04 Apr 2011  HBS Cases

Reinventing the National Geographic Society

How do you transform a 123-year-old cultural icon and prepare it for the digital world? Slowly, as a new case on the "National Geographic Society" by David Garvin demonstrates.

 

Teaching a case study on the National Geographic Society for the first time, HBS professor David A. Garvin walks out to the middle of the horseshoe-shaped classroom and asks his students, "How many of you have familiarity with National Geographic magazine?"

Nearly all 72 students, many from foreign countries, raise their hand. "What do you associate with it?" The yellow border, answers one. Others note the stunning photography, detailed maps, and magazines piled up all around the house.

A few minutes later National Geographic CEO John Fahey is addressing the class, and recalls the remark about magazine piles. "That has come back to haunt us," Fahey says. "People today don't want clutter."

It turns out that many things that made National Geographic one of the world's top brands during its 123 years are obstacles to overcome. Like many other print publications, National Geographic's subscription revenue has declined significantly, from $284 million in 1999 to $211 million in 2009. The value of becoming a member of the Society, once a matter of prestige, has eroded. The institution has made large bets on various forms of media—Internet, movies, TV, cable programming—but is still trying to figure out the best strategy for integrating them. Despite repeated structural changes, employees still operate in silos.

In short, the National Geographic case is fertile learning ground for managers. Its lessons address transforming the culture, behaviors, and values of a legacy organization, changing a business model from paper to digital, capitalizing on huge brand awareness and international presence, and promoting cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration.

Increasing geographic knowledge

Founded in 1888 as an educational and scientific society with a mission "to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge," the National Geographic Society (NGS) soon launched a scholarly journal, National Geographic Magazine. Using revenues secured from members, the Society supported many groundbreaking scientific adventures—Dian Fossey's 18-year study of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, for one—filling in the empty spots on the world's map as it went along.

But when Fahey arrived to head the National Geographic Ventures unit in 1996, the institution was in decline. Decision-making was slow and fusty. A digital strategy was just emerging. Various units operated as independent fiefdoms. In 1998, Fahey was named CEO, and the task was clear: build an organization to thrive for the next 100 years. To do so, he "assembled a management team of diverse backgrounds to transform the Society's culture and organization, fostering more risk-taking, a greater focus on commercial activities, and more cross-departmental collaboration," notes the case, cowritten by Garvin and Carin-Isabel Knoop, executive director of HBS's Global Research Group.

The story especially appealed to Garvin because he had profiled Fahey in an earlier case study in 1994 when Fahey was CEO of Time Life, ironically facing many of the same challenges with earlier generations of media and technology. Fifteen years later it was an opportunity to observe an elite general manager at work in a completely different organization, to see how his thinking and management style had changed or stayed the same.

Slow to change

When Garvin and Knoop flew to NGS headquarters in Washington D.C., in the summer of 2009, Fahey was heading what appeared to be a steady but slow-motion revolution. His effort to rebuild the organization for the digital era was now more than a decade old, with some notable successes—a new mission in 2004, a reorganization in 2007—but with unresolved problems. Fahey says his leisurely pace of change was deliberate, that creative people take longer to accept change. However, "He's been at it 12 years, and people's first loyalty is still to their silos," Garvin observes.

The case encourages students to put themselves in his place. Is Fahey moving too slowly? Does he have the right people in the right positions? Is the new mission—"to inspire people to care about the planet"—the right one? How does the situation facing Fahey at National Geographic compare with the challenges at Time Life? Is he taking the right steps to destroy silos and integrate the organization?

But the case actually hangs around another question. Fahey created a position of senior vice president, e-commerce. It's a pivotal and, for NGS, radical step. The position will be responsible for coordinating web-based offerings and outreach across the Society's numerous departments, integrating several direct-mail efforts into a cohesive e-commerce strategy, and leveraging the NGS relationship with subscribers.

National Geographic CoversThe students are asked the same question Fahey debated with his team: to whom should this person report? To Fahey himself, signaling the importance of the role? To the Global Media Group, which is responsible for the magazine, book publishing, TV and film, and digital ventures? Or to the Enterprise Group, which operates the Society's merchandising businesses, brand extensions, and licensed products and services?

"This issue appears to be pretty straightforward—it's just a reporting issue," says Garvin. "In fact it embeds the larger issue of who is going to control the integrated aspects of e-commerce, and what authorities and what decision rights that person will have relative to the existing divisions."

