As the a member and Vice-Chair of the Governing Committee, I'll be 100% honest in stating that I advocated for the end of Tech Talk, and transition to the forum. Here is a reply I sent to the Tech Talk email, and AHA members at large:
The decision to end Tech Talk was one that was in the works prior to my appointment on the Governing Committee. However, I have endorsed the move, and I think this decision has strong majority support from the Governing Committee and the AHA.
That said, we fully understand that Tech Talk has been a valuable, and well-used resource by those AHA members taking advantage of it's function. By no means does the AHA think that the Forum ALONE should decide the fate of Tech Talk.
Also, while reading through the responses so far, it strikes me how universal the tone of protest is. Many, not all, but many seem to be speaking from a very personal and emotional stand-point. Several have protested, but respected the AHA's reasoning, which I feel is a legitimate and appropriate response.
To this observation, I think three factors need to be reiterated, and I would encourage all AHA members to pause and give consideration to the wants of the few vs. the needs of the many.
1. Tech Talk costs a disproportionate amount of capital, and more importantly time vs. the forum. The forum has more participation, strikes a more egalitarian form of dissemination, and has the ability to evolve with user interaction and new technology. Tech Talk is a media avenue that is being phased out in most areas of retail, marketing, social interaction, and online communication. In other words, if not ended now, it would surely end within the coming years as more robust forms of online media are developed and users become more educated. There is a smaller but active participant group with Tech Talk now, but trends in internet marketing and communication point to this audience being in fast decline, and altogether becoming a drastically marginalized demographic. In business parlance: When does an asset become a liability, and when does an entity assess the risk and loss in it's efforts related to said asset/liability? The AHA would be remiss to not make proactive decisions in regards to use of member funds, and serving a growing majority vs.a diminishing minority. I know, this sounds heartless and corporate, but these are the pains of growth. And to ignore good business practice in place of allowing our hearts to guide us would surely be a mistake. The heart must inform the mind, but the mind must make logical decisions. Sometimes, they are inexorably at conflict...such is life.
2. Secondary to this is the member usage, it is estimated that only about 2,500 people actually open the email vs. the over 15,000 (closer to 19,000 now) that are being sent out. At best (based on 15,000), this is 17% success/use rate. It should also be noted that not all 2500 that open the email respond, and/or even read it. This, by most estimations with email campaigns, is marginally successful. Also, we have seen explosive membership growth in the last year, and the overwhelming majority of these new members do not use Tech Talk. Therefore, the 17% will quickly diminish if the current membership trending holds true. The 2,500 will become a further minority due to a growing majority. This said, this minority segment is important, vital, and has all the same rights to consideration and support as the majority. So the question becomes: Does the AHA continue to spend a disproportionate amount of time and capital to serve this segment? Or, do we make efforts to replace their needs with something comparable and strike a better balance with the majority, knowing full well that there will be backlash and protest? We have chosen the latter, and I think it is a sound decision. Change is usually not welcomed, but it is the byproduct of growth and progression. If one wants a better service/advocacy, one must expect and accept a reasonable amount of change.
3. The Forum is a robust and quality resource which serves almost exactly the same function of Tech Talk. I use this forum myself, and find it to be one of the better online resources for Homebrewing currently available on the internet. At Northern Brewer, we have had a forum for many years, and it has been enormously successful. Never have we considered an email format such as Tech Talk, because of the labor vs. gains, minority audience, and most importantly the fact that there are more robust and effective avenues such as forums, social media avenues, and especially video. Likewise, the AHA must start thinking and working toward developing new, better means of serving it's members. Better discounts, increased resources through the website, increased efforts to protect homebrewers' rights and interests on State and Federal levels, providing more events and avenues for homebrewers to connect and create communities, and exploring new media that can better serve the homebrewing community at large and AHA members.
Reformatting TechTalk with labor usage, or the structure of the content would only solve one of the factors which is time/capital. And, this effect would be finite as the minority user demographic shrinks, the capital/labor equation eventually does not "add up" once again. We'd be right back where we are now.
This is the tipping point for me. We, as a culture need to start thinking more proactively, rather then reactionary. If we do not re-align our way of thinking about how to manage this community, hobby, industry, and culture we will surely see an end to "Golden Age" of homebrewing we are currently in. Historical data would suggest that the higher the numbers climb, the larger the valley will be. If we do not take an analytical, and sometimes brutally honest look at what we are doing, we shall not be able to create sustainable models to stabilize our current prosperity. It is the AHA's responsibility to be the guardians of Homebrewing's health and direction. Taking on that responsibility means making tough decisions, and not always being able to please everyone. Those disappointed, aggravated, and those who would take their protest in the form of obstaining from renewing their memberships have EVERY RIGHT to feel the way they feel. We can only ask to consider the criteria which has been given, and join us in making this transition. This should not be perceived as a line in the sand, but rather an opportunity to asses where the AHA has been, and where it shall go in serving all of it's members in the most democratically feasible way.