Two years ago in this issue our cover story was “Call to Action: ASAE CEO Mike Olson Challenges Associations to Face the Threat of the Net.” The article was in part a rebuttal to an Industry Standard article that called associations “the next roadkill of the new economy.

Ya gotta laugh cause it hurts too much to cry. Today the new economy is belly up, the Industry Standard is dead, and Internet portal companies like VerticalNet, which threatened to steal the association franchise by doing a better job of providing the Three C's (remember them — community, commerce, communication?), are long gone or ghosts of their former selves. The threat facing associations today is not the new media, but an uncertain economy.

“The current marketplace is less than stable for most associations, and budgets for the next fiscal year have never been harder to construct,” Olson says in our cover story (page 30). “We hear daily of associations that have reduced their staffs and programs, experienced budget deficits for the first time, or even confronted closure.”

So did we really need to get all worked up about the new media back in 2000? Was it a false threat, a red herring for the real thing? Not at all, says Olson. “It was a wake-up call that many associations responded to and, as a result, are better off today,” because they've learned to tap the Internet for everything from meeting registration to committee meetings to e-newsletters and even e-commerce.

Associations are, alas, subject to every national dynamic that comes along. “We are mirror images of what the country and society are experiencing,” Olson says. “And because of that, we are in a perfect position to lead our country through these challenges.”

Tackling challenge through strategic change is the theme of this issue: From our cover story on big-picture planning, to a profile of the new president of the Professional Convention Management Association, to new approaches to registration fees and managing room pickup at a time when attendees are increasingly booking outside the block to take advantage of lower rates available on the Internet.

Articles like these will shed light on a lot of questions, but probably not this one: What will be our cover topic two years from now?