Membership numbers have been steady for several years at CompTIA, but its leaders believed it was time to attract a broader audience.
What started as an emerging trend seems to be turning into a full-blown movement: With growing frequency, there’s news of another association jumping on the open-access or “freemium” membership bandwagon.
Add CompTIA to the list.
“There’s always a little bit of skepticism [about] how good can this content be if you’re giving it away for free, but once they see what the materials are … they’re pleasantly surprised and eager to get more.”
During its Annual Members Meeting last week, the group, which represents the IT industry, announced that it will switch to a hybrid form of an open-access model.
“The IT industry is changing rapidly, and channel partners, as well as IT professionals, business owners, and consumers, are eager for real-world insights and resources that will help them make more informed decisions and offer guidance on the future of IT,” Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, said in a statement. “CompTIA is uniquely positioned to be that voice and resource, which is why we’re opening up the vault to registered users and introducing greater exclusivity and value for our members.”
The new model will allow anyone, in or out of the IT industry, to register for access to the organization’s content, including educational resources, industry research and news, and a selection of business tool, at no-cost. A new membership tier called “premier member” will give dues-paying members access to exclusive tools and training, as well as priority access to industry research. Members who had already paid their dues for this year were automatically converted to premier status.
CompTIA made the move at a time when membership numbers were healthy but stagnant—anywhere from 2,000 to 2,200 dues-paying members at a time.
“We go month to month and quarter to quarter, and some percentage would drop and this percentage would be added, and we were fairly consistent over the last several years,” said Steven Ostrowski, CompTIA’s director of corporate communications. “Both our executive team and our board of directors were trying to come up with ways to get our information and the content and the resources that we’re producing out to a broader audience.”
The group soft-launched the new open-access membership in early March, and since then more than 5,000 registered users have joined.
“The response from both the registered users and our premier members has been generally favorable across the board,” Ostrowski said. “There’s always a little bit of skepticism [about] how good can this content be if you’re giving it away for free, but once they see what the materials are, whether it’s a piece of research or whether it’s some business planning tool that they can have access to, I think they’re pleasantly surprised and eager to get more.”
Along with the new membership structure, CompTIA plans to unveil a redesigned website sometime after June 1, which Ostrowski said will be more user-friendly than the one currently in place.
“We’re just trying to make things more accessible—that’s the biggest challenge we face,” he said. “So, we’re not only opening up the doors to the content, but also making that content more accessible to more people. And we’re hoping that once they get a taste of the free stuff and see that it’s good-quality material that can help them run their business better that they’ll find value in becoming dues-paying members of the organization.”