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The Right Content Recipe Makes a Well-Rounded Diet - 6/6/2011 -

Here’s some help in keeping up with new technologies available to your association’s publishing team—and figuring out what media mix is right for your members.

By Misty Elliott

We have become a "snack” culture—and in the association media world, this goes way beyond Twinkies or Doritos. Information consumption has simmered from generous heaps of facts and figures to strategically portioned morsels of knowledge. Breaking news is transmitted in bite-sized 160 characters or less, and reading a four-paragraph blog in one sitting has become the standard for meeting your recommended daily dose of information. Of course, there is also the buffet of staying status-updated, linked in, and a-twitter with information.

With so many delectable options, how do associations find the right balance of using new media and serving up a well-rounded diet of content? That was the topic of conversation at a recent Lunch & Learn co-hosted by the Association Media & Publishing and Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE).

"So we get this blob of content, and we have to consider it across all platforms," says Ryan Johnson, vice president, publishing and community, WorldatWork, immediate past president of the Association Media & Publishing board of directors, and the discussion facilitator. He advises not to view information as solely a news article or simply social media content; maybe the "blob” of content becomes a podcast, gets reviewed in a magazine article, and is then tweeted and shared through Facebook.

Or, you may prefer a different recipe. In a recent member survey conducted by Association Media & Publishing, the top three content generators that organizations had published or created in the past 12 months were web content, e-newsletters, and print magazines (in that order). The two least published or created were newspapers/tabloids and printed membership directories.

With these facts in mind, Johnson urged the Lunch & Learn participants to consider the ease with which a LinkedIn community can quickly take on a life of its own and become an active, churning dialogue that motivates thinkers and doers alike. The secret ingredient, the group decided, is for associations to be an active part of the conversation, contributing ideas, adding worthwhile comments, and being willing to take professional criticism (but addressing it swiftly).

Johnson says one way to share your organization's reasoning and thought processes on specific hot-button issues is through blogging. Blogging can take a semi-casual form and still be an effective, respected method for transmitting content. It's two-way communication that allows you to stay in touch with members and get quick, constructive feedback. In fact, Association Media & Publishing’s study revealed that 64 percent of its member organizations are focused on blogging right now, which ranked in the top five content generators created or published in the past year.

With so much discussion focused on various media mixes, it was only natural for the Lunch & Learn conversation to turn to how it all gets paid for. "We are trading dollars for pennies,” Johnson admits. He recognizes that with the increase in digital mediums, today’s advertisers want the metrics, impression rates, and click-through data from online advertising that print cannot provide. Monetizing things like apps and blogs hasn’t been completely figured out, but it’s definitely on the front burner for most associations; in fact, enhancing ad revenue ranked as the top publishing issue for the next two years in Association Media & Publishing’s member survey.

However, print isn’t going anywhere. Information consumers still find time for full-course content. The majority of Association Media & Publishing members reported spending 15-29 minutes reading the printed version of the association’s flagship magazine, Signature, while for 62 percent, the digital edition captures less than 15 minutes of members’ attention. It’s clear the "mix” is still being perfected; until then, associations are adding their own special blend of digital content and social media spice to a print-based recipe.

Misty Elliott is creative director of the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE). Association Media & Publishing thanks her for covering this Michigan Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.


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