It’s time to consider to replace an aging DNN-based user group CMS platform (the sub domains under pass.org TLD) with a more modern, capable, and popular platform like Meetup.com (Meetup Pro to be exact) and save money at the same time. The change would be difficult, but it will help PASS to concentrate on serving the community rather than being in hosting and supporting web sites business. Above all, it’s time to pay less and get more.
You are probably wondering why did Steve bring this topic now, right? Well, I had this idea for a few years now, but what really triggered this post was Andy Warren‘s post on PASS, Meetup and Sponsors that I saw just few days ago. I agree with Andy, PASS Local Group web site adds some pain (= unnecessary overhead) while providing very little gain (= basic web site). IMHO, PASS local user group web site lost it’s charm and need a huge TLC. It either needs a complete overhaul or “repeal and replace” solution. Here are some main reasons why (I think) PASS local group web site still exist in its current form and shape:
Technology status quo
Required to receive a comp code for the PASS Summit
Free web site that has a link to a real/main web site – eventbrite.com, meetup.com, ti.to or a self-hosted web site.
As a Los Angeles Data Platform (previously known as SQL Malibu) User Group co-leader, I disliked that web site probably from day one. We are using an Eventbrite to organize and manage our monthly meeting and MailChimp to communicate with our members via email, so https://ladataplatform.pass.org web site is really a stepping stone into the real web site https://ladataplatform.eventbrite.com. Additionally, we still need to promote our group to engage prospective members (using social media), as the local group web site is not capable of that. So to put it lightly, PASS local group web site is not doing much – it’s just an empty shell that is primarily used to promote more feature-rich websites, like eventbrite.com, ti.to, and meetup.com.
Let’s compare PASS Local Group and Meetup websites and see what each has to offer.
PASS Local Group web site
A simple CMS web site based on once popular DotNetNuke platform that allows to create and maintain HTML pages either through a visual editor or HTML editor bundled with really basic messaging system. That is all in a nutshell, no thrills included.
Exceptional platform for an online visibility that is easy to setup, promote your local group to prospective attendees, organize and manage events, track attendance, send emails, and support polls, discussions, calendar, blog and photos.
I don’t think that there is a point here in comparing experiences between PASS local group web site and meetup. I think it’s quite obvious that Meetup is a community marketing platform designed to support online and in-person activities vs. a simple customizable web site (PASS local group). Meetup is great at bringing in new members and keep current members engaged. I’m not here to promote Meetup, but Meetup as a company is laser focused on one single thing – meetup.com. It doesn’t have to juggle supporting communities, PASS Summit, sponsors, non-profit management, elections and other activities that PASS does, so Meetup success in meetup.com is almost guaranteed.
Perhaps the only downside in comparing Meetup and PASS local group web site is the level of customization and control. The latter gives you virtually 100% of control on what and how things are going to be displayed on the web site. I personally don’t think that this is going to be a big deal, as custom capabilities are initially nice to have, but becoming quickly obsolete, as somebody needs to maintain those custom pages. That being said, Meetup web site would lack the visibility to group sponsors, but this could be accomplished using the group’s about us page.
Still not sure if Meetup is the way to go, right? No worries! I took the liberty and profiled all 141 local Canada/US based (sorry, profiling all 300 local and virtual groups would take me forever) groups for their main web site to collect some data. About 40% of local groups (54 out of 141 to be exact) are currently utilizing Meetup. Just to be clear, Meetup is not free and has a barrier of entry of about $20 a month, so groups are paying, paying because its working. If that is not a sign that PASS local group web site is not doing much, than what other proof is needed?
Just in case, here is a full list of all local groups with a meetup.com web site:
Let’s compare the cost between the two solutions.
PASS local group web site
I had a hard time to pull this exact infrastructure expense cost from all PASS expenses, so I’m going to guestimate that a monthly spend stands on $100K+ (I’m waiting for PASS Finance committee to confirm this number).
Meetup Pro cost is $30/mon. per group. Applied that to 300 groups (an exact number of local and virtual group would be lower as some groups are dormant) and that would come down to a max monthly cost of $9,000 ($30×300). I’m sure, this could be negotiated to be less than $100K.
While saving money with a current PASS local group web site is virtually not possible (renegotiating contracts is not easy), going with Meetup has a great potential to cost less (= save money).