From: Olly Richards
26th May 2023
Hobbitshire: Just discovered a famous founder lives near me!
For an online education business, content is the lifeblood.
The formula is simple:
Teach what you know with free content. Then sell the guided solution.
Do this right, people trust you, and selling becomes easy.
From $0 to $1M in revenue, you should focus on one type of content as your main traffic source:
But from $1M to $10M you’re going to need three or more.
Get it right, you’ll blow up your traffic and sales.
Get it wrong, you got yo’self a very expensive mistake.
But how do you choose which media to build out next?
What's the right decision for your stage of growth?
Today, I’m going to show you a framework for deciding.
A Glaring Error
At StoryLearning, we have a lot of media properties.
Multiple YouTube channels, podcasts, books etc., generating millions of views per month.
In my (now moderately famous) $10M Case Study, I outlined what they all are, how they work…
I even told you how to build a production team that manages and grows the channels without you.
But then I received an email:
“Hey Olly, you didn’t provide a framework for deciding which media to build next!”
Stone the crows!
He was right.
I obviously had such tunnel-vision in my efforts to finish that 30,000 word behemoth, that I’d forgotten to include the most practical info of all.
By the way…
This is precisely why I haven’t released the case study as a book – despite ongoing pleas to do so. I knew there were holes in it, and I wasn’t prepared to spend a year filling them.
Better to put it out into the wild and let feedback from the punters shine a light on what’s missing.
So that’s what I did.
(Did you spot the very important lesson in that?)
Here we are.
A brand-spanking new framework for deciding which media to build next.
Just so you know, I’ve built a lot of media that hasn’t worked too.
As usual, it’s the failures that are most instructive, and that shape the final framework.
There’s a lot of commentary needed around the details of what’s coming up next. But, to be honest, a lot of it is covered in the case study, so I’ll keep this brief and just give you the framework.
Speaking of which…
Which Media Should I Build Next?
Here’s the framework I now use to think about building new media properties in any business I’m involved in:
Now, I’ll talk through some of the sections, so that you’re clear what I mean.
First of all…
It’s so, so, so important to be clear on the reason you’re building a new media property.
And, just so we’re clear, “Because Pat Flynn does it” is not a good reason to start a podcast or whatever.
That’s decision by FOMO.
Post-$1M in revenue, you’ve got to be more intentional about what you build, because there’s real opportunity cost to your time and money.
For me, there are two possible purposes to new media:
- Connection and intimacy
- Audience growth
Not the same thing.
You can have both, but not usually if you want to do them well.
Most people will blindly go for audience growth, because “10X, bro!”
But it’s not necessarily the right move.
Let’s say you’re a copywriting teacher, selling $5K cohorts. You’ve grown your business by blogging, and have a big audience.
In this example, audience isn’t your problem. But conversion could be higher. Therefore, your next media should probably focus on intimacy and connection.
You need intimacy in order to improve conversions on expensive training.
In that scenario, a podcast would make a lot of sense.
A podcast probably won’t grow your audience, but it will create insane trust and loyalty. (And therefore more sales.)
See the thought process here?
These questions on the chart are pretty self-explanatory.
The purpose of these is to put some flesh on the bone and help you think about the big picture.
Answering these questions was one of the major reasons I decided to focus on YouTube in 2020, and it worked out very well:
My thought process at the time:
- StoryLearning could use more video content
- People learn languages on YouTube all day long
- Video is a great medium for teaching languages
- I enjoy making video
- YouTube was popping off like a tornado in a Lego factory at the time
It was a bona-fide no-brainer.
(Credit to Noah Kagan for talking about the benefits of YouTube at the time. This was a big factor in my decision.)
This part is crucial.
When I see entrepreneurs building out new media, there are two ways to go about it:
- Run it yourself
- Team + consultant combo
And a big factor in this decision is whether you have expertise in the media or not.
Here’s the thing…
If you have zero intention of getting involved in the content yourself, then I understand why you’d be tempted to go the team + consultant route.
