On-demand Courses Prove Very Profitable for a Member. Read How.

First, MIT came out with a study that said—to their dismay—that online courses were proving just as effective learning as in-person classes. “I would hope that because [students] went to our classes, they would learn a lot more,” said David Pritchard, an MIT physics professor and leader of team that analyzed results of an MIT course.

Next, The Wall Street Journal reported that MOOCs—massive online open courses—are now being offered by companies like edX, Udemy Inc and Coursera for office and corporate training at like $1,249 a person. “This goes to our sustainability story,” said edX CEO Anant Agarwal. The company grossed $1.75 million by enrolling about 3,500 people from prominent companies for a pilot on big data.

The article said that companies now want “inexpensive, easy-to-scale and convenient instruction, all of which MOOCs can offer.” Enter SIPA member Coleman. I spoke with Bob Coleman and his son Joseph yesterday, and here are 12 reasons why their Coleman Certified Training is doing incredible business.

1. The Foster school. “[Starting] this was something on my to-do list for a year and a half.” Bob Coleman said. “July was a bad month for us, so it was time. I’m a disciple of the [BVR CEO] David Foster school of product releases. ‘Don’t do any new product unless you get cash within 30 days.’” This qualified.

2. Not much to lose. “Closing loans is very critical, and companies are paying worker bees maybe $25 or $30 grand a year,” Coleman said. Given this is a multimillion dollar business, he saw the benefits of exposure to an 8-week certification course. “We launched it without the talent. I just wanted to see if it would sell. I figured I could do it myself if I had to. I used the Coursera model, except I put in a specific date the course would start and launched with an early bird [deadline] in a week-and-a-half. It didn’t cost anything to set up the email blast. I wrote the marketing copy, and people responded.

3. Certification component. “We’ve been in the [small business banking and loan] space for 20 years,” Coleman said. “I struggled with [what to call it] but we are perceived as the experts in the space—people understand our brand. Do we want institute of professionals or Coleman certified? Let’s try Coleman Certified Training. Not one person has questioned it.

4. Very watchable content. Each week the Colemans and the instructor develop the video content. The course model offers 5-6 modules of 8-12 minutes each week. “It’s not as daunting as an hour straight,” Bob told me. Participants are told that the videos will be released on Tuesday, but they are actually uploaded on Monday. There is also some assigned reading and coursework to do each week.

5. Rewards for talent. Coleman uses retired government officials as instructors. (Some retire relatively young.) They are experts and know their stuff, he said, and have been adjunct professors so know how to teach. Coleman turns the content over to them after the first week. He said it’s a win-win situation. “Because I offer a percentage of the gross, I’m writing some pretty good checks. Maybe I’m giving away too much [but it’s working]. They’re not going anywhere. Nobody is hiring them away. I’m branding them as experts. I’m also fully transparent. I email them the registrations every day so they know what I’m grossing. This gives them some ownership—the more people who sign up, the more money” everyone makes.

6. Fair price points. The courses list at $1,295, and there’s a $995 early bird. As soon as Coleman sent the original email out, the orders started pouring in—in the middle of summer! The second seat costs just $895, and if you buy 4 seats, you get the 5th for free. “For a flat $995, [the participant] gets trained and certified and can put it on a resume,” he said. “Managers get their people trained—maybe a whole department for $4500 bucks. ‘My people need to know how to close a loan,’ a manager might say.” Coleman shows them.

7. Extra value. Each Friday of the course, Coleman offers participants “office hours,” 15 minutes of live Q&A. Of the 60 people in a course, 20 might “attend.” They ask questions online—Joseph Coleman said it’s rare that they use the open lines and actually speak a question. Bob and the instructor for that week answer on live video, taking about 10 questions and bantering about next week’s modules

8. Measurements and rewards for participants. There is a short quiz after each module and then an end-of-course, multiple-choice exam to obtain certification. Participants can take it any time and as many times as they want. When they pass, they are sent a certification plaque.

9. A simple structure. Joseph Coleman, who delivered an excellent presentation on video at last year’s SIPA Marketing Conference, takes the video that the instructor records, cuts it in Camtasia and uploads it to Litmos ($400 a month for up to 200 users). Participants go on GoToWebinar—at the time they want—to see the talking head in action and a PowerPoint.

