Too much to read? The news I’m really excited to share is that anyone who signs up for a paid DistilledU account in December (at the existing $40 / month price point) will get access to all our conference videos past and future as long as they stay a paid member.
This post is kind of in two parts:
- What video in DistilledU means
- Why we’re taking DistilledU in this direction (with some existential rambling from me on the whole reason Distilled exists)
We’ve filmed every conference we’ve ever run. The first couple (PRO SEO trainings 2009 and 2010 – what a name!) were joint productions with SEOmoz and they own the video rights. Since then the rest are ours and we’ve made the video available to stream and download in our store. It’s been moderately popular – we’ve sold six-figures-worth of video over the years and received some great feedback.
The repository of HD videos (45 minutes+ long each) is soon going to pass 100 videos with the addition of Searchlove 2012 next week. We regularly stream more than a Terabyte of video a month. This Searchlove alone generated 6 Terabytes of raw footage. It would cost somewhere over $1,500 to purchase the whole lot in our store right now. This library contains a good chunk of our combined advanced SEO knowledge and you can get it all for just $40 a month as part of a DistilledU account.
Here’s a sampler of what the videos look like:
I pitched this crazy plan to the whole Distilled team just after our recent Boston conference. I proposed making all videos available in all paid DistilledU accounts while keeping the price the same. Here’s a screenshot of my pitch on G+ (that we use internally for cross-office comms):
And a sample of the reaction:
As you might expect, a few people got nervous. Selling video has a really great gross margin for us and we’ve sold a lot of video over the years. Presumably fewer people will buy it if it’s available to stream in their DistilledU account(*)? And we have no idea how much difference it’ll make to the rate of DistilledU growth.
The evidence we did have: the vast majority of feedback we’ve had from cancelling customers is that either they’ve finished all the modules or they want more advanced content. Many also explicitly requested more video content. Well, here you go. Knock yourselves out.
(*) we’re making the DistilledU access streaming only. Buying videos typically gives the purchaser access to download as well as stream – this will remain the case for individual and bundled video purchases. At least during the trial, we were too nervous about the possibility of people signing up for a single month and downloading our entire video library for a single $40 payment. So the DistilledU access is streaming only. If there is loads of demand for the ability to watch it offline, we’ll come up with a solution – we are toying with the idea of annual plans that include download rights or building apps that cache the video offline for a certain period of time. I’d love to hear thoughts and ideas on this in the comments.
In an attempt at grown-up, rational thinking, we aren’t committing to doing this forever. We are going to run it as a trial through December. What this means is:
Anyone who signs up for a paid account in December (or who already has a paid account) gets full streaming access to all past and future Distilled video content within their DistilledU account.
To be clear, if the trial is unsuccessful, we reserve the right not to bundle the video access with subsequent new accounts or possibly to have multiple levels of account access at different price points. If we do this, it will not affect the access or pricing of any existing accounts.
So, partly to make sure that you lock in the benefit and partly to make sure the trial is successful so I win the argument, I’d love to see you head on over and sign up for a paid account (or, if you already have a free account, upgrade it here).
We have been rolling out other things too
In the last couple of months, we’ve been focussing hard on our further SEO content. Just in the last month, we launched a bunch of new modules:
- Interactive introduction to HTML to help marketers learn the bits of HTML they need to know
- SEO toolkit introducing a bunch of powerful tools to make you better at your job
- From request to render - a guide to the technology powering the web
- Linkbait that gets links - one of our more epic modules on the popular topic of link building
And we have a bunch more in development and editing right now (see the public roadmap) including:
- Other ranking factors - just going through the final editing process now – covering a range of esoteric ranking factors from usage data to site speed to personalisation factors
- Running SEO tests - how to design and interpret tests to understand Google even better
- Expert outreach - research, prospecting, outreach and more. From tools to techniques, this module covers all aspects of outreach
- Vertical series: video - building a training course on our guide to video marketing
Responsive mobile design
We know a lot of people like to learn on the move. We have some grand plans to add some kind of offline access at some point, but in the meantime, we’ve done the best we can to make the content as accessible as possible on mobile devices:
I recently wrote a post entitled building chrome apps and extensions for fun and profit. In it, I described the process of building a fast-launch Chrome app that places your web app right on the new tab screen of your users. DistilledU users (free and paid) can take advantage of this with our chrome app:
We added a notifications feature into the DistilledU header that lets us notify our users of new features and content. It’s been really popular – and now you can get the updates right in Chrome with our Chrome extension (distinct from the app above).
