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The four reasons Universities continue to fail at teaching online business

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In the United States, our Universities and colleges are geographically so close to all the cutting edge technology you use every day.

In 2014, most of these schools can’t teach you a lick about how to start an online business. It’s almost like being in the middle of the ocean but having absolutely no water to drink

There are so many great colleges and universities in California, home to Silicon Valley that it’s crazy. You can throw a stone (metaphorically) from Silicon Valley and it would hit so many great schools like Stanford or Berkeley.

We have great schools on the east coast as well that are in New York, DC, Philadelphia and other great metropolitan areas that have great startups being formed every day.

Here’s the tragedy – in 2014, most of these schools can’t teach you a lick about how to start an online business. It’s almost like being in the middle of the ocean but having absolutely no water to drink – cognitively dissonant.

My team and I started looking at this problem a few years ago and we figured out that there were a few reasons why this was happening. I’m happy to share them with you.

Professors have the wrong skill set

Most tenured professors are academics. They have worked hard to get tenure and have published more academic papers than you and I can imagine. Once they achieve tenure (lifetime employment) at a school, they typically continue to do research and teach.

While all that is very noble, those are very different skills than those required to understand and build an online business. They simply can’t teach what they’re not equipped to teach.

The bastardization of “Social Media”

The second problem is more insidious. The term “Social Media” has been used so often and loosely that it has very little meaning. Anyone can set up a shingle and say they’re a social media “expert” and there are very few checks and balances.

We checked out a few universities teaching “social media” certifications and programs and quite frankly, it was pitiful.

Teaching social media in isolation is like having a medical school where doctors only learn how to use a stethoscope. That would be knowledge out of context and practically useless.

Social Media is a tool and paradigm that can be exploited as PART of building an online business. Without an exhaustive strategy it’s meaningless.

Tools for online entrepreneurship change rapidly

The amount of tools springing up DAILY to help you start an online business are crazy. As part of our course, we were able to identify about 180 of the best ones but more and more are born every day.

That’s a great thing for the consumer but how the heck would a professor keep up with that? It’s impossible.

Finally,

Successful online entrepreneurs typically aren’t qualified or motivated to teach

Internet entrepreneur

Internet entrepreneur

I have done very well financially online and am fortunate to be acquainted with a few online millionaires and entrepreneurs. Every one of them is so focused on making more money and expanding their empires, teaching hasn’t even crossed their minds.

Ironically if they wanted to teach classes, they aren’t traditionally “qualified” with the credentials needed by most states (at least in the US). Then you have to imagine what the academic politics would be to get an online entrepreneur hired into a traditional university – bananas!

This situation is important because the kids who are going through these colleges and universities today instinctively feel they can build businesses online and would love to know where to begin.

For those who are not ever going to be entrepreneurs, it wouldn’t hurt to understand what WordPress does and how websites work before they get to their employers.

I founded LearnAboutTheWeb.com because ironically, today at a time when it is easiest to start an online business, people are still confused and intimidated by the process.

In addition, I wanted to build a product that would help universities begin the process of equipping our kids with cutting edge web skills.

We solved that problem and ended up building a unique set of tools and services to help universities and colleges close the online entrepreneurship knowledge gap they have.

Download this presentation for more about our custom academic solutions.

or check out our academic solutions page.

I’d love to hear back from you though. Are you satisfied with the level of education you got about the internet while you were in college? Could you have used more or was it OK?

Use the comments below.

Onuora Amobi is VP of Marketing at Learn About The Web. He has an extensive background in both Online Marketing and Enterprise Technology solutions.

11 Comments
  • Alex Gorbitz

    I agree with you 100%. The type of education we get from Universities seems somewhat stale. Professors know about Facebook and thats about it.

    • Emily Williams

      Really true from my experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard professors say “tweeter or whatever it’s called.” Lol. Dismissing twitter of importance is ignorant at this point.

  • Jason Claven

    Social media is a great point. I’ve found that most Professors view it as a hassle rather than a resource. Dumb move by them.

    • Randy A

      Too true. The majority of Professors I had acted as social media is just a joke or a fad. Look, I’m not the biggest social media guy personally and don’t like what it’s done to a lot of the younger generation, but it’s ignorant to pretend as though it doesn’t have a huge impact on business.

  • Bill Franklin

    Nice article as always. I think the rapid change point is brilliant. It’s literally impossible to keep up with the internet at this point on a daily basis, let alone teach a course on it. Hard to blame Universities for that.

    • Kelsy Martin

      Very, very, true. No one can keep up with the internet, not even the lawmakers. That may change in the future, but as of now, trying to establish a good and well-thought out curriculum taught semester after semester is just impossible.