With Fahey listening on, the students dive in. The first few think the position should report to the CEO. "The easy out is to say John Fahey should be the direct report," Garvin says later in his office. "But Fahey already has 14 direct reports. And do you always want a centralized position to report to the CEO?" Maybe reporting to Global Media makes sense, one student suggests, if the position is considered functional rather than strategic.

The decision revealed

When Fahey steps in front of the class he reveals his decision, which was made after the case was written. The position reports to the Enterprise Group, the alternative hardly mentioned by students. If the person reported to Global Media, he says, pressure on the new e-commerce senior VP would have been immense from the various units—magazines, catalogues, and expeditions—to push their products. Instead, Fahey wanted someone to think holistically about NGS's offerings and how best to approach customers and sell them what they want to buy.

Many of the cases taught at HBS involve a visit from the case "protagonist." There are pluses and minuses, says Garvin. The minuses are that students can be muted in their criticisms and concerns, a situation he saw teaching "National Geographic." But the good far outweighs the bad.

"They got to hear how Fahey thinks and how he addresses the problem," Garvin says. "Fahey is a highly skilled general manager. He thinks like a generalist. He focuses on integration and how to make it a reality. They need to hear him in action, how he responds to their questions. What levers is he pulling? Where is he pushing? How is he assembling the pieces into a whole? Where is he drawing lines?"

Lessons for practitioners

Just as the case is rich in lessons for students, it is also instructive for practitioners.

"The first relatively straightforward lesson is how difficult it is to move beyond your historical culture and legacy," Garvin continues. "History has power. Faulkner writes in Requiem for a Nun, 'The past is never dead. It's not even past.' Old ways of thinking and acting are deeply embedded and slow to change. So practitioners need to understand the powerful influence of the history of their own organizations."

Other lessons include the importance of getting the organizational culture right, and the need to pull multiple levers when pursuing integration. "There is an organizational structure lever Fahey pulls when he reorganizes. There is a culture and values lever—he changes what behaviors are valued in the system as they move from silos to collaboration. There is a people lever; you often have to change personnel. And there is an incentive lever where you change the compensation structure. All of those need to be done in a mutually reinforcing fashion."

Finally, combining the Time Life and National Geographic cases offers a unique view of how a manager evolves over time. "If you teach the cases together it shows students both how a general manager's style evolves and how it stays very much the same. And practitioners need to recognize that 20 years out, in a different organization, perhaps their natural tendency when faced with problem X again is to do Y, but maybe problem X is a little different in this organization and this context than the other one. So maybe this time you don't do Y, you do Z."

Garvin thinks Fahey is on the right track with his work at National Geographic. One big factor favoring the Society is that it has bought itself time thanks to a multiyear cable deal with Fox that is expected to net NGS $100 million in 2012.

"These kinds of changes take time, and they have time. Second, these kinds of changes require lots of experiments, not all of which will succeed. They are running lots of experiments. Third, it requires a change in culture and values, and that change is well under way—I would say based on Fahey's comments in class that those changes, including the necessary changes in people, have accelerated quite rapidly over the last year. Fourth, this is a world-class brand. And finally, as Fahey said himself, he's not sure they are the ones who are going to figure out what the right digital combination is, but surely because of their progress to date they will be in a position to take advantage and exploit that opportunity when someone does figure it out."

When he teaches the case in the future, Garvin says, he wants to up the volume on certain ingredients. For example, the ability for NGS to offer membership benefits—access to a research team in the field, for example—lifts the value proposition of the Society much higher than what competitors can offer.

Another issue he wants students to explore is decision-making in an era of blinding technological speed, something Fahey didn't have to think as much about at Time Life.

"The iPad basically didn't exist two years ago, and now it's a core platform. Digital delivery of content to the cell phone didn't exist a few years ago, and now it's everywhere. You go six months, and it's two generations. That's something I would love to exploit in the future. Just what do these speed changes mean for how Fahey needs to operate?"

About the author

Sean Silverthorne is editor-in-chief of HBS Working Knowledge.

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Comments

    • Walter L. Keats
    • President, Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd.

