I recently read an article on an industry magazine site addressing the issue of industry associations and questioning the value of association membership in tough economic times. This caused me to reflect on the economy, our industry and the value proposition of American Business Media.
This is a remarkable time we live in, both promising and problematic, marked by such revolutionary events as the election of the first African-American president of the U.S. and extraordinary advancements in digital media.
This extraordinary time has also brought America an economic tsunami that has affected the entire media world, including the b-to-b community.
What has ABM done in the current economic climate for our members?
ABM has always been an association driven by the needs of its membership—during the good times but, more important, during the tough times. Today, as b-to-b media companies face serious challenges, we've continued to enhance our value proposition.
ABM recently commissioned Booz & Co. to conduct a landmark industry study, exploring today's critical issues and the ways in which ABM can help its members both drive sales (top line) and look for the proper efficiencies to deliver a strong bottom line during trying times.
The ABM/Booz & Co. study is the latest achievement in the association's track record of delivering well-recognized branded research—such as previous Forrester Research, Harris and Yankelovich studies—that would have cost individual member companies thousands of dollars to conduct.
As the needs of our members and the issues most critical to them evolve, so, too, have ABM's government affairs initiatives. ABM members now receive advocacy and lobbying efforts on a variety of new-media issues, including Net neutrality, the loss or infringement of content ownership rights, limits on use of customer data and intellectual property, as well as continued support of postal issues.
When considering this representation on the Hill, one can't help but think about the dollars ABM has saved our members. These are issues that no single company could tackle on its own.
I also thought about ABM's additional services—again, in the context of our members' budgets. Among these cost- saving services are important white papers and studies on the development of new revenue streams (custom media, rich data/business information and face-to-face events) as well as such efficiency-driving services as our “Cost & Compensation” reports and preferred vendor lists.
The newest and most exciting development has been our members' move into the digital space. This was why, in 2000, ABM changed its name from American Business Press to American Business Media, thus taking a bold leadership stance. Whether it's been ABM's recognition of the change in editorial products or the increased use of video in online advertising—or our ABM Video Network with daily b-to-b news broadcasts—the association continues to provide a rich environment for innovative thinking.
In this environment, where some have questioned the value of association membership, my thoughts revolve around the gatherings—whether they be C-level forums or the more traditional conferences and seminars—where the next big ideas are harvested, where the level of conversation is lifted to new heights. This is where an association can be a key matchmaker and a key playmaker.
These are just some of the ways ABM and its initiatives represent the industry in a way that no single company, or group of companies, could.
ABM will vigorously continue to provide the products and services our members ask for to move their businesses forward. And our association will continue to provide leadership in addition to an understanding of the marketplace and the opportunities it provides for our members—on Madison Avenue, Wall Street, inside the Beltway and now around the world.
Gordon T. Hughes II is president-CEO of American Business Media. He can be reached at [email protected]