“The advertising hegemony used by Madison Avenue is about to collapse, and when it goes, it will take traditional media with it. As alarming and preposterous as that might seem, it is exactly the impossibility of such a situation that makes it so likely and so dangerous. When it happens, those involved will look around in astonishment and insist that it couldn’t have happened and that, indeed, either advertisers or media moguls have lost their minds. It is “too big to fail,” as the economic theory asserts, and there will be cries that the government do something, but in the end it will be too late, for a whole institution of the modern world will have disappeared in virtually the blink of an eye.”
— from “Media’s Real Doomsday Scenario,” by Terry Heaton
The National Geographic Society was built by nurturing a relationship with millions of members over the course of 100 years (1888 – 1988). At its centennial, the Society was at its peak, with more than 10 million members, each one paying modest annual dues; in return, each member received a monthly copy of National Geographic. The resulting revenue stream — a geyser, really — was the key to the organization’s growth and success.
Today, NGS is a company built for advertisers. Why? Because in the eyes of CEO John Fahey, membership has become an anachronism. Or as John once told us: “No one wants to belong to anything.” (Other industry experts disagree.)
Advertisers, though — that’s where the money is. Or was.
If Terry Heaton is right, and the Madison Avenue money pot will soon vanish, what happens then? What’s the business model that will sustain our Society?
More specifically, a question for you, John Fahey:
There are four million of us members out here who are still paying attention.
Is there anything you’d like to say to us?
Or is Society membership still just a vestige from the old days that gets in your way?
≡ graphic via Terry Heaton’s blog