10. A good model. “I love Coursera,” Coleman said. “I’ve taken courses on archaeology, ancient Greece. They’re doing innovative stuff—for free. But B2B is commanding big dollars. Like in Coursera, it’s important to tie everything to a weekly class. Having the official start dates also is important.

11. The on-demand nature. Coleman got a $4,500 company sign-up after one of the courses ended. He did talk to the group personally a few times to give them that live component, but otherwise all the modules were good to watch. “We never had that kind of success before,” Coleman said. “These are far more green than webinars.”

12. An About face. “[In reality] we are no longer a publishing company,” Coleman said. “We’re now a training company. [The courses are] moving us from dues and subscription to training. There’s no way for me to launch a new subscription product” that could do what these courses can do. “We’re very fortunate. Sure, we may look back 3 years from now [at how not perfect this is] production-wise. But we get it out there. I’m about to release 2 more with new guys teaching.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Tips for Doing Mobile Well (and a Little Classic TV)

Ahhh, mobile. I was trying to think this morning what that vanilla response reminded me of. And then it hit me! (And reminded me of my age, particularly on my birthday.)

The wonderful old TV show M*A*S*H. Hawkeye is trying to help Radar sound intelligent when a woman he likes talks classical music.

HAWKEYE: If she brings him up, you just smile and say, “Ahhh Bach.”
RADAR: Ahhh Bach.
HAWKEYE: Smile a little bit.
(So Radar tries it for the woman and she asks, “What’s that mean, ‘Ah Bach’?”)
RADAR: Just that, “Ah, Bach.”
HAWKEYE: I think once you’ve said that you’ve said it all.

I think we still have a tendency to say, “Ahhh mobile,” yet everything we read points to the need for action. The New York Times hit 50% mobile article views last year, and Robin Williams’ death finally tilted the scale to mobile. The upcoming BIMS Conference in Miami will feature Redesigning Email Campaigns for Mobile with the excellent team of Kim Mateus and Calie Brennan from Real Magnet and a What’s Your Mobile Strategy roundtable with the superb duo of Ed Keating from BLR and Larry Schwartz from Newstex.

“Mobile is no longer a specialty, it’s a requirement” said Alex Hardiman, executive director of mobile at the Times. Yes, it is still harder to monetize from mobile, but we all know that’s going to change—and probably pretty fast. So we must jump on the train now.

The leading Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet attracts 1.8 million mobile users compared to 1.5 million desktop. According to an article on the World News Publishing Focus site, “63 percent of new subscribers pay by SMS on their mobiles. With 11 years experience delivering freemium paid content they have recently managed to massively optimise both the sales funnel and user engagement on mobile…

“To keep users active, they have mapped exactly what kind of topics to sell at different times through the day, a 24/7 chart of reader activity. Entertainment works great as a second screen experience, while crime and mystery is perfect for the weekend.

Here are their 3 main lessons:
1. Full commitment from all levels
2. Consumer insights – e.g. deep interviews, surveys, analytics & CRM
3. A/B testing culture

“We have a mantra at Aftonbladet: any new idea we ask—how do we do it on mobile?” said managing editor Ted Kudinoff.

On another highly regarded global news site, Journalism.co.uk, Martin Ashplant, director of digital and social media at the London business news site City AM, gave advice on doing mobile publishing well. (He said that age and locale of your audience is no excuse—“…we’re finding people are using mobile regardless of ages or demographics.”) They’ve increased mobile visitors 190% in six months.

1.“…never underestimate from a user’s point of view…If the site doesn’t load quick enough on mobile, they will lose interest and they go away.”

2. Editorially, focus “heavily” on data journalism and visualization and “working out how that works on mobile.”

3. They’ve moved away from “desktop-based ad types” such as page skins and MPUs…and instead began doing a lot more around native advertising.” (Native advertising is another session at BIMS.).

4. Get a mobile-friendly CMS (content management system). Ashplant said that editorial needs to see how content appears on smaller screens before publishing. “If it doesn’t work on mobile, it doesn’t go out. You’ve got to start getting into that mentality otherwise you’re always going to be seeing mobile as the second sibling.”

