In any online content business, two things are very critical: quality and focus. That is so as supply remains unbounded which means to monetize anything, only things of value sell. Usually, things of monetizable value on the web have elements quality and seem niche. Yes, personalized, differentiated and targeted (PDT) contents will find ways into the purses of customers because in this world, most things are already free. Where you cannot get the P, ensure at least that you have the D and T covered before putting a paywall on that content.
Content, to an extent, is commoditized. If you can find a free tutorial on Youtube or Khan Academy, why buy a subscription to an edtech platform that offers the same solution? The commodification of education is good for end-users and is often why startups have a freemium model as a customer acquisition strategy. To convert free users into paying subscribers, edtech startups need to offer differentiated and targeted content.
The Course Hero and Mystery Science deals show us that edtech businesses are hungry for personalized, targeted content. Course Hero’s acquisition of Symbolab was essentially a deal for more than a decade’s worth of data that captured which math questions students found hardest.
Just think about it, if you are looking for something online, you will see many options once you search on Google. Because of that abundance, you want to narrow to the specific one which meets your niche needs. Any product which can do that at high quality, defined under your context, makes the cut. This becomes exceedingly necessary when you plan to put a paywall in that online venture. Aggregators have aggregated the free contents and users have access to them, and to get them to pay for something related, a new level of value must be activated.
Under the aggregation construct, the companies that control the value are not usually the ones that created them. Google News and Facebook control news distribution in Nigeria than Guardian, ThisDay and others. Because the MNCs tech firms “own” the audience and the customers, the advertisers focus on them, hoping to reach the readers through them. Just like that, the news creators have been systematically sidelined as they earn lesser and lesser from their works. But the aggregators like Facebook and Google smile to the bank. The reason why this happens is because of the abundance which Internet makes possible. Everyone has access to more users but that does not correlate to more revenue because the money goes to people that can help simplify the experiences to the users who will not prefer to be visiting all the news site to get any information they want. They go to Google and search and then Google takes them to the website in Nigeria with the information. Advertisers understand the value created is now with Google which simplifies that process.
It is very possible that anything you are offering has a free version somewhere. The implication is that your capacity to meet specific niche needs, at high quality, is what people are paying for. It is hopeless pursuing a paid product vision online without a strategy of creating a differentiated product at high quality.