Are Online Courses Still A Great Business Model For 2020?

Published on January 14, 2020  


I remember when the idea of giving away a free e-book was new and novel. It was cool. It had a higher perceived value.

But, then it became normal.

Now, a “free book” is basically a big “yawn”. In fact, as I teach inside the LAB, often the best lead magnets are short and sweet. If you call it an “ebook”, you’ve probably already lost them.

The line moved further. To challenges. To email courses. And to more and more online courses.

Today, the idea of an online course is, again, nothing new. Lots of them to go around. Lots of people (including me) selling them. And, you even see some freebies.

So, the question is…

Just how viable are online courses today?

Well, the news is good AND bad, depending on how you look at it.

Online education is most definitely a growing segment. There’s been big growth for online course sites like MasterClass (seen their ads?), Coursera and many others. ELearningIndustry.com predicts that the global market for online learning will be $325 million within 5 years.

At the same time, however, the online course economy is going through the same thing ebooks did. More and more of them. Resulting in inflation and, therefore, reduced pricing. Sites like Udemy commoditize online courses to the point where steep discounts and even “free” are becoming normal. And interestingly, some data suggests a decline in self-paced learning vs more structured. Data has shown that engagement with self-paced online training has declined even though the overall online course space is growing. This means more structured and controlled environments are growing (more like regular school, but online).

Also, with online course platforms becoming so cheap and easy, it means more and more site owners are setting up online courses. They want to jump on the bandwagon.

So, in essence, online courses are becoming normalized. They’ve lost their shine. They’re still performing very well, but the modality of the online course isn’t unique anymore.

So, where this leaves us is this…

  • Yes, online courses are still a great business model and make a lot of sense for a lot of people.
  • At the same time, you’ve got to put more thought and effort into your course(s) in order to stand out.

Even when I look at the Blog Marketing Academy itself in this rising sea of online courses, I think I need to make adjustments. Some potential things to keep in mind might be:

  • Being really dialed into the exact needs and wants of your market so that you tailor the online course exactly to what they want.
  • Paying solid attention to efficiency in getting them the solution they want. No overwhelming people, but just getting to the point.
  • Getting more niched in with individual courses. Covering wide swaths of information in one course is not only overwhelming, but a recipe for looking generic.
  • Creating more course, overall. And some of them should probably be free.
  • Putting more thought into production value and easy of consuming.

In the end, this is a great problem to have. And I fully expected it. I mean, just look at the bullcrap surrounding the cost of college and the student loan problem and I think it is pretty easy to see how moving more and more online will be part of the solution.

Online courses will continue to be a growing business model online – and they will be useful for lead generation as well. There is still a much higher perceived value for an online course than a free book – and that will likely remain the case for some time.

But, you can’t get lazy. You can’t just record some videos off the cuff and throw them into a course plug-in like Thrive Apprentice and expect to make a bunch of money.

You’ve got to know your market and your audience. You’ve got to put in the work. Make something that stands out. Make something that gets results. And then do a good job marketing it.

Nobody said it’s easy. 🙂


In your corner,
David Risley
Founder, Blog Marketing Academy

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