So there were about 10 people who attended the Idea Swap last night. Roughly equal mix of association staff and vendor/consultant types. I didn’t hear any revolutionary ideas but I did hear something interesting about what associations think about as they consider an online directory.
The biggest factors for associations creating online directories seemed to fall into one of two areas: preserving print-based advertising revenue or cutting costs by ceasing printing of the dead tree directory. What was missing from the conversation was discussion about creating value for members via an online directory. Revenue and cost are valid concerns but shouldn’t they really be secondary to what will create the most value for the association’s members?
Creating crippled online directories just to preserve some existing revenue streams doesn’t tell your members that you are keeping their interest front and center. Once they get that perception, you renewals will drop and then those other revenue streams will go away too. Then what?
I think associations are really going to have to get back to basics as the web continues to disrupt existing revenue models. It won’t be easy but they have to address value for members if they want to remain healthy organizations.