By Chuck Woodbury
FMCA, the Family Motor Coach Association, which for 52 years was a “motorhome-owners-only” organization but now accepts towable owners, debuted a new monthly magazine yesterday (Friday) which it calls familyRVing (or Family RVing online). I have waited months to see what the organization would come up with to make it more appealing — perhaps a magic bullet to help boost membership to what it was in its glory years when it was twice as large.
“We’re hoping this new design brings the publication new energy and that you enjoy exploring within its pages,” writes National President Jon Walker in his opening essay. It doesn’t. The old saying “you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig” comes to mind.
Late last year, the association opened its membership to owners of towable RVs as a way to increase membership. It’s also aiming to attract younger RVers. The current average age of a member is over 70.
So there are photos of young families and articles about towable RVs, and ads for towable RVs and products, which I suspect were deeply discounted considering the few readers with towables. At the club’s recent national rally in Perry, Georgia, of the approximately 2,500 rigs in attendance, less than 10 were towables according to one of the RVtravel.com readers who attended.
The magazine wastes space on two-page photo spreads on five feature articles, likely the idea of magazine design consultants who were retained, probably to attract younger readers/members. The “Final Trip” feature, where deaths of members are reported, is, alas, still there, which I suspect is a turn-off to younger RVers. A page and a half is devoted to RV recalls, which are old news to many RVers who can read them two months earlier on RVtravel.com and elsewhere.
Family RVing devotes almost six pages to a review of Winnebago’s Horizon motorhome. It says practically nothing that can’t be gleaned from a brochure. The author concludes: “It’s contemporary styling sets it apart from the traditional decor prevalent in most coaches at this level, and I expect it will appeal to a younger crowd.” A younger crowd? That might be a challenge for some with its base price of close to $400,000. To me, the article is a waste of six pages (the magazine has 120 total).
There is a good four-page spread on solar, and an interesting discussion of specialty products for RVs. But, really, there is very little beyond what’s readily available for free online.
The truth is, most printed magazines these days are dying and I don’t know what FMCA could do to transform its periodical into something more interesting, educational and informative than what’s available for free on the websites and in thousands of blogs. Is Family RVing better than the old Family Motorcoach? To me, not enough to matter.
I was hoping for more, although I really wondered if there was anything that could be done to make the magazine as important of a membership benefit as it was in the pre-Internet days. I look forward to hearing from FMCA members once they read their issues.
Chuck, I’m not sure what your hang-up is with Escapees RV Club, but they publish an outstanding magazine (both paper and digital version) every other month.
We joined in 2001, a year before we bought our RV. We used the magazine to do our research before buying our motorhome and learned a lot that way. We picked the brains of lots of members on their forum, and heard the pro and cons of various types of RVs.
We became Lifetime Escapee members a couple of years after joining, and, although we had to hang up the keys a few years ago, for health reasons; we continue to enjoy the magazine every other month. It’s vicarious travel for us now.
In addition to the magazine, we used the Escapee’s mail service, which was excellent. We also, for three years, leased an ERPU lot at the Livingston, TX, Escapee’s Rainbow’s End RV park. Using it as our home base, after selling our stick-and-brick home, allowed us to full-time for a year before we had to hang up the keys.
As another commenter mentioned, Escapees now has a very active group for younger RVers and traveling RV families.
You owe it to yourself and your readers to check it out.
HI Sharon, This story was about FMCA’s Magazine, not the one Escapees puts out, which is very well done. I have written dozens of times through the years about the Escapees, a very fine organization.
FMCA needs to diversify their membership by offering services of interest to attract younger Class A owners, but also not abandoning their core membership. There are plenty of younger Class A owners out there, so why tap into the towable crowd? Escapees already did similar by creating Xcapers, an affinity group that brings younger folks, and ideas, to the whole organization. It has revitalized them. The recreational vehicle industry is growing, so there certainly is not a lack of market. You just have to think outside of the box.
I am a new FMCA member and I attended the rally in Perry in March. I’m also 44 years old. I only saw 1 other person who appeared to be near my age during the first 2 days of the rally and never saw anyone less than 30 years old. I found the information informative and helpful at the sessions, but it was easy for me to see why FMCA has a membership problem my first day at the rally. The magazine and information from FMCA talks about families, but I didn’t see any at the Rally. I was going to have my kids with me at the rally, but they got sick at the last minute and couldn’t go. I think they are lucky that they did. They would have been bored to death. I think FMCA must do more to attract a younger crowd or the whole organization will be gone in less than 10 years as the majority of their current members pass away for become unable to travel as they have to this point.
From the comments I don’t believe I want any part of this organization until all the old,” I’m better than you because I have a class A”, people are gone. Their attitude honestly makes me laugh! WOW
I’m not a member but all I hear is negative comments, if you know so much why don’t you have suggestions about how to make it better or better yet write an article for them? I like printed magazines and papers too as far as that goes bur I don’t know about new upgrades and new ideas unless I see them somewhere.
I enjoy reading RV Travel each week, but also really look forward to my hard copy of Trailer Life. Electronic media can be enlightening, but real magazines are just so much easier to flip through. I don’t belong to FMCA, but don’t appreciate magazines that tout high end products that I can’t identify with.
