Acquisitions highlight the potential for learning to enhance member value

BY Jeff Cobb


April, 2015 – Celisa and I had the opportunity recently to speak to members of the Association Executives of North Carolina on the topic of leveraging online learning to enhance member value.

Serendipitously, at about the same time, LinkedIn closed a $1.5 billion deal to buy, a highly popular – and profitable – online education company. It was by far the largest acquisition LinkedIn has made to date, and it gave us a great example with which to open our session at AENC.

While LinkedIn may not be a traditional association, its business model is very definitely membership driven. The company describes itself as “the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 347 million members in over 200 countries and territories.” Providing content that can help members enhance their skills and develop new ones is very much in line with the company’s mission – making the acquisition a logical strategic move.

As Kurt Wagner of Re/Code notes, LinkedIn has invested heavily in providing content consumption and creation opportunities that keep people coming back to its platform. Wagner writes:

Adding — which is another kind of content — to the mix gives people yet another reason to spend time on LinkedIn. It’s probably safe to assume that you’ll be able to share and watch videos in your LinkedIn stream; perhaps you’ll even be able to create your own.

Meanwhile, in the association world

LinkedIn is far from the only platform company that has recognized the power of adding online education into its value story. Not surprisingly, companies in the association market are beginning to make the connection.

As I write this post, Your Membership, one of the fastest growing association management system companies, is holding its annual user group meeting in St. Petersburg, FL. New on the agenda this year will be several sessions related to online education – a result of the company’s recent purchase of Digital Ignite, makers of Crowd Wisdom, a learning platform developed to serve the needs of membership organizations.

Note how Your Membership’s CEO, JP Guilbault, describes the value created by Crowd Wisdom and another Your Membership acquisition, Job Target:

With Crowd Wisdom and Job Target Career Centers, organizations are well positioned to deliver enhanced value to professionals worldwide. now serves as a complete user engagement resource for any organization seeking to create more meaningful connections and drive more revenue. (Emphasis added. Source)

And here’s how Krista Endsley, CEO of Abila – another larger association management system provider – describes that company’s recent acquisition of Peach New Media, makers of Freestone, another learning platform designed for membership organizations:

By adding the Freestone learning platform and the exceptional Peach talent, Abila strengthens its strong portfolio of products and services that help enhance engagement, add value, increase revenue, and improve decision-making. (Emphasis added. Source.)

The creation of new value and engagement was central to both of these acquisitions, just as it was to LinkedIn’s acquisition of

It remains to be seen, of course, how much new value will actually be created as a result of these particular acquisitions, but in our opinion, any failure to create value will be a result of poor execution: the strategic thinking behind all of the acquisitions is sound.


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