Home > Blog > Learning postcards: revenue model

I was asked recently how I expected to make money from the learning-cards.

Obviously, it’s a very important question I chose to defer until a first iteration of the product is available.

I made this choice because I think there are many ways to have revenues from users but not all fit my idea of the future of the product.

There are two types of users: authors and recipients of cards aka learners. Any person can be both at different moments.

Shall we have the authors pay or learners?

If we charge learners

The first idea is that we encourage authors to contribute a lot of content we make available under a new innovative form to curious learners. With this approach, the value of the product is the mass of content available. It becomes a massive source of learning, learners may want to pay for. Somewhere down the line, we could share revenues with the authors. This is a proven business model adopted by companies like Medium. In this business model, the user-generated content becomes like the asset of the company providing the service.

I don’t think there is space for yet another service like this. The more so that some of the content of learning cards will exist on some services like Youtube, Facebook or Twitter.

The value of learning cards resides in the learning contract between the author and the learner. This contract is implicit in the combination of activities provided by the system. It’s really more an experience, a process on top of a content.

I don’t imagine the learning-cards as yet another huge content store with intensive SEO and search capabilities. I imagine more the learning-cards as a social media extension. You don’t search for cards, you search for people offering cards. Once you found the right people and validated their relevance, you subscribe to their cards. How you will receive them and under which conditions are chosen by the authors.

We don’t want to charge learners on behalf of authors as some MOOC companies are doing, like say Udemy or Kajabi. This would imply to collect payment, some are micropayments and pay them back to authors. We are not equipped for that. It requires a financial surface Kneaver don’t have. What we will implement is an interface so that Authors can connect cards with their fund collection of choice so they can charge or market cards.

We provide the design tool and the pipeline between authors and recipients, not a huge content store of cards learners could tap in for a price.

If we don’t charge learners to access the cards, we could charge them for extra services.

This is how we could help learners make a better use of cards:

  • Keeping long-term access to cards,
  • Organizing them,
  • easy ways to preserve takeaways
  • extended spaced repetition tools
  • grouping cards in decks and/or applying rules to them
  • make it easy to sync across device: organize on your laptop but learn on phone, on the go.

If we charge authors

It seems unfair and unattractive at first. Why charge someone who is generously sharing his knowledge with the world? Won’t it be an obstacle to fast growth? That’s what I heard.

I don’t think so as there will be a free entry point. What is still unclear is where to set the bar.

My inspiration comes from Buffer and Github business models.

The free tier of service could be limited by a combination as follow.

  • Limit the number of cards created, or limit the rate of creation. (Buffer limits your queue size)
  • Only allow public cards, this would prevent authors to make any revenue or integrate them in private experience. (Github only allow open source projects in their free account).
  • Offer extra features to paying authors.

I think authors motivations beyond being generous and fulfilling their desire to share their knowledge is to earn money or increase their notoriety. Earning money don’t diminish the generosity, the more so if it encourages more sharing of better cards.

How could we help authors?

  • provide better statistics
  • insights of what goes well or not. This could help them produce better cards eventually increasing reach and exposure. This is similar to what Buffer does with social media posts. It could be to estimate the perfect length of a video, the retention rate, etc.
  • more integrations with services, especially to automate tasks and gathering feedback.
  • access to assistance, libraries.
  • customized help for better design, auditing or feedback by design experts
  • A/B testing of variations of cards.
  • more widgets
  • integration with revenue platforms. This would allow authors to protect cards or down to features of cards and enable them only when the learner is authenticated by a third-party app. This will relieve us from serving revenue to authors while preserving their possibilities to do so. This is similar to what Vimeo is doing for videos.

Selling ads or data

As the saying goes, if you pay nothing you are the product being sold.

Let’s rule out this third option: selling ads or data. This is completely against my ethics, the more so that’s it’s a learning and knowledge transfer product. It seems me like an outrage to sell learners data. Let’s forget this once for all.

Selling to Organizations

There’s an opportunity to sell the learning-postcards system, with a setup of servers behind firewalls. This would entitle Enterprise to bind it to their ESN or Learning Management. It would allow them to promote peer to peer knowledge sharing without L&D in the middle. Leading to savings and more agility. Likely some people will complain that it empowers too much subject matter experts. For this reason, it will not be marketed as an Enterprise Learning Solution. I plan to wait for demands and be ready to meet the needs.

Since the system is built in accordance to emerging standards it should be easy to integrate with larger solutions.

Some part of the system will also be open sourced, allowing a community of developers or integrators to strive. It’s a benefit when addressing corporate market as they often have specific needs and requirements. Having a network with local representative helps.

This is a B2B market, with larger revenues per sales, longer sale cycle, lasting recurrent revenues. A market similar to those I’m used to.

Selling to organizations is not the priority but will be kept in mind from start.

Conclusion

No decision is made yet on the revenue stream.

I prefer to do first a few iterations of the minimal viable product. I will learn from feedbacks what are the most valuable features and what else is needed. Based on this feedback plans will be made to have a set of extra features for authors and learners.

It is very likely that new ideas will emerge from first adopters. It’s common that most promising usages are only uncovered once users can try.

Monetization of the service will start with those features. I have the strong conviction that many will find it worth it paying a small amount monthly or annually for extra features. The more so if it’s based on their feedback.

Meanwhile, we will operate on a lean sustainable basis.