  • Sally Black

    Fantastic read! The last point is a great one. I read Ryan Blair’s “Nothing to Lose” last year. I loved it and thought it was extremely insightful. I learned more from that than I did my actual entrepreneur course in college. However, the issue is Ryan Blair isn’t qualified to be a teacher. I hope you accomplish what you set out to do, Onuora!

    • Jake

      I read that book as well. I loved it! i think your analysis of it is spot on. cool blog post.

  • Lars

    Great reasons, Onuora. I agree whole-heartedly. The info on the internet I received at college was nowhere near as comprehensive as it should have been. I’m glad you brought this to light! I hope it changes in the future.

  • Wayne S

    1st one is common sense, but also very true. I don’t know any professors who are familiar with online business. Mainly because it takes nearly a decade to become a professor and online businesses haven’t been big for THAT long.

  • John Howe

    I think this is spot on. I love what you’re doing with the site. Every post you have proves it even further. 4 spectacular points. Social media is definitely a key that hasn’t been used my colleges yet.

Business Development

A 2am email could change your business forever

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lots of money

Today I want to talk about vigilance. The vigilance you need to have as an online business owner if you plan to be successful.

The truth is, if you run an online business, you have to be open to new opportunities to grow your business. Sometimes you may even need to change or tweak your business entirely to take advantage of those new opportunities.

The following is a true story about how a 2am email totally changed the course of my business and life. It shows how powerful the internet is and how you are always one piece away from solving the jigsaw puzzle.

Let me get started…

I’m a night owl and I love staying up late.

Even though I do it less these days, I am usually super focused and productive from 10pm through 3am. I have no idea why my mind works this way but it just does.

It’s probably because I have spent 15 years working on online businesses and in the beginning, I did it part time every day AFTER I was done with my day job.

About 10 years ago I was running a high traffic technology blog that I had built and monetized myself.

I was getting about 30,000 unique visitors a day and was still struggling to find the right mix of goods and services to sell to this endless wave of eyeballs coming to my site.

The site was awesome because all my traffic was 100% organic and I had no advertising costs.

The site was making a good deal of money but my gut told me that I could make more. A lot more.

For months and months, I did research on different forms of monetization and tried different ad networks but I couldn’t seem to make that much more.

Then one night, at 2am, I got an email from a vendor in Europe who sold a very specific software product that they swore was extremely profitable if I sold to my audience.

They offered me a 40% affiliate fee if I joined their program so ON A WHIM, I joined their program and installed the ad code that morning.

Here’s the fun part:
lots of money
That vendor and their product made me between $150 to $400 EVERY DAY for the next 5 years. On autopilot. With very little maintenance. Every day.

Here’s the moral of the story.

Never settle, trust your gut and keep looking. The cool thing about this business is that it’s really all about finding missing pieces to the puzzle.

We got tired of manual html, WordPress came along.

We got tired of making crappy landing pages, Leadpages and Thrive Themes came along.

There’s always a solution for your problem on the web, you just have to be vigilant and pay attention.

I have asked myself why I paid attention to that email that night and why I didn’t just send it to junk mail.

I think the reason for that is, I really kept myself open to new opportunities and that literally made me several hundred thousand dollars.

Bottom line people, keep your eyes open and test as many new things as possible.

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Business Development

The New York Times hit a major digital marketing milestone today

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New York Times Digital Marketing

The New York Times hit a major digital marketing milestone today.

For the first time ever, The New York Times made more money from their digital-only subscriptions ($82.5 million) than from print advertising revenue ($77 million).

The newspaper revealed those stunning stats during their second quarter earnings call to investors Thursday.

Another big milestone for the paper was an increase in advertising growth from the previous year’s quarter — the first time that has occurred in almost three years.

Print advertising revenue which still accounts for a large portion of the company’s overall profits, has been in steady decline but the news about digital growth is amazing.

The second quarter earnings numbers:

  • Revenue: UP — $407 million for Q2, up 9% year-over-year (YOY)
  • Advertising revenue: UP — $132 million, up .75% YOY
  • Digital advertising revenue: UP — $55 million, up 23% YOY
  • Print advertising: DOWN — $77 million, down 11% YOY
  • Digital-only subscriptions: UP — Added 93,000 bringing total to 2.3 million digital-only subscriptions (includes Crossword)
  • Digital-only subscription revenue: UP — $83 million, up 46% YOY

For companies large and small, the steady transition from traditional advertising to digital continues.

These numbers are absolutely incredible.

Source: Axios

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Business Development

Why Apple Music and Tidal have flawed business models

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Apple Music Beats Tidal

I’m a big entertainment junkie and I love to sit back and watch as the internet continues to transform the way we get our content.

I was a DIRECTV customer for many years until I realized that with an AppleTV box, SlingTV, Netflix and HBO Now, I had everything I needed at one quarter of the price.

