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Apr 26, 2001
Interview Grows Ancillary Revenues with eCourses

SUMMARY: Teleseminars, webinars and other events are the hot test-it-now idea for publishers to make more money this year. Here's an article about an even lower-cost option -- using message boards to conduct classes. The tech is easy and cheap. You just have to have something to teach and eager students....
When Publisher Jennie Phipps acquired Freelance Success last summer, the seven-year-old newsletter had about 450 subscribers paying $89 a year for print copies. She immediately cut costs by going electronic only. In order to migrate them online, she simply sent all subscribers a letter (via postal mail) asking them to call her toll-free phone number with their email address. Luckily just 25 of the original 450 declined to go online and cancelled their subscriptions. After that Phipps began growing her paid subscriber base by "about 30 a month" by marketing it via a free opt-in site announcement list that more than 1,000 site visitors have joined so far.

Next, Phipps grew ancillary revenues by marketing a series of eCourses, on topics such as "Travel Writing" and "How to Write Queries", for $85 a head to her paid and opt-in subscribers. Each six-week course is taught by an expert freelancer who posts his or her lectures and then discusses assignments with students on a secured course bulletin board. Phipps explains, "In the queries class each student had to identify five publications and tell the teacher why they wanted to write for them. Then she helped them craft queries on the board so other students could learn. Everyone had 2-3 queries critiqued. Some of them actually sold articles as a result of it!"'s average class size is a manageable 8-12 students. At first Phipps paid teachers a 65% royalty based on ticket sales. Now, to encourage more sales she pays them a $500 flat fee for the first 8 students and a higher commission for any additional students. We definitely think this is a clever ancillary revenue model that other niche publishers could copy online, using simple bulletin board technology.
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