After the FamilySearch.org reception Thursday evening, I went up to the Ancestry.com reception. Here again, I found an interesting contrast. No clear winner here, just interesting, each organization’s choices, and interesting ramifications.
|Location||Cavernous meeting hall||The FamilySearch booth|
|Audience size||Sparse, hundreds||Crowded, dozens|
|Presentations||Multiple presenters, slides, demos||Short introduction, short video|
|Executive presenter||Josh Hanna||I don’t think there were any.|
Ancestry.com continues to delivery most of the same key messages as it has in the past. Josh Hanna, executive vice president presented information about record collections and Eric Shoup about product improvements.
I appreciated Hanna’s participation. In my early days at Ancestry.com, some of us felt like Ancestry.com had not yet come to grips with what it meant to be a content publisher. We felt like we had to campaign to prevent cuts in the content acquisition budget. Marketing wanted new customers. Product management wanted to improve the old search. Executives wanted online trees. The board of directors wanted a simplified website that would appeal to non-genealogists. We campaigned for “content as king” and worked to convince decision makers that no one wanted to renew a magazine subscription to a magazine that republished the same issue month after month.
From my vantage point it looked like Tim Sullivan and Andrew Waite pivoted the focus from customer acquisition to customer retention. That required Ancestry.com to shift its focus from customer acquisition to content acquisition. Once they gave subscribers a reason to stay, they are now both retaining subscribers and acquiring subscribers. In fact, in a private meeting with online media on Friday, Eric Shoup disclosed that subscriber acquisition doubled in Q1 over previous quarters.)
Hanna’s participation said to me that Ancestry.com still feels that content is king. He pointed out that they’ve spent over $100 million publishing genealogy records over the past 15 years. They published 200 collections in 2010. (See http://www.ancestry.com/whatsahead.) But I digress…
In addition to what they’ve already done in 2011, they plan a Memorial Day release of the entire U.S. Navy Ship Muster Rolls for 1939-1949, consisting of 27 million records. These records document ship assignments, promotions, transfers, and discharges. This is one of the most requested collections at the National Archives, Hanna said.
This fall they will be adding U.S. birth, marriage, and death records for Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, Kansas, Texas, Washington, Missouri, Oregon, Illinois, and Georgia.
Next year comes the big daddy of the decade. The 1940 US Federal Census images, 3.2 million of them, will be released to the public on the NARA website on 2 April 2012. Ancestry.com will then work to produce indexes of the 132 million people.
Eric Shoup presented next. His presentation overlapped considerably with “What’s New at Ancestry.com,” presented the following day by Ann Mitchell and Jen Hodnett. I think I will write about both presentations at the same time.