For enthusiast publishers, where content has always been about how to get better at a particular passion, an online education model is an attractive option to drive a new, direct-to-customer revenue opportunity. Bonnier, publisher of titles such as Field & Stream, Saltwater Sportsman, and Popular Science, recently launched e-learning modules for its outdoor and motorcycle brands.
Outdoor Life U will aggregate content from Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, Saltwater Sportsman, and Sportfishing. Two Wheels U will do the same for Bonnier’s stable of motorcycle brands, which it bought from Source Interlink back in 2013.
Like most publishers, Bonnier was looking for monetization strategies beyond the traditional media streams, looking for new direct-to-consumer models that stuck. “We feel confident that our brands and our content can live in different places beyond our magazines and websites,” says Liz Burnham Murphy, Bonnier’s CMO.
The company went through a vigorous research program last year to identify audiences that would be receptive to more content in an educational format. “We identified that the outdoor market, in particular the survival market, was underserved with high-quality content that went beyond what we already offered and that had a seminar or educational feel to it,” says Burnham Murphy.
Following the market research, Bonnier looked at different vendors, eventually settling with Thought Industries. From there, Burnham Murphy says the implementation process has been “intense.”
From a practical sense, the existing editorial teams were the best fit to collect and develop the content for the e-learning platform, but Burnham Murphy was careful not to pile on. “We’re trying not to overwhelm the people who are participating, but they do have the institutional knowledge,” she says.
Editors are not actually creating the curriculum content, but they are helping to develop the ideas and topics. The execution stage is handled by Bonnier’s custom solutions group.
Content types include video, quizzes, roll-over image maps and opportunities to participate in Q&As with field experts and editors.
Program pricing is in the testing stage—the company is evaluating three different price points across five courses. They’re also testing bundling opportunities that include a subscription or book along with the course.
The opportunity is pretty significant. Burnham Murphy says the reach for the outdoor brands is close to 20 million people. In the motorcycle market it’s closer to 16 million.
Marketing the initiative will be a combination of in-brand platforms, including the magazines, websites and a targeted social campaign on Facebook that will include the brands’ existing audiences as well as consumers that match the right profiles.