Chuck, just a couple of comments: First, am not a member of FMCA (have been for 16 years) because of the magazine whether it is electronic of paper. It is an extra that doesn’t need to add anything for me to be a member. The benefits are the attraction. Second, I read your publication mainly for the editorial you begin the pub with. Great human interest stuff, but the rest of the pub is essentially boiler plate and is only a minor contributor to my level of interest. So, the bottom line is that nothing is perfect, but each of us find whatever it is that interests us in any publication and that provides the impetus to read the parts of it we like. So it is with the FMCA . WE (I) am a member for the parts that are of interest to me. However, please continue to provide the entertaining reading you do with your publication. I like it!
If they keep pushing they may get some new towable owners. Most that have been around for a while will not be interested. They did not and do not want towables, now only want money to survive. We got by just fine for decades without them and will continue to do so. I wish them well, but they need to target those they did not snub in the past.
I see your point but clubs and magazines are usually there to speak to a targeted audience. Just like you have Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines. Each appeals to a different audience. If their readership declined in the future they would probably consolidate the magazines. That is not a slight to either segment, just economic necessity.
My word, camping is camping. I enjoy looking at Class A’s even though I have a 5th Wheel, (by choice). Most things apply to both. We travel with out friends that have a Class A and we use my truck to see the sights when we get there. I made a trip when I was young with 6 adults and 6 kids in a Winnebago with no tow car and swore that if I ever got out of it I would never get in another one . To each his own.
We belonged to FMCA but only because it was a requirement for membership in our particular RV club. They used the FMCA for rally insurance which many groups do from what I am told. That was the only reason we belonged. When we were no longer going to our clubs rallies due to Workamping, we dropped membership to FMCA.
I never enjoyed their magazine – seemed geared towards the higher end MH and those with money. My same complaint about many. The magazines I use to enjoy reading are Escapees and Good Sam Highways – both I felt could speak to those on a budget as well as those with money.
Fifteen years ago I bought a new motorhome. The five years prior to that I gather every bit of information I could about motorhomes. Tried to join FMCA. Couldn’t because I didn’t have a motorhome vin # to give. Choose not to lie on the application. To this day I still have never seen one of their magazines.
Reminds me of what a college professor said in a business class.: “Do you know why businesses go out of business? Because they should” Meaning that they are not doing something right or meeting a need.
You know, Chuck, this was a very negative article. I am a long-time reader of RV Travel, and I have to say that I was disappointed by this article. It was not up to your usual level. It did not provide any useful information. As editor, you have the right to publish anything you want, but in my mind, a piece of writing that exists merely to slam another organization does not constitute great journalism. Perhaps this would have been better off as one of your “musings” rather than a headline piece. I would have found this much more informative if you had offered ideas for improvement, rather than just listing what you didn’t like.
I agree 100%
Personally I miss the old Highway Hearld from Good Sam. We always gained a little bit of insight into everything RV. Good Sam just isn’t what it once was.
good sam is camping world, i think. soo it’s only interested in 1 thing and that’s $$$. not a company i like.
Since the Owner of Camping World, and by default Good Sam, came out with his diatribe about not wanting any business from Trump Supporters I have helped him with his wishes and not spent a dime in any organization or company!
Belonging to FMCAis more than a magazine. The benefits alone are Worth it Their program for getting your coach and occupants including grandchildren home during an illness is second to none. The participation in subchapter rallies is enjoyable. I have been a member for 20 years
So is that your ‘Kindle’ that you use to read a book before you drift off to sleep at night, or is it a bound or paperback book? I don’t know about others, but I enjoy reading a newspaper in the morning and a book at night, both made from trees. Staring at a computer screen for all my info and entertainment is, well, not very entertaining. My vote is for a magazine I can pick up in my hands.
I prefer a tablet, which I also hold in my hands. When iPads came it, I was living overseas with almost no access to English-language books or periodicals. The tablet gave me access to news and information in my preferred language. I also found that when I finished a book from an author I liked that I could buy another book online and start reading within minutes. By the time the morning newspaper arrives, I’ve probably already read the stories. So, I dropped newspapers a long time ago. And I can read in bed in reverse lighting mode (white on black) without disturbing my wife beside me. I don’t miss the paper at all. I’m on my third tablet.
My membership with FMCA is up for renewal in October. After being a member for a number of years I feel FMCA has left me behind, therefore I will not be renewing in October. I am hoping that someone will start motorhome only group that is not associated with FMCA.
I have a 5th Wheel, by choice, does a Class A make you better than me? WOW
No, but I like a Motorhome better. But you can still be my friend anytime.
They have! AIMCLUB. ORG. It is a new club Strickle for Motorhomes!
me to. a little to expensive especially in Cdn.$
I just got a call yesterday from someone that had an Indian Accent wanting to let me know that my FMCA Membership dues were late. I informed him that, after being members since 2009, we would not be renewing our membership. I received and read the “NEW” Magazine and I found it boring and most of it was not interesting to me. I am 69 years old and have been to Two National Gatherings during our membership period. They are all the same but I am always impressed that they have between 2000 – 5000 attendee’s. My most recent convention was in Perry Georgia about 3 years ago and they had a driver course for, in my case – Wife). This was an additional $ 495.00 but was very impressive and my wife can now drive our 45 foot coach.
