Dev Rangarajan
    The Value of Content
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    How much is content worth? What about education?

    It used to be that content was worth quite a bit, owning a book was a status symbol. Then the printing press came along and almost anyone could get a book. This continued with radio, television, movies, up to the present day, when we create lifetimes of content every day.

    Assigning value to infinite content is hard. We can’t say it’s worth nothing, because it’s all different. Content isn’t a commodity, you can’t just replace it with some other random piece of content. But people will try, because they don’t need to be loyal. If they don’t like what’s on TV, they can change the channel, or they can go to Netflix.

    Educational content is really what I want to talk about here, because it’s fundamentally different from entertainment. Buying a ticket to go see the next Marvel movie is a ‘safe bet’, you’ll probably be entertained. Even if you’re not, you’ll be able to talk about how bad the new spiderman was with your friends, and that’s worth the $13 ticket. But when it comes to educational content, you don’t know what to expect. When you pay for education, you’re hoping to learn something you didn’t know you didn’t know.

    Paying for education is hoping to learn the secret, or the new concept that’s paradigm shifting for you, or even just some new words that you wouldn’t have been able to find on your own. It’s paying for a guide to expand your knowledge of the field, and teach you some new strategies and tactics.

    The problem is, how do you sell and market this kind of education? You can’t tell me all the stuff you’re going to teach me, because then I won’t need you to teach it. Universities do this by building a long term brand, highlighting alumni, and leveraging other positive externalities. But if you’re selling a course online, you need to convince me that you can expand my knowledge by two degrees, and also that I can’t find this somewhere else.

    The problem is that scam courses look like real ones. Aggressive marketing doesn’t work for education, making someone feel like they need to get information from you will only target the same people that are prone to scams. If you’re selling real education that you stand behind and that actually makes the world better, you need to take a radically different approach than every other online course.

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