    I was interested to see that nowhere in this article, and presumably the case itself, does it mention that the NGS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization receiving the significant benefits of not paying state or federal income tax. It did not specifically mention any of its "competitors" and whether they were in the for- or non-profit arena. One has to ask why the NGS is able to print admittedly excellent geographic publications such as atlases without paying taxes because they are "educational" whereas for-profit companies such as the famous Rand McNally company here in Chicago does have to pay taxes. Rand has gone through several bankruptcies and/or buyouts over the last decade and has had to significantly downsize. Certainly some of its problems may be of its own doing, but not having to pay state and federal tax on identical items doesn't seem a proper use of the non-profit status. We complain about cheap "foreign" manufacturing destroying Americans companies and jobs, but certainly a for-profit having to compete against a non-profit seems equally as objectionable.

    If the products or services produced merit a government subsidy, than why don't we also provide the same tax relief to the for-profit company?

    Is it really necessary to have a government subsidy for something that can be produced at presumably a slightly higher cost, but which generates tax revenues for state and federal governments?

    Is there no management attitude or perspective that differentiates a non-profit organization's operations from that of a similar for-profit? From the article it sounds to me as though Mr. Fahey is running the NGS as he would any other media company.

    With just a little investigation I believe one will find that the IRS in the 1990s also noted this inappropriate conduct and forced the NGS to separate out at least several "divisions" into for-profit companies, which still doesn't resolve the for- and non-profit dilemma, but it at least points in the right direction.

    Presumably Prof. Garvin is aware that he can obtain the NGS's IRS Form 990 at www.guidestar.com to make other analyses of its operations, as opposed to just its "management."

    Note: I have been a "member" (more accurately a "subscriber") of the NGS since 1967.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Just a heads up, from someone who was in an executive position in the digital group at NGS from 2000 to 2005, e-commerce at NGS began in the Enterprise group at least as far back as 2000. So not that much of a cliffhanger. It was fun to see the article.

    Thanks!

     
     
     
    • Marius Leibold
    • CEO, Development Strategies International Ltd

    NGS is likely - based on this case study and its suggested recommendations - to follow the same disastrous path as Encyclopaedia Brittannica (EC) in the 1990's and early 2000's. EC was also (myopically) focused on being a world-class brand, having 'time' to play with, confusing structures and positions with real change, and moving slowly with transformation. It needs a radical mindset change among its executives, and holistic value stream (need-satisfactions, products, delivery) innovation, enabling agile capabilities resonating with current and developing market needs. Of course, retaining core values, name and image, but moving beyond its traditional platform with disruptive innovation and agility. First of all would be mindset changes, with coherence mechanisms to align approaches and ventures to break the silo thinking mentalities.

     
     
     
    • Lothar Vogel
    • Owner, burgerman.com

    With the birth of my son in 1990, I started a subscription of National Geographic for him and he has saved every issue since then and is very proud to display them, due to the weight, at the bottom of his bookshelf.

    To a lover of excellent literature, National Geographic is a priceless treasure and a monthly highlight. As I look around; I find it a sad development that more people have fewer books and good magazines at their homes displayed.

    You wrote: "The value of becoming a member of the (National Geographic) Society, once a matter of prestige, has eroded". If it were my responsibility to have no erosion of subscribers, I would encourage every future quality oriented parent everywhere, to make a subscription to the National Geographic for their children from birth on, a priceless piece of art, every issue of it.

    Think about the joy of having a lifelong partnership with National Geographic. It's really royal. Is there a better magazine around?

    You don't buy a National Geographic; you inherit it like a good watch, or a car. It is all a matter of how you cherish your work. Think about it...

     
     
     
    • Alan Mairson
    • Society Matters

    Thanks for a fascinating summary of John Fahey's work at NGS & his appearance at HBS.

    While the issue of e-commerce is no doubt an important one, this case study ignores a key ingredient to National Geographic's success: the optimistic Story it told about America & the West meeting the world. During John's tenure as CEO, that Story has changed.

    John has turned National Geographic into International Geographic. The upside is NGS has entered new global markets; the downside is NGS has abandoned what made it great -- much to the chagrin of the Society's once loyal members. See: http://societymatters.org/2009/10/23/the-elephant-in-the-room/

    Put another way: John's actions suggest he believes people are post-national. That "inspiring people to care about the planet" (the Society's new mission) is a good & profitable substitute for stories that once addressed readers as citizens of nations (e.g., "Our Land Through [Abraham] Lincoln's Eyes"). That people are best seen as customers (or consumers or "eyeballs"), but not as members of national communities -- of societies. That what we share (the planet) matters more than what makes us different (democracy vs. fascism; bare-breasted women vs. fully-clothed women; etc.) That a Green & global consciousness is the Next Big Thing.

