Associations now face competition from for-profit companies in ways they didn’t in the past. And the competition comes in the form of content that is capturing the attention of association audiences. Their superb content is delivered through contemporary processes that are tested and refined, with a data-driven understanding of the audience and utilizing state-of-the-art technologies.

It is worth repeating that these companies, who were formerly not in the association space, use content as their entrée. And what better space for achieving results with your content than in highly targeted communities like those that associations offer.

The American Physical Therapy Association now faces stiff competition from Educata in providing online CE credits for physical therapists, American Diabetes Association has hospitals also vying to be the diabetic’s source of choice for disease management and information, and AARP has new competitors, driven by knowledge of the buying power of the 50+ set, offering online magazines and websites.

What does this mean for associations? Simply, the biggest revolution associations have ever faced is here and with it comes the opportunity to perform on the world stage. The information sharing economy has changed the way we all consume and share information. And association audiences are out there consuming content at staggeringly ever-growing rates.

Consider these two organizations, can you recognize them? Membership-based, content creators and curators, hold virtual and f2f events, and sell products. Any ideas?

They are Costco and REI. Costco’s #1 revenue making item is its membership. Surprised? It’s good to hear that the membership model is thriving, isn’t it? But if you look a bit deeper, you see how it works is not the same as it historically works at associations. But both of these organizations now deliver content that looks a lot like the association content model – enewsletters, magazines, blogs — with one striking exception: the bulk of their content is ungated. It is free for anyone to access.

Do you think that is just because of their audience type? Because they are trying to attract more of the general public? Sure, there is truth in that. But let’s not forget the examples above. It isn’t a very big leap to the conclusion that if you are not the purveyor of free quality content for your niche, someone else will be because there is money to be made by captivating a niche audience.

One of the most globally recognized brands has made it clear how important they think content is in their adoption of an online magazine as their website. And they have developed a self-described ‘innovation hub’ whose url is Coca Cola is just one of the many brands now leading the charge in content marketing.

There is a divide growing between those that create and deliver great content versus those that achieve greatness with their content. has a few things to say on achieving greatness, including “There’s no absolutes in the world of marketing, except for the fact that businesses who best adapt to their audience will almost always win.”

It really doesn’t matter which side of the divide your organization is on today, what matters is which side you think you belong on. And what you’re going to do to get there. How will you become, or continue to be, an organization that achieves greatness with your content?