SNEWS® View: OIA’s new online directory great idea -- with a few wrinkles still to smooth

We applaud OIA for embarking on the creation of a complete online directory for the outdoor industry (http://outdoorindustrydirectory.com). Naturally, however, with any launch come a few hiccups. We believe, in its eagerness to launch, there are a few things OIA did not get right and needs to address quickly to maintain the level of professionalism, member service, and integrity we have come to and should expect from our member-driven trade association.
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We applaud OIA for embarking on the creation of a complete online directory for the outdoor industry (http://outdoorindustrydirectory.com). While bits and pieces of directories have existed before in print, on CDs and online, this truly is the first effort to create a comprehensive directory that covers all aspects of the outdoor industry businesses: reps, retailers, distributors, suppliers, manufacturers, media and more.

Such a directory promises to be an invaluable tool for anyone seeking to obtain product or other types of information from almost any company currently conducting business in the industry, and that could offer a great boost. OIA picked a solid partner, too, in Multiview, a company that specializes in creating online directories for non-profits and associations and has a history of success.

We hope OIA does receive strong support for this directory as it is a huge endeavor that will not succeed unless the industry fully gets behind it.

Naturally, however, with any launch come a few hiccups. We believe, in its eagerness to launch, there are a few things OIA did not get right and needs to address quickly to maintain the level of professionalism, member service, and integrity we have come to expect from our member-driven trade association.

Who is paying and not paying for an upgraded or complete listing?

When we first logged in to check out the site, we were impressed by the number of upgraded listings on display in every category. The rub is that a large number of those companies with complete listings (the ones that will cost $395) have not paid for those upgrades, OIA revealed to SNEWS®. We checked with three companies with upgraded listings and asked about the directory; all three said they knew nothing about it and certainly hadn’t paid. In one case, the displayed information was inaccurate – likely from an outdated database uploaded to Multiview. All of that piqued our curiosity.

We contacted OIA and were told the association wanted to show website visitors an upgraded or “complete listing,” which was understandable. But do you need to show that for 20 to 25 companies in each category? The impression is that those companies have already paid for an upgrade, which could prod others to pay the $395 under a false assumption that so many others already have, including competitors.

That number of unpaid upgrades, we believe, is misleading; nowhere does OIA indicate the listings are only examples. Such an approach also lowers the value for those who have already paid to upgrade, of which we were told there are also quite a few. The question also arises as to how companies were selected to get free, upgraded listings. OIA members who did not receive the benefit when a competitor did might feel just a bit miffed since the perception – likely unintentional -- could be they were slighted. We suggest that OIA eliminate the display of any company that has not paid for an upgraded listing and keep the directory clean. Show an example of an upgraded listing if you must in those categories where no one has yet paid, but mark it clearly as an example.

What do you actually get for your $395?

We understand the idea of a Yellow Pages-style directory listing, and we understand OIA is and will always continue to look for additional revenue opportunities. We even support payment for enhancing a listing with logo placements and company descriptions, which ensures those companies are displayed alphabetically above those with unenhanced listings.

Making OIA members pay just to ensure their email and website links are displayed, however, as the current program is structured, is simply ridiculous in an online directory these days. OIA members should receive, at minimum, a listing that stands out from any non-member that goes beyond just displaying an OIA member logo since that frankly is more benefit to the OIA. We in fact think OIA would better serve its membership -- and therefore the industry -- by providing upgraded, complete listings for all of its members at no additional cost. It could then charge non-members $500 or more to upgrade a listing, which could do wonders for driving membership.

It’s not as if OIA will not make money from the directory. It is -- and should be -- charging significant fees for priority placement and banner ads – not unusual for such endeavors -- all of which could easily add up to an additional $400,000 in annual revenue by our estimates.

Should they be listening in?

SNEWS® was contacted by a Multiview representative, who was extremely professional and courteous, to ask about our listing and if we were willing to pay to upgrade. We weren’t. As a result of the call, we followed up with OIA to ask additional questions about the directory and upgraded listings. At that time we also learned our conversation in the call with Multiview had been recorded – “to ensure OIA members are receiving the best quality customer service possible,” we were told. The problem here is we were never told up front our call may be recorded to ensure quality customer service. Those speaking to Multiview therefore don’t have the opportunity to say they don’t want their conversation recorded. We understand OIA wants to make sure Multiview is providing appropriate service, and we certainly support good customer service. However, when we learned our conversation had been taped without our knowledge or consent and that OIA might be listening to the conversation later, we got our hackles up. That crosses an ethical boundary we never expected an organization such as OIA to cross.

To his credit, Frank Hugelmeyer, president of OIA, told us OIA would immediately look at the policy of recording calls with Multiview and would seek to ensure callers are notified that phone conversations may be recorded. This is a very good first step, assuming this means you can also opt out of being recorded. Meanwhile – until OIA establishes a policy about recording -- assume any calls with Multiview are being recorded and OIA may listen to your conversation.

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