    Those ideas are not only debatable, they also have a corrosive effect on the National Geographic Society -- and on our society. For example:

    Befriending Thugs Who Love the Planet: Save the trees & to hell with democracy
    http://societymatters.org/2009/07/13/befriending-thugs-who-love-the-planet/

    Adventures in Global Media: Losing our way in China http://societymatters.org/2009/07/23/adventures-in-global-media/

    Objective Nonsense part 5: Zahi Hawass, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, shares a "local idiom" that will make your stomach churn
    http://societymatters.org/2010/03/14/objective-nonsense-part-5/

    Thugs, Oppression, Global Media & Democracy: The story we've abandoned, and why it matters
    http://societymatters.org/2010/09/21/thugs-oppression-global-media-democracy/

    My question: Why does the HBS case study place so much emphasis on who the new e-commerce VP will report to, while completely ignoring the profound changes John has made to the Story that's now told by the National Geographic Society? Doesn't the "product" matter as much, if not more, than the organization's internal chain of command?

     
     
     
    • Lisa Hubbard
    • Projects Director, Avery Dennison

    I've long been fascinated with National Geographic - from the early days when the pictures took me around the world, to today as a global business enterprise.

    I can imagine that if you're trying to bring a family-owned business into the 21st century, there are many obstacles to overcome. They hire you to bring something fresh and new, and they reject everything you bring because it doesn't fit their culture. Even the word Legacy must be capitalized, because it is such an important core value.

    As a supplement to the case study, I would recommend Robert Poole's 2004 book, "Explorers House: National Geographic and the World it Made", also available in paperback. Mr. Poole knows the place -- he retired as executive editor of the magazine -- and does a fine job of describing the history, politics and attitudes of NGS's famous leaders from its founding in 1888 to the recent turbulent years. With this insight, you will better appreciate both the ingrained culture which exists in NGS, and how this case study is an important business management lesson, whether the company you keep is family-owned or not.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Print media, new media, it's all content which can be displayed in multiple devices. I think they have it all wrong. Having a guy in charge of "e-anything", just lets you know that they don't get it.

     
     
     
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMec(india) Private Limited

    I'm shocked to learn National Geographic's subscription has declined significantly. NG is the best magazine I have come across and each issue is a treasure in itself.Eventhough i'm not a regular subscriber now, I do go for it from retail book stalls and greatly learn and enjoy. The qulity of print and photography is superb. Wish more and more people go for it and learn.

     
     
     
    • Praveen Zala
    • Project Manager, Hewlett Packard

    I feel a lot of emphasis in the case is being placed upon the fact that Fahey is trying to address the problem through 'structure' - by creating a new positon to handle media. The underlying fact is that it takes far more to handle the dawn of this digital revolution. Specific focus for social media needs to be 'high' on Fahey's agenda and the Strategy Group at NG.

     
     
     
    • Paul Nicholas
    • Director, Soul-Chaplain Consultancy

    All things change and pass, either evolving into new forms or becoming extinct. National Geographic Magazine is no exception, and sorely needs to be something very different from what it has become.

    Such a large part of its reputation rests with the imagery it employs - dazzling and sumptuous, but unreal - and the pursuit of such imagery has taken the magazine away from real people and the real world.

    It no longer seems informative or educational, but principally concerned with what amounts to entertainment effect and "wow!" The "viewer" of this magazine (the term seems more appropriate than "reader") is engaged as a spectator or voyeur, not as a feeling and emotional human being.

    The language is no longer simple and beautiful, but self-consciously prosaic - this is not literature.

    Looking back through old copies generates more than nostalgia. The older the copy the more poetry there is in the language, the more real are the images and the more touching and human is the effect.

    I like the past and want to leave it where it is. National Geographic needs to "get real" - like every other medium must - but this will be by re-engaging the old emotions in new ways.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    As an employee of National Geographic, I find this a fascinating read.

    A few points:

    Silo's exist because they are allowed. At the end of the day, that is Mr. Fahey's fault. National Geographic is a top-down organization with the same people constantly being rewarded with more power, new titles, and more money.

    When choosing groups for a "Future Directions Committee," which would address the first issue that an overwhelming number of employee's stated was the problem in a survey-senior management-a few of the senior managers selected their pets to sit on the committee, some of whom are themselves the biggest problems. We lost before we began.

    To Mr. Keats point, the oil industry receives subsidies, why shouldn't an educational organization receive them? And, Rand McNally does not have a geography education arm.

