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The Content Conundrum: Open for All or Behind the Member Wall

The Content Conundrum: Open for All or Behind the Member Wall

Most of us working in the association community would agree that content is king. Now where exactly that “king” should sit and who gets access to his throne is an entirely different matter.

With the increase in digital access to information, some association executives make a convincing argument for open access. Still others make an equally valid argument in favor of maintaining a member wall behind which the best content can be found.

There’s no simple or easy to solution for this dilemma. Should associations protect their content as a valued membership benefit, or should they keep it open to be used as a lead generation tool to recruit more members?

If you pose this question to a group of association executives, you’re likely to get as many different responses as there are people in the room. There’s no one size fits all approach for determining the value of an organization’s content. Shawn Smajstrla, senior business editor at Multibriefs, explored these issues in a recent article.

He interviewed Christopher Williston VI, senior vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas, which moved to the open-access model several years ago. Williston offered the following observation about IBAT’s decision to make almost all of its content resources available and searchable to the general public:

"We had to assess who our members really are and how they perceive value and where they receive value. It’s something every membership association has to do; evaluate and know your members. For some associations, I have to believe this would be a horrible idea."

This perspective on the steps necessary for making a strategic decision about content especially resonates with me because ultimately it involves assessment and analysis of data.

To understand who your members really are and what they value, you need access to reliable data about their interactions with your organization. It is only by having this 360 degree view (like the one MemberNation facilitates) that you can come close to resolving the content conundrum for your association.

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