Competitor research

There are a number of platforms online that are specifically set up to help individuals to learn and to network with others, in order to best understand how I can position myself as unique I’ve taken a deeper look at some of my competitors:

Skillshare – Skillshare is a well established online learning platform. They work with content creators to develop video tutorial series that can be accessed by users at any time & which cover a huge variety of different subjects –

Their target audience is extremely broad though they could be said to have a creative focus with this category having over 2x the amount of subject areas that other categories have. The site comes with a free trial period of 30 days which then converts to a subscription-based service after that. The regular monthly cost is actually difficult to find, you need to click their ‘get started for free’ button & then make a profile before you’re able to access any pricing information at all. This trick certainly helps build user investment in the platform but feels a bit sleazy and made me uncomfortable. As well as the wide range of videos that they have to browse through, the site also has a section where users can upload images of the projects they’ve completed with the help of the courses. This is a great way to get potential customers excited about the possibilities of using the platform.

In terms of how much the creators get paid – they make royalties of between $0.05 and $0.10 per minute watched of their videos meaning that for a ten minute video one watch might make them up to 1 dollar. Skillshare is clearly making a LOT of money from this set up whereas the creators themselves don’t seem to be doing that well. Like a lot of online environments, the key here is that creators keep creating in the hope that their content becomes popular but there is no underlying promise that their efforts will be rewarded. Other sites such as Spotify, YouTube and even Etsy also work in this way. It seems that from a business perspective this is a good way to quickly make a lot of money but is it an ethical way to operate? I’m not so sure.

  • Different access models – ‘Free’ access to limited content, ‘Premium’ (£13 pcm) access to all content and ‘Teams’ accounts which cost more but give multiple users access.
  • Hands-off tutorials – no active engagement between creators and users.
  • Creators paid royalties based on amount of views they get.
  • Huge variety of subject areas to choose from.
  • Well polished UI design.
  • Market leader for this kind of educational content with an aggressive digital marketing campaign and hundreds of sponsorship deals with YouTube creators to get their product out there.
  • Does not have a focused target audience (generalist).
  • Does not encourage much interaction from users outside of content consumption / showing off finished projects.

Udemy – This is another of the huge online learning platforms that is a direct competitor with Skillshare. Unlike SS though Udemy charges for access to each individual course and does not charge a monthly subscription cost. The UI is nice but less polished than SS, the site seems to be aiming towards more of a young professional market than SS which is more of a generalist. Like SS there are a huge number of courses to choose from though the focus here seems to be more on technology than on creativity. There is an ‘introductory offer’ available here for a ‘limited time’ which sells courses for less than their usual going rate. In general, access to the individual courses through Udemy costs a lot more than you might expect from SS with some costing upwards of £100. The site uses a price slash tactic on their frontpage to show users just how much they can save by accessing now (£13.99 instead of £49.99 in most cases). This is another good sales tactic pushing users towards feeling that they’ve got ‘value for money’ when in reality they’ve just paid the equivalent of 1 month of access to SS.

Udemy seems to be confident in the quality of their videos and uses a lot of access positioning themselves as ‘experts’. They also use a lot of data-driven marketing tactics including showing how many users have engaged with different topics of learning through their site –

It’s hard to say how genuine these figures are though they aren’t unbelievable given the scale of the business. Note that they don’t give context to the word ‘students’ so you aren’t able to tell whether they mean current students or total students ever.

One source I found states that the average content creator can hope to make between $15-$30 per month per course through Udemy though the disparity between the top earners and the bottom earners is vast (as on other similar platforms). Many creators have supposedly spoken out about poor business practices at Udemy too including price gouging courses (meaning creators earn less), theft of intellectual property and keeping customers for themselves. These kinds of business practices do seem to be incredibly common across these large platforms and if anything can be viewed as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Many of them seem to use the sheer scale of their operation to bully creators and give them a rough deal, there are many such sites out there that operate in this exact same way, even places like Redbubble or Society6 do it. It’s the same kind of brainworm that’s instilled in many Americans in a way – the ‘American Dream’ of making it big. The whole point of what I’m trying to do though is to operate differently to this, to pay a fair wage to content creators whilst earning enough to keep the platform alive and growing. I have no plans to become a multi-millionaire.

Domēstika – This is a smaller learning hub than SS or Udemy but has seen fast growth over the past couple of years. Based in Spain it’s a less anglocentric site with many courses in both Spanish and English. The focus of Domestika is much more on craft and creative pursuits though there are other courses available. I’ve tried out a course on Adobe Xd as you can see above which I was able to pay a one-off fee to access with no monthly subscription.

The UI design is very pleasant to use and navigate and discounts are offered when multiple courses are bundled together and purchased at once. It can be a little annoying to have to navigate some pages where not everything has been translated to English fully but that’s a minor concern and doesn’t tend to affect general usage of the site.

Pretty much all of the forum posts are in Spanish.

In a way it feels like Domestika have tried to position themselves as a direct alternative to Skillshare using a different pricing model but offering much the same kind of content. There are a lot of disgruntled users online that complain about bugs and things like paying for courses that they’re unable to access though this hasn’t been my personal experience so far.

One thing that I will say about Domestika though is that they are not at all upfront about how much they pay creators for their work. There is no section in their FAQs about it and I couldn’t even find anything from an extensive google search. They also require that users pay an additional fee to get a certification of completion upon finishing a course which leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many users that feel this should be included in the cost of the course.

Stuck In – These guys are a charity set up to help young people in the UK (16-18) that are trying to get into the arts. It’s by no means a direct competition but the kind of work they’re doing is admirable and aligns somewhat with what I’m looking to do. They have a lot of useful information on their website to help people out which is something that I might like to incorporate into my site.

Freshmeet are another graduate-focused support group that operate predominantly through Instagram. Their work is very much focused on brand new graduates and those leaving HE that are trying to break into the creative industries but their brand appears to be very popular and they do a lot in terms of practical support for their target group rather than just waxing lyrical about how tough the industry can be.

There are definitely a lot of benefits to working in this kind of way – for one there are almost no overheads to get a message out and to build a following whereas a website comes with a lot of upfront costs. It allows them to be quite conversational with their users too building up a rapport and using their platform to share things that perhaps don’t get enough attention. Ultimately though, what they’re offering is completely different to what I’m looking to create and so it’s hard to make much of a direct comparison. I think that a strong social media presence will be helpful for me though to get people to the website in the first place.

Intern – I can’t forget to include Intern, the work of Alec Dudson who uses this platform to champion young creatives and to dunk on those who engage in bad faith practice within the industry.

I did reach out to Alec to try and get some feedback on my idea but he never responded. He has operated within this graduate space for several years now though moving from print into web and finally into social where he is positioned today. Like a lot of creative industries graduate-focused support out there, Intern deals primarily with concerns and issues of fresh grads and does a pretty good job at providing advice and support through a range of different subject areas.
Alec does also offer out access to a paid course that he’s developed through this profile called ‘the price is right’ where he teaches designers how to best price their work. I have no data on how well that course sells though anecdotally I think he makes a decent bit of cash from it.

There is only so much that you can do through social media though, and that’s my main criticism of Intern. It’s a great platform for short catchy infobites and feel good stories or exposes but there isn’t really much in the way of community support and interaction beyond this. My aim is to create a space where the kinds of people who might follow Intern on Instagram then go to actually network and move forward with their ideas.

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