Friday, April 25, 2008

The Power of the Niche: A DigitalNow 2008 Panel

Power of the Niche: One size does not fit all

The Long Tail is about how the economics of the online world are changing the way that people choose both cultural and manufactured products. The traditional association models of broadcasting one-to-many are facing the same scrutiny as the commercial models are - both are the result of the exponential increase in the abundance of choices for information and knowledge. At the same time, the available tools have made it easier for members to customize, create, and manage their own information, and have given them the ability to share information online. The result is an increasing demand for, limitless inventory of, and increased supply of items that were previously considered too specialized to be economically viable for brick-and-mortar/conference-centric organizations.

In this DigitalNow session, panelists explore the implications of the new niche-based matrix. Segmentation - what does it really mean to associations and the way they conduct business? This panel is moderated by Carla Balakgie CAE, Executive Director, Electronic Transactions Association (ETA), and features keynote speaker Chris Anderson, Bonnie M. Cramer, Vice Chair, Board of Directors, AARP, Katherine Trahan CAE, President and CEO, Safety Council, Louisiana Chapter, and Mark A. Langley CPA, Executive Vice President and COO, Project Management Institute (PMI).

View the video of this panel session.

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At 12:55 PM, Blogger Mark said...

A thought in reaction to yesterday’s general session: Chris Anderson, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

There is (for me at least) a bit of a disconnect between the way the "long tail" principle manifests itself in the marketplace (open, unstructured, unmanaged) and its effective operation in the association world (more closed, or at least more rigidly defined; with structure and management (staff, volunteer and otherwise)):

Within the “closed” customer system of an association, every niche along the long tail feels like it is (or ought to be) the critical mass or center of demand at the head of the Pareto distribution curve.

Creating tools and spaces that allow niches within membership to create their own content, networks and value is not enough. Even given their own unique and autonomous position, those groups often feel undervalued, underappreciated within the larger association of which they are a part.

Think of market segments (withn NCRA’s membership, the different sub-specialties within court reporting and captioning), product lines (association offerings of varying appeal to different niche markets within the membership whole), and forms of engagement styles (meeting attenders versus the stay at homes, on liners versus the face-to-face junkies). It isn’t enough that we have something for every one’s tastes, each feels their characteristics/demography are shared and should be the defining elements within the association for ALL products, services, structures. And that ALL decisions should be made with them in mind.

It is not enough for them to be a niche along the tail. They feel disenfranchised by the attention, focus and resources they see (or perceive) are being devoted to the rest of the community.

This perception may be accurate. There may be a core constituency that actually does get the majority of the seats at the table and prominence in the association's brand. But it also may be an over-reaction and misperception: each niche may invest the composite of all the other niches with a unity, homogeneity and mass that they don't in fact deserve.

So, unlike a member of the general population, who (as Anderson stated) is generally surprised, delighted and satisfied to find something uniquely suited to them somewhere down the long tail, there is a burning need in many association sub-markets to build upon their niche and make it the head of the curve.


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