My DIRECTV service was gone. Just like that.

Technology evolution continues to change our choices and determine what we spend our money on and why.

The one model which has continued to baffle me is streaming. I understand why people stream music and how that is attractive to younger millennial consumers.

What I don’t understand however is why two of the (supposedly) most progressive streaming companies don’t understand how ridiculous their streaming models are and why they are finding it hard to make money.

Jimmy Iovine a very respected music mogul and current Apple Music exec recently let it slip that the streaming business is a tough one with very slim profit margins for Apple and everyone else.

Jimmy Iovine

His quote (at 21:20) “Well the streaming sites aren’t making any money”.

Not a surprise – here’s why.

The current streaming business models

Apple Music and Tidal are basically paywalls that make no sense.

Here is the value proposition – you pay money to be a member of our club and in return we will give you access to exclusive content that our artists will create and you get access to our wide library of content.

From an online business perspective that is ASS BACKWARD (more about that later).

As online newspapers like the Wall Street Journal have found out (the hard way), consumers don’t like paywalls.

Wall Street Journal Paywall

We just don’t. It’s not a rational thing, it’s an instinctive thing – we don’t like commitments unless they offer undeniable value at a compelling price.

Netflix has undeniable value. HBO has undeniable value. I simply can not get (legal) access to Game of Thrones or House of Cards any other way INDIVIDUALLY unless I subscribe to HBO and Netflix respectively.

That makes sense. Putting up a paywall for access to music I can get a la carte makes absolutely no sense.

I’ll give you a recent example.

Jay Z New album 4:44

Jay Z’s 4:44 release is a great example. It was released exclusively on Tidal and it was heavily torrented until it came to iTunes.

Heck even Snoop Dogg joked about his inability to get the album until one of his homies bootlegged it.

And just like magic, as was always the plan, the album is now on iTunes and I can purchase one song or the whole album a la cart.

Once again, putting up a paywall for access to music I can get a la carte makes absolutely no sense.

In addition, a cursory glance at the “benefits” both companies offer is fluff that is not that compelling to me (not undeniable value).

Here’s what I think makes more sense.

The future streaming business model

A streaming company should offer FREE memberships BUT should create a model where artists can set up their own online musical homes that offer paywalls for content of value.

An example.

I would never pay Tidal or Apple Music for access to their “libraries” but I would sign up for FREE to an Apple Music portal where I had access to my favorite artist’s mini site.

The difference is, I would log in with my FREE Apple Music ID and window shop in different artist’s “shops” if you will. I would only pay for access to an artist’s sub community that I chose.

A practical example. I am a MASSIVE Jodeci fan. This band defined my college years and I could write 10,000 words on how they changed music … but I digress.

jodeci diary of a mad band

I wouldn’t pay Apple Music to get access to everything Apple had.

I would happily pay $2.50 a month to get access to a mini Jodeci community located within Apple Music where I could stream their songs, see exclusive videos of them in the studio, get access to exclusive merchandise etc.

And while I was in the neighborhood, I might do the same for Rihanna’s mini community etc etc.

A model that encourages fans to support JUST THEIR ARTIST would be better for the consumer, streaming company and better for the artists.

  • For the consumer – I am paying for ONLY the artists I want to support (which would be probably 10 or more).
  • For the artist – They have access to their fans directly and can own their mini communities and monetize them in new and innovative ways – albums, singles, videos, merchandise, tickets, interviews, giveaways, meet and greets etc all enabled by a large company that can give them the tools to do so.
  • For the parent company – They own the initial username/password/demographic info and now they can get a small percentage of each smaller community within their larger site. They continue to make money from the music and now they make a percentage of the money from extra artist material – they lose nothing.

I could easily pay $25 a month to be part of 10 different artist portals and see backstage footage etc. That’s $25 in revenue for Apple and the artists every month.

Even better, this is also a perfectly meritocratic model.

If Jodeci didn’t continue to update their monthly content, I would unsubscribe and they would lose money. If they continued to keep me happy, I would continue to pay – it would be up to them.

2 million Jodeci fans paying them $2.50 a month is $5 million a month. Not bad for an artist doing what Jimmy Iovine said he wants them do – CREATE. Not bad for me and 20 of my friends who love that group. Not bad for Apple Music or Tidal who would take their share of the revenue.

Technology is making the world smaller – as I said in my article yesterday, artists who are unable to create an intimate relationship with the fans will not be able to succeed – it’s that simple.

Creating a paywall for access to a wide catalog of music is simply fighting the last battle. The next battle for music dominance is using technology to enable artist-fan intimacy.

Whoever can do this best will win.

Leave your comments below. I would love to get your feedback on this concept.

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