Associations turn to archiving for some mix of the following: to add value to their programming, to generate revenues (either through sponsorships or fees for viewing), or to extend the life of the live event throughout the year by giving viewers access to session contents via the archive site. The best way to learn what makes sense for an organization is to take note of what other similar organizations have done.

Here are a couple of case studies of how various associations have used archiving, as well as some tips on how to price archive access for attendees versus those who did not attend the live event.

Different Strokes

The American Heart Association archived more than 2,600 sessions from its annual Scientific Sessions conference in November 2004. The archives were sold in both Web and CD-ROM formats. Sessions Science OnDemand has subsequently received more than 74,000 page views and 19,000 visits and has delivered more than 120 gigabytes of media since its release four days after the meeting. “Our Scientific Sessions event features more than 40 concurrent sessions,” says Leigh Ann Stockard, vice president, meetings, American Heart Association. “Scientists, clinicians and healthcare providers now have the opportunity to take this premier, four-day scientific event and keep it alive for an entire year.”

Another example is the American Society for Microbiology, which implemented an archiving service for its 44th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy event last fall. With close to 6,200 people attending, ASM needed to ensure content got into the hands of interested attendees. All authorized sessions were recorded and the respective presentations were made available in PDF format. The content was put up on the Web. Since November 2004, nearly 50,000 page views have been tracked. At a cost of about $0.60 per session viewed, the value is clear. “We implemented an archive service at one of our spring meetings last year, and again for the 44th ICAAC this past fall,” adds Lori Feinman, assistant director of meetings, American Society for Microbiology. “Both times, we saw an immediate and positive result. Considering our international attendance, we felt this to be a much more effective means of distributing the content to our members and attendees worldwide than audiotapes were.”

The Electronic Payments Association (NACHA) hosts an annual meeting, Payments, for about 2,000 attendees. Offering an average of 130 concurrent sessions in 14 time slots means that an attendee can attend fewer than 10 percent of the sessions. NACHA understands that and markets its archives accordingly.

“During the past five years we've produced several archives, including our annual conference, through our archive provider. They have also produced over 40 teleseminars and our eCheck Conference,” says William D. Sullivan, director, education program development for NACHA. “We began archiving our events in 2000 and found the value-added service for our attendees is much greater than the production fees.”

Is There a Downside?

It's important to treat attendees as better customers than those who did not attend the meeting. Typically, attendees are given first access to the archives and are given a price break if a purchase model is in place (otherwise, access for attendees is complimentary). Of course, it helps to market the archives only to pre-registered attendees and on site. If only attendees are able to access the archives (e.g., via sponsorship), then there is no potential for the availability of archives to negatively affect attendance.

When budgeting for an archiving service, there are some key elements to keep in mind. First, this is typically a fee-for-service arrangement. Royalty splits on sales are still commonplace, as archiving entails significant overhead for the companies performing the service. Likewise, archiving is a significant value to your organization and its constituency. It's also a likely target for sponsorship, and many organizations might find it beneficial to underwrite the costs. When all else fails, it's not uncommon to find that with either a moderate increase in registration fees, or for a small fee on top of registration, attendees are more than willing to purchase the archives.

David Angeletti is chief marketing officer for Conference Archives, Inc., based in Johnstown, Pa. You can reach him at dangelet