that again DSA should start to investigate an electronic product now, at least as a trial, on the assumption that DSA may be forced to do something in 3-5 years anyway. I propose:
The current split of the major cost is:
Pre-Prep c. £1600
Production c. £2700 (has been much higher)
Distribution c. £1350
Total c. £5650
There are incidentals as well, in some years, but the above is the common theme and the vast bulk of costs.