The reason for our not renewing is I find nothing new or enthusiastic about this organization and can find like minded people along the roadways and parks.
I also found the new magazine hard to read and page flip. Going to wait for the hard copy to read.
FMCA should simply focus on the age issue. I attended my first rally a couple months ago and was very surprised by how old everyone was. It looked like a retirement home gathering. The officers who checked you in must have been in their 70s. I saw quickly where their membership growth problem was. Has nothing to do with what kind of RV you have.
Their membership problem is akin to what the VFW experienced some years ago when older WWII veterans were getting too old to run “their clubs” and had to allow us Vietnam vets in to help out. Never mind that we were shunned for many years before that. Every dog has his day.
I never tried to join the VFW so I had no idea that I couldn’t. That is just a shame, I would not join now for anything. Should have let it die on the vine.
Age is just an attitude for many of the attendees. The rallies are run by volunteers. Who has time for that?
Everyone can get something useful at a rally.
We used to be the youngsters at the rallies. Now we’re getting older, too.
Things are improving bit by bit.
Yes , but as those older ones die off you younger folks get older to replace the ones that die off. You will be in your 70’s one day. IF you are lucky! Then you will be FMCA elgible. LOL
I didn’t see a significant difference between the “old” and “new” versions. I wonder if FMCA could improve it’s membership by truly becoming an advocate for all types of camping. Something more along the lines of a Consumer Reports for RV’ers. Reviews of campgrounds, comparisons of different manufacturers offerings, discussions of proper procedures for things like pumping out black and gray tanks, sanitizing fresh water lines, maintainance for generators, tires – selecting and maintaining (including safety records). Lots of new “campers” need lots of education. Many do not even realize what they “should” be doing to maintain their units. Step up to that plate and then stand up for the consumers of the products.
Goldie, I agree. As is, the group seems to think that adding more discounts, most of which a member needs to buy something to get the discount, are the way to build membership. I think that is dead wrong, and a formula for continued decline.
It’s time to rethink my membership to FMCA. I didn’t vote to include towable but it is no big deal if they do I guess. However reading the same type of articles each month just doesn’t hold the importance it once did. I travel 7K to 9500K a for all most 10 yr across the country . I think Goldie is right even though I can goggle any question that I have and find an answer. Best of all my Monacoers group has all the answers that I need or maybe 99%. FMCA does have the tire discount that has saved me a few bucks but my next tires are not covered in their discount program. Times and people change.
Get a Tiffin. You can get the tire discount through them!
Chuck how does one contact You?
I.had a heck of a place for you to go to while in Hill Country.
George, my email is email@example.com
That sounds great to me, I would consider joining something like that. From what I am reading though since I own a 5th wheel I would be considered low class. LOL
Oh for heaven’s sake Alan, would you like an axe to get that chip off your shoulder? We have just bought a Class A (used) and I don’t consider anyone with a 5th wheel or trailer that is towed low class. Where did you get that from? We are just entering the life of RVs. We owned a sailboat before. I am hoping that what you are saying is not the case as we enjoy people from all walks of life and are anxious to get out there and meet them.
Alan, I think you are hung up on “class”. We are FMCA members ( until our membership expires). We voted against allowing towables. But we like all RVers. We had trailers, etc until we worked our way up to a Motorhome. We liked FMCA because it was addressed to our type of RV. We visit with other RVers where ever we are and it doesn’t matter the type of rig they have period. We belong to a Good Sam Chapter that welcomes all types of campers to join. We all have a blast together. If someone started a 5th wheel group, would that make you happier? We wouldn’t join, because we don’t have a 5th wheel. We are all campers. I don’t care about what type of rig you own. And we don’t think that most other Coach owners do either. We think you must have a preconceived notion or maybe you met one of the few that may have that better then thou attitude, but don’t include all coach owners in that group!
With regards to the FMCA, what are the actual “perks” of membership, that can’t be found with other associations? Where does the membership fees go? and what do they pay for? Demographically, memberships in any organization will go up and down all the time. So there are less motor home owners out there then there was 25 years ago. The overhead costs of running an association are a lot less now then they were 25 years ago. Printed media is dying, so why spend money on a printed magazine. Members have email and can be contacted that way, or through the associations website. For older members who don’t have email access, interim methods to reach those folks can be found. The FMCA didn’t need to make such a drastic change and allow towable owners to join, they just needed a demographic shift in their associations approach to meet motor home owners needs. Just my opinion.
I agree the new magazine is in the category, “meet the new version, same as the old version,” so if you were expecting some breakthrough, get used to disappointment. But let’s face it … magazines (even in their digital, page-flipping versions) are not, and cannot be, as informative and useful as a well-crafted online alternative. And if this is a preview of the new FMCA focus to include towables and attract younger members, they have a ways to go.