    To Ms. Hubbard point, you make perhaps the most important point. National Geographic was and continues to be, run like a family business.

    National Geographic is a great organization to work for fully 50% of the time. Especially if you are in senior management.

    I think it is commendable that Mr. Fahey and team chose to put this out on the table, though I don't think the students were given an accurate picture of the organization. They saw and heard what Mr. Fahey wanted them too.

     
     
     
    • Richard Lin
    • Senior Associate, KPMG Advisory

    (duplicate entry - to provide my email above) Being a big fan of National Geographic magazine, I was very worried to see some attempts that potentially gamble its brand. For example, I have seen a National Geographic shop selling clothing, food, and accessories in a popular shopping center; however the shop has very low traffic.

    I see the core competencies of National Geographic in its quality articles and breath-taking photos. It has kept the neutral and in-depth perspective of academic journals while exploring different cultures, which has provided a safe-to-absorb and always-new experience to read its magazine (channel). Its competitive advantage in global channel establishment is wonderful; however, I and many younger generations may own more mobile phone "apps" than magazines. Finding the right method and lead in the new media with core competencies is essential.

    Considering the case of Wikipedia and Google which brought instant knowledge to anyone accessing internet, paper-based encyclopaedia has become obsolete indeed. Some previous attempts in CD-based encyclopaedia did not capture the essence of internet - immediate, up-to-date, and ever growing. Can NGS capture the flow in this technological evolution era?

    I think Fahey's establishment of new senior VP of e-commerce is definitely correct and with right support, this senior VP should even drive the organizational changes with its success in new channel. To put the new position in Enterprise Group is a great move to lead this change. I look forward to seeing the new channels of National Geographic.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    To Mr. Keats comment- NGS is actually both- there is a for-profit and non-profit arm, so some of that argument loses air.

     
     
     
    • Walter L. Keats
    • President, Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd.

    Following up on my comments in Comment 1, and in response to Comment 11 from the "employee of the NGS," and to Comment 13 from "Anonymous." In all the above comments I still don't see any recognition/discussion of how a non-profit should act differently from a for-profit entity. If there is no difference, than why do we provide tax subsidies to non-profits? I certainly think we, the "state," should subsidize non-profits that are doing socially redemptive work, things that relieve the public sector of some burdens and responsibilities, e.g. charities, educational institutions, cultural entities, etc. The question is how to treat "non-profits" that are really businesses (even less deserving, family run businesses), whose main activity is to make money for the leadership/family founders (vs. owners/shareholders of a for-profit that pays taxes). In the NGS's latest form 990 (2009) one can se e that Mr. Fahey, working 45 hours per week, received $1,140,000+ in total compensation and Mr. Grosvenor, working 12 hours per week, received $380,000+ in total compensation. If one adjusts Mr. Grosvenor's compensation to the 45 hours that is reported to be standard for all the NGS officers, his adjusted compensation would have been $1,420,000+. Not bad work, if you can get it. One can also calculate the average compensation per employee (1,242) which works out to $86,500. That is pretty nice for "non-profit" jobs.

    Mr. Lin, of KPMG, the NGS accountants, in Comment 12, talks about the business aspects of the NGS, but nothing about its social responsibilities as a non-profit. Again, from the 2009 NGS IRS Form 990, it shows total grants (presumably for non-profit educational activities) of only $10,580,000+ out of total revenue of $445,130,000+ for a 2.3% donation rate. That doesn't seem very high to me. (I recognize that the total revenue includes revenue from the for-profit NGS entities, but presumably they are there to support the non-profit activities/mission of the Society.)

    In response to Comment 11 the writer states that Rand McNally doesn't have an "educational arm." Please see: http://education.randmcnally.com/education/. It is the non-profit "arm" (core) of the NGS that does the "educational" work of the NGS, while most educational publishers are openly for-profit, and pay taxes.

    Also, please explain to me how an atlas produced by Rand McNally, or any other for-profit publisher, is less "educational" than one produced by the NGS as a non-profit. Note that the "Goode's World Atlas," was first published as the "Goode's School Atlas" in 1923 by Rand McNally and is still published by Rand McNally (now in its 21st edition) while the NGS "Atlas of the World" was first published in 1963 (now in its 9th edition).

    And finally, in response to Comment 13, I think it is clear in both my initial and in this comment that I recognize that the NGS has both non-profit and a for-profit arms. What is the purpose of a non-profit having a for-profit arm? Isn't it to support the mission of the non-profit arm? If it is just a random business unit to make money, than it should certainly not have access to non-profit tax benefits, and one should question the non-profit management's strategic vision as well.

