The Future of Association Publishing?
For someone like me who works in association periodicals publishing, there have been some ominous rumbles to listen to for a while. Newspapers are contracting and even shutting down; I just read recently that U.S. News and World Report is dropping down from a weekly to a biweekly after taking a huge hit in ad pages.
Steve Ballmer of Microsoft predicts, "There will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form." Of course, part of the problem newspapers and other publications are facing is that online ad revenues just aren't replacing those that had been generated by print ads; as print ad sales go down, the online ad sales aren't making up the difference.
In the same interview quoted above, Ballmer notes that in 10 years there will be many more content developers than there are now. So I'm wondering how many association publications are asking questions like these:
1. Who will be our main competitors as content developers in the next few years?
2. What can we offer that's of greater value than straight-up content? U.S. News and World Report is planning to focus on its special package issues, with more regular news updates available online only. Seth Godin's recent post on Amazon's Kindle offers a number of ideas for ways traditional text content could become more valuable.
3. How can we partner with individual content developers (members who write, authors, bloggers, podcasters, etc.) for the benefit of our industry/profession? Publications that already work with volunteer authors should have a strong base to build on in this area.
3. If our publication was available only online, would our members read it? If it came in e-mail, would they click on it right away (or ever)? What can we offer that would make them want to click right away?
4. What additional value does our print publication bring as a print publication? If we want the print version to still be viable in 5-10 years, what steps do we need to take to make that happen?
What other questions are you thinking about, association publishers?