5. Get social media savvy. “Social and mobile are intrinsically linked,” he said. People share content more on mobile so you need to identify that type of content. “If you understand who your audience is and what it is that makes them share, then you’re going to win half the battle straightaway.”

6. Keep it simple. “Whether it’s visual or text, get that message across as easily and simply as you possibly can.”

The numbers may not be there yet—even the Times still sees only 10% of new subscriptions come via mobile—but they will. It’s important to get there now so you’ll be ready. When Radar throws in one last “Ahhh, Bach,” Hawkeye whispers, “okay, hold it.” Such an answer will only work for so long.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

A Way Forward on Data Flow Trade Discussions in TTIP

“I fully agree with that,” was the response by Antonio de Lecea, Minister of the EU Delegation to the United States.  IBM’s Steve Stewart had just expressed the view that an EU –US trade agreement resulting from the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would be an effective place to create a good template for binding rules on cross border data flows.

Stewart added that it would be possible to use the GATs framework in understanding how to have data flow principles in a trade agreement like TTIP while still respecting the right of sovereign countries to set their own privacy rules. He noted that this framework allowed countries to set their own privacy regimes, but contained a restriction that the implementation of privacy laws should not amount to a disguised restriction on trade and that enforcement had to be the least restrictive of trade possible.

At this point de Lecea expressed his agreement, and noted that it was important that trade agreements incorporate the ideas of proportionality and necessity. He added that for Europe privacy amounts to protection not protectionism.

The occasion was a public discussion on October 22 hosted by the Brookings Institution on the release of their report on transatlantic data flows.  Steve Stewart and Antonio de Lecea joined International Trade Commission Commissioner Meredith Broadbent and Brookings study author Joshua Meltzer in a spirited discussion of the extent of the electronic relationship between the world’s two largest economic communities.

This shared understanding between business representatives and the EU on how to incorporate data flow principles and privacy in a trade agreement is significant.  Several years ago the US and the EU signed an agreement on non-binding principles governing trade in information and communications technology.  Incorporating something like these principles seems like an achievable goal for the TTIP. They would have to be made binding and extended to sectors of the economy outside ICT, but they embody the right policy.

Another limitation on the ICT principles is that they exempted data protection from their scope.  But the GATs framework shows us how to integrate privacy and data flow provisions in a trade agreement.

These principles might not be absolutely essential to permit the continued flow of data between the US and Europe.  But they have the virtue of clarity.  And they send a good message to the rest of the world, where countries including China, India, Russia, Vietnam, and Malaysia have either proposed or adopted data localization rules, despite WTO commitments that indirectly forbid this.  Making data flow principles explicit in TTIP would send the message that the US and the EU intend to keep their markets open for data flows and the rest of the world should too.


Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Publishers File Appeal in Lawsuit Against Used eBook Website (The Digital Reader)
The legal woes of the used ebook site Tom Kabinet continued as publishers filed an appeal of the July injunction which declared the site legal.

Publishers Win Reversal of Court Ruling That Favored ‘E-Reserves’ at Georgia State U. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited ruling in the Georgia State e-reserve case, in which the court reversed a lower court’s fair use finding and remanded the case with instructions for further consideration.

Google Imposes New Penalty on Pirate Sites in Search Results (GigaOM)
Google is taking new measures to punish sites that host pirated content by pushing them further down its search listings.

Former Google Lawyer Lee Nominated to Run Patent Office (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Former Google lawyer Michelle Lee is being nominated to run the U.S. Patent and Trademark, after having left Google in 2012 to run the patent office’s Silicon Valley outpost and being elevated to deputy director of the full agency in January.

Getty Fails to Get Injunction on Microsoft Image Widget (Reuters)
Getty Images failed to convince a federal judge to halt Microsoft Corp’s Bing Image Widget, which it said enabled massive copyright infringement, because the software company had already taken it down voluntarily.

What Happens to Tech Policy if Republicans Take the Senate? (The Washington Post)
A look at how a change in power in the Senate could shake up the tech policy landscape.


Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

Brookings Describes Critical Role of U.S.-EU Data Flows

Data flows between the U.S. and Europe are significant drivers of trade and investment.  For this reason, it is critical that leaders on both sides of the Atlantic get data flow policy right – adopting measures that promote data flows while ensuring that privacy, cybersecurity, law enforcement and national security equities are respected.

Today, the Brookings Institution is hosting an event to highlight a new report authored by Joshua Meltzer on “The Importance of the Internet and Transatlantic Data Flows for U.S. and EU Trade and Investment.”

This discussion is both vitally important and timely. Critical components of the effort to improve the data flows framework are represented in a number of ongoing U.S.-EU dialogues, including but not limited to the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty reform, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, and the U.S.-EU umbrella agreement negotiations on law enforcement cooperation.

As these and other efforts progress, transatlantic policymakers should pay close attention to the five principal takeaways from the Brookings report.

First, data flows are mutually beneficial.  In 2012, the United States exported $140.6 billion in digitally-deliverable services to the European Union.  That same year, the EU exported to the U.S. $106.7 billion worth of digitally-deliverable services.

Second, the U.S. and the EU are globally competitive exporters of digitally-deliverable services.  In 2012, the European Union ran a $168 billion trade surplus with the world in this category.  The U.S. trade surplus was $150 billion.

Third, data flows between the United States and the European Union are so significant that the two partners have it within their power to influence how data flows will be considered all over the world.  This opportunity should be seized as data flows are a source of badly needed economic growth.

Fourth, “the majority of growth in transatlantic data flows will be generated by commercial and research needs.”  Indeed, already today almost 40% of data flows between the U.S. and EU are over business and research networks.  European firms such as BMW, Dassault Systems, and SAP are examples of this phenomenon.

Fifth, the potential for growth is particularly strong as the Internet of Things increasingly becomes a reality.  Given the EU’s $125 billion trade surplus with the U.S. in goods, data flows originating from Europe will likely increase.

Brookings has made an important contribution to our understanding of the economics of data flows.  It is our hope that this report and today’s event will help policymakers understand the mutual importance of those flows and guide their leadership in setting policy.


Carl Schonander is Director of International Public Policy at SIIA.

What’s Your Social Media Plan? Experts Tell Theirs.

What’s your social media plan?

I often think back to my conversation last month with Matt Bailey, the consultant and author who will be leading a pre-conference “boot camp” on social media next month at the BIMS Conference in Miami Beach—and presenting a session on testing. (The other two boot camps are Data 101 with expert Russell Perkins and Marketing Events with Len Roberto from Northstar Travel Media and Jeff Grizzel from FDAnews; these are 3 great add-ons for those already attending the Conference.)

My latest flashback occurred last week while listening to Skift co-founder and head of content Jason Clampet. Skift does a lot with relatively little—there are about 14 people in a staff picture on Twitter. They create lots of original content (they’ve cut down on curated content), tweet (39,000 followers), post often on Facebook (18,084 likes) and stay active on LinkedIn (3,332 followers). They regularly check Google Analytics and Chartbeat—if there’s a spike somewhere at lunch, they want to know why. It might be that SmartBrief, a news distributor they send content to, featured Skift in an article. Then it’s time to send more content to SmartBrief.

They obviously have a plan and are bringing loads of people to their site because of it. Call it lead gen-ius

“We don’t want to be wasting any time,” said Clampet. “Twitter is not as effective as Flipboard for us, so we’ve shifted our focus on social media away from putting out a tweet every 15 minutes.” They’ve automated their social media as much as possible. When a new story goes up, an auto tweet goes with it. A special headline goes out to users. Those headlines are crucial, Clampet said, because 80-90% of people share links before reading the stories. Think about it. 

“Publish great content and make sure people know it’s there,” Bailey told me. “Having a publishing schedule is the key, What content can you plan for, do ahead of time? Every Thanksgiving you can do an article about this. Get it ready. Is it good Facebook content? Two weeks later let’s put it on Facebook with a different picture and headline…You don’t pre-push on Twitter; no one cares unless it’s timely. Where does it make sense to push this article? When are we going to do it? How? Break it into little parts? Then we’ll do a content marketing and social media marketing calendar.”

