The rise of online learning and its opportunity for publishers

Whatever the special interest these magazines are catering for, I can guarantee that they are all working to the same mission – to inform, entertain and instruct. 

Many years ago I was the publisher of a photographic magazine and whilst there were several elements to the magazine that delivered on the ‘inform’ and ‘entertain’ mission, at its editorial core was a two year course of instruction in how to become a better photographer. I looked at the magazine recently and saw pretty much the same structure with one slight change. The magazine was now advertising a Camera School app, a six-part course of step-by-step guides, video-led, instructor-led and all designed to meet the core aim of the magazine in helping its readers become better photographers. It was also a useful extra revenue stream.

Education is yet another industry being changed radically by digital methods. Just as with magazine media, the consumer has become even more powerful, determining what they need, and confident in being self-led through whatever course of instruction they desire. Online institutions such as Udemy or Khan Academy are disrupting the education world just the same way as a Google, Facebook or Buzzfeed are disrupting the magazine media world. 

At our recent Digital Innovators’ Summit (DIS) held in Berlin, the opportunity for magazine media companies to play legitimately (and profitably) in the education space was made several times. After all such activity offers a deep engagement with the audience, who increasingly crave a two-way conversation with their magazine brand and are searching for experiences, and at the same time creates a new profitable revenue stream. Everyone wins. It explains why companies such as Rodale have launched Rodale U, a series of paid online learning to help people live happier healthier lives. Or take F+W in the US, who runs specialist online art and craft workshops. It’s a sign of how the world is changing, but here is one change offering magazine media companies a real opportunity.

Whilst mentioning the DIS in Berlin may I offer five sound bites from our presenters that really made me think:

“Obsession gives you focus”

Natasha Christie-Miller, CEO, EMAP, UK

“To build thriving external communities you need strong internal communities” 

David Nussbaum, CEO, F+W, USA

“Great companies reward success and failure and punish inaction”

Jan Krog Henningsen, head of business development, Aller, Denmark

“There’s a thirst for quality journalism, as long as it doesn’t taste like medicine”

John Avlon, editor-in-chief, The Daily Beast, USA

“More smartphones were sold last year worldwide, than toothbrushes” 

Richard Gingras, senior director of news and social products, Google, USA

Read more about the event in our special report.

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