Wednesday, August 12, 2015

From Owning the Publication to Owning the Idea

By Steven M. Worth, President at Plexus Consulting Group, LLC

Ever since Johannes Gutenberg used moveable print to create splendid, reproducible publications there has been almost as much attention and importance placed on the printed page as on the ideas it contains. What is left of “newspapers” and the “print” media when you take away the printed paper? How does the concept of a library change if there are no physical books?

We are at that point now of course when thoughts have become digitized and the physical manifestation of publishing can be virtually anything we want it to be, anywhere and anytime we want to send it. Not only do we have to change our terminology, but along with “pages,” “printing,” and “going to press” we need to change our business models as well. What price do we charge for a magazine, a newsletter, or a journal when there are no printing or mailing costs? How much are ideas worth when you take away the paper they are printed on?

As ideas are freed of the constraints of print, this situation presents tremendous opportunities to professional and scientific societies and trade associations as readers seek assurance that what they are consuming is not junk science or commercially- or politically-driven propaganda. These opportunities for the association community then lie in recognizing, cultivating, and publicizing original thinking in ways that protect the ownership of the ideas as well as those who would most benefit from knowing.

Who more than the nonprofit community is better qualified or more credible to do this? The trick of course is to organize this flow of ideas from creator to consumer in ways that cover costs and that generate the capital needed to re-invest in creating and seeking out new ideas.

While hard copy journals, magazines, and newsletters are disappearing, the vehicles that are most adapted to this new environment are already in the toolkits of most associations in the form of on-line publications and educational programs delivered through webinars, conferences and on-line classes. Many professional societies also have the certification and accreditation programs and/or editorial boards of experts needed to verify the competence of would be authors and speakers. What remains is to weave all these elements together into fiscally sound, well-researched business plans!

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