Use it to be the first to hear about new content and features:
We moved the first lesson of each module outside the paywall
Anyone would think we’re SEOs or something. Module URLs no longer bounce unregistered users out to sign up, but expose a little snippet of the module content. Not only does that let Google in, but it also means you can check out a bit more of the content before making a decision about whether or not to register or purchase.
DistilledU is still a small part of our business (just nudging up to $14,000 / month run-rate with 600 paying and 3,000 free accounts), but it is culturally important.
The process of thinking about why we were building DistilledU has helped me clarify why Distilled exists at all and hopefully get better at explaining it. We have phrased our purpose as being:
to discover, implement and share ways of building exceptional online businesses
I’ve been increasingly realising that different people are driven by different things and that’s OK. I want our mission to be meaningful to everyone in the company, but it’s OK that the parts of the company mission that give people meaning in their work will differ from person to person. I’m a discoverer with a hint of sharer. Others are implementer / sharers, others discoverer / implementers:
- Discoverers get their kicks from things like novelty, innovation, curiosity, learning
- Implementers get their kicks from things like results, shipping, hustle, winning
- Sharers get their kicks from things like recognition, feedback, training, fame
The thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is the discovery part. Always has been. I’m at my happiest when I’m learning something new and I think that’s where that my talents really lie. As such, I’ve tried to build a culture of curiosity and wonder at Distilled. It’s epitomised in the only exact quote I remember from high school – from my electronics teacher (I expanded on this a little here):
“Every day, get in the habit of asking yourself how does that work?”
– Mr. Wilson, St. Aidan’s High School, circa 1996
Many of our consultants and creative marketers define their work by what gets done. We long ago realised the futility of valuing client work on correctness. A beautiful but unimplemented strategy loses to a hustler with a plan. We saw words and phrases like getting stuff done, minimum viable product, agility, communication solves all problems, pre-delivery, get close to your clients and many more enter our shared language.
I’m not quite sure why we started sharing as much as we do at Distilled. I think Rand probably had an impact, though in my case at least I think I can trace it back further. My parents started a business from home in 1986. I have memories from before that time (including a telex machine the size of a phone booth at my dad’s previous warehouse / office) but some of my earliest vivid memories are of “helping” with the business.
We tried to avoid having me answer the business phone until my voice broke, but even aged 7 or 8 I would help out. I used to balance the chequebook and stuff envelopes with invoices, statements and marketing material. There was plenty I didn’t know about the business back then (the second mortgage used to get it going, the ways it was nearly killed before it began by anti-competitive moves from dad’s previous company) but I remember “we had a good day today” becoming “we just got an order for £1,000” becoming “we did £2,000 today” becoming discussion of annual turnover, profit margins and more.
I think my dad’s openness with the figures probably led me to my current default position that things are only secret when there’s a really good reason.
For me, sharing takes the form not only of transparency but also of our culture of talking about our discoveries and ideas (the only real marketing we ever do). Part of the pitch of DistilledU was to build a learning platform that could help one day make us the best place in the world to learn online marketing – something I feel strongly is a pre-requisite to achieving our goals.
Can DistilledU be the best place to learn online marketing? We’ve obviously started with SEO and I’m really pleased with how it’s going and I think that adding in all our videos gets us one step closer.
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2013 brings. I’d love your thoughts and feedback in the comments.