    Sorry to go on about this. If one is interested in questions of the role of non-profits one might contact Sen. Chuck Grassley's office as he and his committee have been looking into this for some time. The NGS case is, in my opinion, a good example of why we need to overhaul our tax laws, particularly with regards to non-profits.

     
     
     
    • Keith Gardner

    I found this site after doing a search to find out whether somehow, without my realizing it, National Geographic was no longer a not-for-profit corporation. I have just been watching the Nat Geo Channel on cable; in particular the programs on 9/11 "conspiracy theories." I found the reporting, editing, fact checking, and political positioning so out of sync with my recollection of National Geographic as the systematic and disciplined voice of reason and fact of my youth.

    I found here that it's not that it's no longer a 501(c)(3); it's simply that it's being run by John Fahey, former CEO of Time-Life, and apparently viewing NG as yet another media company.

    I would encourage Mr. Fahey and others in his employ to revisit the mission of the Society, to reacquaint yourselves with the meaning of a not-for-profit organization, and to understand that getting new people involved is sometimes anathema to the mission. For example, the New York Cactus and Succulent Society used to be a large-ish organization. People used to have hobbies. Now, not so much. Meetings are attended by a mere handful of souls dedicated to the cause. Admittedly if they changed their name and focus to the New York Cactus, Succulent and Hip-Hop Society, they would attract more members, and have a lot more "flash." But it would not be the NYCSS.

     
     
     
    • Vic Arthur

    The year 1965 , National Geographic Magazine , my first reaction WOW ! loved the photography , great stories , it took me around the world in my armchair , that was when I was 21 , I was ready for adventure and National Geographic gave that to me . It inspired me . I even took up photography because of it . I subscribed to the magazine in 1972 and have been a member ever since , and with my backdated collection I have over 800 in my especially built library . This Year I seriously considered whether I wanted to continue my subscription . Reason ! Not because it has overtaken my library in volume , Not because I stop using it as a reference encylopaedia , in fact I still do but the internet is taking over that job . Not because of the subscription price , which I think is reasonable , "BUT" because I think National Geographic is TIRED , still great quality , still great photography , (still great articles sometimes) , but when I pick-up my new magazine and flick through . Ho-Hum they must be getting desperate for things to cover , they are rehashing stuff without coming up with anything new , or Ive seen that in the news months ago. I think the days of hard copy are dying , might be good for a nostalgic book collector , but of no monetry value when you see the magazines in the op-shops for 20cents good for the kids to cut-out the pics to past on their book covers We are living in a fast and changing world for the consumer , Smaller dwellings no room for a library, A preference to cable tv and internet , because of instant coverage , Watch the budget who cares about outdated hand-me down heirlooms. Im afraid these might be some of the things confronting National Geographic in these times ! God bless them . still love them , BUT?

     
     
     
    • Gregory Miller
    • Technology Partner, C[IQ] Strategies LLC

    Our firm is engaged in a major initiative addressing the next generation of membership for the Society. In abiding by and respecting our confidentiality agreement I cannot yet go into detail. However, I can observe that this article is spot-on with regard to the Society's opportunity and challenges in rethinking "membership" and a host of issues around the convergence of content and community in the digital age. We believe Silverthorne and Prof. Garvin fairly covered it. And we firmly believe CEO Fahey "gets it." Bear in mind, there are no "time to market" or "first mover advantage" issues here; only the need to "get it right" as the Society evolves going forward. We suggest everyone who has read this far, stay tuned.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    My father bought me a lifetime subscription to National Geographic in the mid-1960s. I've been greatly dismayed by the erosion of the society's mission, which has seemingly become "Damn the science and ethics, lets make some money on the public's interest in the environment!" The magazine is full of ads showing SUVs driving across fragile terrain, and the TV channel features a host of amateur dare-devils harassing wildlife and modeling disrespectful behavior (e.g., running up to wild lions)...They do hire good videographers, but I am skeptical about their methods. Its become a travesty.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Technology must be met head-on as a medium for delivering NG product--that is self eveident.

    I agree with the writer below (#18) that there are some unsavory brand changes such as sensationalism and animal harrassment for the sake of a certain type of consumer that is, himself, a very new animal indeed in terms of the historic viewer base. I hope NG can embrace new mediums and products without continuing to depart from its essence of steller journalism.