The printed media industry is undergoing a seismic shift as new forms of media, particularly the internet, threaten to destroy its customer base. Rupert Murdoch fulminates against the BBC’s free news services, predictions are made that The Guardian cannot survive and even the Woking News and Mail, a paper once edited by RW founder John Goldsmith, closes then re-opens as a monthly publication.

When I look back at the time when I first took The Ringing World in 1976, it was the only source of information about peal performances; it was the only source of new peal compositions, apart from a rather sparse selection of compositions which I used to cut out and stick on index cards. Information on ringing meetings, ringers dinners and other events was published in local newsletters and was advertised in The Ringing World; the letters page occasionally erupted into controversy, which added to the paper’s interest.

In the same way that the BBC’s free services are causing problems for the national newspapers, the plethora of web-based information is having a serious impact on The Ringing World. News of peals is immediately available on Campanophile, with peal history on Pealbase; ringing associations publish information to their members on their website and via email; peal and quarter peal compositions are readily available on a number of websites; controversial discussions are now to be found on ringing chat-lists. Many student ringers took the RW when I went to university, whereas today there are few student subscribers, indeed there are few subscribers in the 18-35 age range. Our subscriber base has been falling for the last twenty years with a loss of around seventy-five subscribers a year. In the early 1990s we had 4,500 subscribers whereas now we have around 3,000.

It is clear that the RW cannot continue in the same way indefinitely and, whilst we are not yet at a crisis point, we need to decide on a new approach and ask ourselves what the RW should look like in the future. If we were decide to increase our web and electronic presence, it would take time for us to develop new approaches. We also have to recognise that others have taken the lead in providing free internet services and the RW cannot assume that it would be successful if it were to try to compete. It might be better to find ways of working with others, but their interest in doing this is by no means a foregone conclusion. Finally, and most importantly, nearly all the bellringing internet services are currently free so that it is not clear how to create a sustainable financial future for the RW.

We have a two-prong approach to this problem. The first prong is to stabilise the current circulation to give us time. The second is to decide, develop and launch a new approach. We are therefore seeking people who would be prepared to be ‘Ringing World Ambassadors’ to promote the RW in their local area. There are over 50 territorial societies and if each had an Ambassador who was able sell just two new subscriptions in a year (either tower or individual copies) our subscriber base would increase. When we mentioned our intention to launch this programme at the RW AGM in May we immediately had a couple of enthusiastic acceptances, slightly before we were ready to get started. If you feel that you would be able to help in this way, the RW board would be very appreciative.

We have just printed some new leaflets to be used by the Ambassadors and have agreed an introductory offer for new subscribers to give the Ambassadors a special to offer which we hope will help them sell subscriptions. We don’t have specific ideas as to how our Ambassadors should operate, but would expect that they might attend local ringing meetings and possibly visit towers to promote The Ringing World. The amount of time individual Ambassadors can spend will depend on their individual circumstances. We recognise that there are limits to the time that any volunteer can spend, but hope that it can be incorporated into ringing activities that the Ambassador would already be undertaking. As the programme gets going, we expect that we will be able to share ideas and successes among the Ambassadors to help to find the best way of selling The Ringing World.

If you would like to become an Ambassador or have further questions, please email me at

Nigel Herriott
Sales Director, The Ringing World

BB BellBoard
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers