President, Editorial Solutions, Inc.
When you need advice about practically any editorial matter, ASBPE's industry discussion forum benefit for members is a great source! At no cost, you can poll the membership and receive several useful tips from your peers.
As a former ASBPE board member who has spent the past 18 years in the consulting arena, I'm somewhat surprised that the forum is not used more often. Perhaps this benefit is not promoted sufficiently. Or maybe members are too busy to network with other knowledgeable sources. Another possibility: the forum needs a more formal structure.
I've been mulling this for a while because I check forum inquiries daily. If there's a question I can answer, it's done right on the spot. And if a peer offers an equally good or better answer to that question or others, I benefit by learning something new.
Anyway, here are some assorted thoughts about new paths the industry forum might take:
(1) Create a panel of members with expertise in a specific area. Then circulate a weekly or monthly schedule indicating which of those members are "on duty" during a specific day. For example, if you want to discuss an editorial performance problem, log on Tuesday and state your case. If website management snarls need clarification, check in on Wednesday. Looking for ideas on editorial training? Your day is Friday.
(2) How about the availability of a panel where all members are ASBPE Lifetime Achievement Award recipients? Each panelist is assigned a day to monitor the forum and reply to questions specifically addressed to him or her.
(3) Finally, let's consider the possibility that members don't wish to air their concerns in an open environment. The promise of privacy would encourage them to use the forum more often. In that case, ASBPE could consider an arrangement where somebody with a question calls a panel member directly. You have a certain time period – like 45 minutes – to state your case and then brainstorm with the panelist. No fee is involved. Now there's an offer even senior management at publishing companies might bite at. But first they'd have to join up!!! I've actually used a service like this offered by another association where the input I received was indeed valuable.
So there you have it – some different approaches to information-sharing that would more than cover the current cost of membership. Meanwhile, the industry forum as it exists now is still a valuable benefit. Don't waste it!!