In virtually every case I’ve ever seen, the best results come when you:
Take responsibility for learning the content and platform yourself.
Yeah, I know you don't wanna hear this...
But hear me out.
You don't have to be on camera or behind the mic yourself. But you do have to learn how it works, run the experiments, discover the strategy and get the channel from 0-1.
With content, 1% of people take 99% of the attention.
This means there’s just no point doing a half-assed job of content.
And to be in the 1%, you have to give a s***.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.
Not least, because if you get it right, the reach and impact you can get with your content is out of this world.
Succeeding at any type of content involves a relentless focus on your audience:
- interpreting analytics
- reading the comments
- discovering what makes your audience tick
And, in order to do this well, you need:
A madcap level of stick-to-itiveness towards hitting the bullseye!
And call me old-fashioned…
But no-one else will ever care enough about your business to do what’s necessary to crush it here.
So in the words of Frank Sinatra:
“It has to be you!”
(Yeah, I know I changed one letter.)
Now, having said that…
If you do have expertise in the media you’re about to build, you should consider creating branded content that is managed by a production team – with your guidance.
By doing this, you can build a traffic source that grows without you.
(And that’s the secret of scale.)
You can see an example of this at the StoryLearning Spanish YouTube Channel.
Again - more in the case study if you want to go into more depth on this stuff.
And read this for a deep-dive into running a YouTube channel with a team.
Desire, Money, Time
The most important thing to understand about content is that…
It takes time!
This is one of my biggest lessons from the last 10 years.
If you need results tomorrow, better go learn paid ads.
Otherwise, you gotta let the soup simmer before it hits the spot.
Hence these questions about your new media property:
- Do you have the time and desire?
- Do you have a 24 mth time horizon?
- Do you have the money to fund it?
Make sure you can answer YES to all these questions, or don’t do it.
- Does it feel good?
Take this last question seriously.
When you’re scaling your business, new initiatives need to be in alignment with what you want from business and life.
Especially new initiatives that you’re committing to for years!
Life’s too short to do things you don’t like.
Even if do hold your nose and embark on something you don’t like, you’ll eventually find a way to blow it all up anyway.
So, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.
You’ve decided which media you’re going to build next...
You’ve pressure-tested it against your business aims...
You’ve decided how it’s going to be run...
So what’s next?
Well, you’re going to get cracking, that’s what!
But if you’re new to the media:
Go and find the best education you can!
When I started YouTube, I bought a great little $200 course that showed what was working at the time.
That kept me going for the first 6 months.
Then I worked with consultants like Paddy Galloway to shine a light on stuff I couldn’t see.
There are people out there teaching everything you need to know to be successful on any media.
Education is not going to be enough to make you successful (you still need to create something unique and build your own crowd), but it will stop you wasting years making newbie mistakes that harm your growth.
It’s almost impossible to waste money on education at the best of times…
But with content, it’s fundamental.
Otherwise, you just end up in the 99%.
Trust me, I spent seven years learning this particular lesson:
So, What’s Your Next Play?
In this article, I’ve given you a framework for deciding which traffic source to build out next in your business.
- In education businesses, content is king, because you can give “results in advance” before asking for the sale.
- Until you hit $1M in revenue, focus on one or two traffic sources.
- But to scale from $1M to $10M, you need to expand the media you use - for scale, stability, and because you’ll hit personal capacity.
- To decide what media makes sense for you, work through the questions in the graphic above.
- Before executing, make sure you’re able to commit for the time needed to get traction.
- Then, go find the best education you can to learn the platform, take ownership yourself, and get stuck in.
That was intense.
But it feels good to synthesize everything I’ve learnt about this stuff. (Thanks for the tip, Davis.)
And a quick favour…
If you have a friend who’s building a content-based business, please forward them this newsletter!
I’d really appreciate it.
Until next time,
CASE STUDY: Blueprint Of A $10m Online Education Business:
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