OmniPresence: The State of Static Media
Editor’s Note: We are excited to announce a new monthly column, OmniPresence. Our CEO, Tracy Gundert, will bring you news, ideas, and updates from Omnipress and the association, publications, and training industries.
Welcome to 2014! With each passing year, Omnipress has witnessed changes to the way our clients deliver knowledge to their members and learners. Some have been relatively subtle, but more recently, we’ve seen a major shift in the industry toward providing content using online and mobile resources.
Given these new standards for distributing content to association members, what value do static media like USBs, CDs, and print hold in the modern world? Are these options still viable, or are they going the way of the dinosaur (or, at least, the pay phone)?
It’s true that interest in physical digital media (USBs and CDs) is waning. We have seen a clear move away from these products. In many ways, responsive-designed websites and mobile apps have replaced USBs and CDs as the desired method of consuming event content.
That’s not the case for everyone, though; some clients have continued to use USBs in particular for their annual events. Clearly many associations see value in physical digital products.
There are good reasons to stay the course with CDs and USBs. Attendees appreciate receiving a tangible, branded resource and WiFi can be inconsistent and unreliable. The available options for packaging, from USBs on lanyards and key chains to CDs folded into Romvelopes and embedded in bound books, may have you thinking that the best features of our physical digital products can be seen from the outside.
But that’s only one of the benefits. The robust search capabilities ensure that your attendees can find the information they need without having to open every file to find it. Ask us for a sample to see how easy it is to use our CDs and USBs.
That brings us to print. You won’t be surprised to learn that the leader of a company with “press” in the name thinks that print is, and will remain, relevant. But you don’t take my word for it—our clients tell the same story.
Based on our daily communications with association professionals, I’d estimate that 75% are currently working to provide both print and digital versions of educational content. We have seen print quantities decrease, as some members wish to view program information and proceedings online or through a mobile app. Associations are making concessions to the direction content delivery is moving (digital) while continuing to offer print for members who prefer it.
And let’s be clear: There will always be members who prefer it. Print isn’t just for those association members nearing retirement, just as mobile and online resources aren’t attractive only to your millennial members. People don’t always fit into categories quite as squarely as we may assume.
Beyond supporting content delivery choices for all members, providing printed programs and proceedings also benefits associations: Sponsors prefer to be recognized in print. You may have noticed, as many of our clients have, that sponsors are less enthusiastic about supporting websites and mobile apps. To maintain your relationships with key sponsors, it makes sense to continue printing.
We recommend a balanced approach to content distribution. But we get it: When you see a stack of leftover printed programs after an event, you see dollar signs, not paper, being hauled off to the recycling bin. How associations deliver educational content is changing. With this change comes the opportunity to provide educational content in multiple ways, increasing member satisfaction. This includes print.
So I caution against an overreaction of completely doing away with print. Because you know what’s worse than having leftover printed proceedings? Having even a single member that didn’t access conference content at all because there was a barrier to access. Whether that barrier was a slow internet connection, not having a smartphone to use the mobile event app, or simply confusion on how the new content delivery tool worked, doesn’t really matter. Point is, someone who came to your association for professional development didn’t get it, and that’s more than just unfortunate. It’s an affront to your association’s mission.
With USBs, CDs, and print, you can meet the needs of all your members. Don’t believe the hype: the state of static media is not dead. Methods are changing, and will continue to change. It’s entirely possible that USBs and CDs will become obsolete at some point, but that day has not yet come.
I firmly believe that printed materials will continue to play a role in association events, publications, and training. There will always be a place for print, and Omnipress hopes to always be your printer.
What do you think about the state of static media? Please comment below or contact me with your ideas and feedback!