By John L. Beath
An OWAA member recently asked me where I thought OWAA would be in five years, with such declines in the magazine and newspaper industries. Many OWAA members are asking the same question. It deserves much thought, debate and overall, direction from the OWAA board of directors.
I think OWAA, as well as every other outdoors media group, MUST make several serious changes to remain viable, important and above all else, healthy. The next five years are critical to our profession and organization. With effort and foresight, those years will be strong and profitable. Without change, OWAA will suffer the fate of declining membership, opportunities and profits.
To remain healthy and meaningful to members, OWAA needs to embrace a new direction that more accurately defines the association and its membership.
As standard print opportunities continue to decline, so does our membership. It only stands to reason that our ranks will swell with increased opportunities and decrease as markets shrink. Digital opportunities continue to increase, but figuring out how to monetize these opportunities is a unique challenge. As businesses and outdoor communicators try to figure out these challenges, we should bring new digital communicators into our ranks even if they haven’t figured out how to earn a living with their online magazine, blog, videos or podcasts.
Creating a new membership classification is one way to bring health to OWAA. This topic has been a subject of discourse among members on several occasions during the past two years. I continue to support a new “digital” or “Internet” membership classification.
Seeking out these potential members will do several things for OWAA.
First of all, it will bring new enthusiastic members into our aging and declining group. Secondly, it will provide an opportunity for OWAA to mentor and educate these digital Daniel Boones, and in turn will increase the quality of outdoors-related communication across the Internet. We can certainly learn from this new breed of communicators, and they can learn from us.
The argument I continue to hear is worth repeating, as it is worth discussion and debate: “Bloggers and online writers don’t have the skill level we (OWAA members) have. We should keep our standards high to be considered professional.”
Yes, we should maintain high professional standards, but how can we impose high standards on someone who does not belong to OWAA? You can’t unless you make them members. More members will help the group stay through professional standards and a strong membership base.
Why not create a new category with fewer qualifications, aimed at the new breed of Internet outdoor communicator?
Some members continue to point out that OWAA has a Student category and Associate category. Yes we do, but do these membership categories bring in new members?
Editor’s note: Info about OWAA’s current individual membership structure—classifications and criteria—available here: https://owaa.org/join/individual#classifications.
Do these membership classifications accurately reflect the current online climate of outdoor communicators?
No, I don’t believe they do.
During the next board meeting in June, this topic of a new membership classification will be discussed. Please let any board member or me know your opinions on this topic, or simply comment below.
While on the topic of change needed for OWAA, I firmly believe we need to form partnerships with other communications groups. We don’t have to merge memberships, but we should consider pooling some resources, as well as host joint conferences that would be less expensive and more diverse for all who attend. We have done this on a limited basis in the recent past, but should now consider actively pursing this endeavor as a standard practice. In February I sent a letter to 20-25 media groups with an offer to exchange craft improvement articles. Actually, I was surprised by several quick, positive responses, but the result has been little benefit for Outdoors Unlimited.
And one last note: If you have not made your reservations for OWAA’s annual conference in Rochester, Minn., please consider coming and participating this year. Program chair Mike Walker has a strong program that will benefit everyone who attends conference. Also, in addition to my president’s duties I will give three important and potentially profitable seminars: “YouTube editing Made Easy,” “How to Profit from YouTube Videos Your Create” and “iTech –Drag and Drop.”
I hope to see you in Rochester. ◊
John L. Beath is OWAA president and owner of Pacific Lure Communications. He is a writer/photographer and owner/editor of several websites and online stores. He is also an Internet marketing consultant for several businesses. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.