Recently, I posted the blog article “Association Content Strategy: Free or Fee?” The title might suggest an association's content strategy must be one or the other-free or fee. But for some associations, that may not be the best solution.

For many, a hybrid content solution may be the answer, combining the best of both free and fee-based online content strategies. If you look around, isn't our world full of hybrid solutions? From flowers, to cars, to golf clubs? In fact, most of these hybrid solutions are generally better than their original counterparts individually.

So in the world of online association content, how do you turn your educational content into a fully loaded hybrid content strategy to propel membership growth, satisfaction, and overall revenue for your organization? To start, let's review some of the typical content strategies associations use today.

3 Common Association Content Strategies

For many associations, content is usually available in one of the following ways:

Free Content: All content is free to members, nonmembers, and the general public.

Members-Only Content: Content is available only to members. No content is for sale, so nonmembers must join an organization in order to access content.

Member-Benefit Content: Content is discounted or free to members. Nonmembers and the general public can purchase content for a fee.

To leverage the value of association content, a content strategy should include a combination of all three strategies. The more diversified the content strategy, the greater the value to your organization and the entire content community.

4 Ways to Develop a Strategy

Always provide some free content. No strings attached — just free content. Free content is a basic expectation of anyone surfing the Web. A few examples of what you can offer: An abstract or the first several pages of premium content, or access to older publications or proceedings content from the previous year.

Provide premium content available only to members. Members are an elite group. Provide some premium content that is offered only to members; either at a discounted fee or free as a membership value.

Provide premium content available only to attendees. Consider providing only conference attendees access to proceedings content for 90 days after your annual meeting. Then switch to a free-content or member-benefit model after the chosen time frame.

Provide content nonmembers can purchase. Whenever possible, allow nonmembers to purchase content. Not only is this a potential revenue source, but also an opportunity to gain a new member if you have good content. Providing free content can be tricky for some organizations, because premium content is not intended for public consumption for various reasons. In those cases, associations will need to be creative in order to produce some content that nonmembers can purchase.

Maybe now's a good time to schedule your own meeting to ask one simple question: “Is our current content strategy helping us reach our objectives?”

Dan Loomis is the director of product marketing publications at Omnipress, a company that provides big ideas for associations' education content. He has more than 20 years' experience serving associations and continuing educators. E-mail him at dloomis@omnipress.com.