Association “Genius”

If you use iTunes and have developed a music library (hopefully by paying for content!), you are probably familiar with Apple’s “Genius” feature.

When it first debuted, Genius felt like a musical knock-off of Amazon’s “People who bought …” feature. It cataloged your library and then helped steer you toward artists and albums that you didn’t have but might like, based on what you owned.

More recently, Apple has extended the feature to help iTunes users discover and rediscover their own music. Choose a song from your play list and Genius will generate a play list of up to 100 songs (your call) that musically, thematically or even historically match the song you initially selected.

Clearly Apple has learned from cataloging the collections of a vast array of iTunes users, applying some heuristic insight along the way. While I don’t know precisely how Genius works, I do know that its feature set provides a useful model for associations.

We’ve written about the importance of communicating association value, and in specific recommended that associations tell their members what associations know that, on their own, members alone can’t know or realize. Some associations already offer auditing tools, typically services or publications, that help members see the bigger picture.

Imagine, though, the power of tools that could capture, update and assess current understanding and reflect that back to members. Institutions might find value in discovering content or best practices inside their own walls. Individuals seeking the ideal resources in broader search environments might gain an immediate, customized solution drawn from a trusted, association source.

Associations can and often do exercise significant convening power. With a natural niche focus, there’s an opportunity to do things like monetize content – the “first generation” Genius opportunity.

But I can also imagine a “next generation” opportunity that peers beyond the commercial and links members to members, based on data they choose to share. Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the internet, spoke last year about the growing importance of interoperable, linked data sets as a vehicle that can allow interrogation of information in entirely new ways. In our space, associations would provide the platform, convene the audience and perhaps take a share of any transactional revenue.

If that sounds like Genius for insight, eBay for (non-dues!)revenue, you’re right. Some for-profit niche content providers are already heading that way.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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