Everyone uses social media yet many fail to identify who their target customers are, Bailey said. In his training he asks, what makes you decide what to put on Facebook? Your target market is upper income people in their 40s-60s. So think about who you have dealt with, the name, the face, who have you met? Are you posting Facebook updates that that person would want to read? Are you speaking to the people you’re trying to target?”

In an interview with SocialFish, Lauren Precker, social media manager for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), laid out her plan. On her commute to work, she checks for any spikes. Then “I go over the content calendars for the day to make sure everything is scheduled…and has the necessary information (images, links, and videos). The rest of the day is filled with more monitoring, emails, scheduling upcoming content, reading blogs on new social media trends/tools, working with staff to develop content, and meetings where we discuss content strategy and how social media will play a role in future events.”

She said having social media management apps on her phone is important, to make sure a crisis isn’t looming. “One of my favorite tools is Hootsuite,” Precker said. “…I like the ability to manage multiple accounts in one place and then having multiple feeds under each account. The mobile app is also valuable while managing social media onsite. You can post, monitor, and respond all from your phone or tablet. I no longer have to lug a laptop with me everywhere!”

Bailey added one concern. He watches many companies put young people and/or interns in charge of their social media “because they’re young and they know the stuff. But they don’t know how to identify target markets, he said, and lack the experience to get the most out of it.”

“There’s a decision-making matrix [in social media] that you can look at from an ROI perspective,” he said. You can look at behavior, who is contributing, whether people are reading more than one article. If they come from this source, what do they tend to do? Are they looking at that page and moving on?

I ask again: What’s your social media plan? I look forward to learning a lot more from Bailey and others in Miami.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

A Top Publisher Takes NYT Digital Innovation Report to Heart

Susan Hassler, editor-in-chief of the excellent IEEE Spectrum Magazine, concluded the Editorial Best Practices & Workflow track at last week’s SIIA Regional Training Series with a familiar refrain: use the actionable New York Times Digital Innovation Report. Her favorite line from the 96-page tome is that it used to be hitting the send button on a story marked the end of your work; today, it marks the beginning.

Hassler has put together her own Top 11 from the Times Report. Here they are with some of my notes and quotes from the Report:

1. Build your structure with Legos not bricks. “The right structure for today won’t be the right structure for tomorrow,” the Report said. “Our needs will change quickly and our skills will become out of date. More than anything we need to make ourselves adaptable. That means constantly assessing needs, recruiting talent and changing structures. And that means sometimes creating jobs with expiration dates to help us in transitional moments.”

2. Add the necessary digital capabilities to your staff. “Create tools to become a platform for the reaction after the news breaks. For example, we could create an interactive quiz or survey related to the draft, or start a moderated discussion thread with prominent figures.”

3. View your output like your audience does. IEEE launched a new mobile site in January, and since that time mobile traffic has jumped 80%—now accounting for 15% of all traffic. Part of that had to come from optimizing the designs for mobile.

4. Empower your staff to do more testing. Create a culture of experimentation. As an example, the Times Report said that people interested in the longtime hit show Wicked were having trouble finding the original Times review. They suggested adding landing pages for the cultural content that are more like guides. Optimized for search and social, these guides would serve the reader who want a more timeless resource. Most B2B publishers have similar “timeless” content that should be made easy to find. One other great quote: “Reward experimentation. Currently, the risk of failing greatly outweighs the reward of succeeding at The Times.”

5. As you enter into new areas—webinars, live events, etc.—rethink the competition. You’re taking on new types of companies now—it’s a different playing field. In-person attendees, people on the webcast, digital subscribers are all now members of your audience.

6. Consider creating a digital fellowship program. Partner with a local university or community college. “Once [students from those programs] are in the door, we have a better chance of retaining top performers.”

7. Let employees transfer easily between editorial and business units. For smaller publishers, the idea might be to give editorial people the chance to sit in on a business or marketing-side meeting/task force and vice versa.

8. Coordinate your efforts. There are pockets of people doing lots of interesting work. “The newsroom should begin an intensive review of its print traditions and digital needs—and create a road map for the difficult transition ahead. We need to know where we are, where we’re headed and where we want to go.”

9. An article begins life when you hit send. “We need to be better advocates of our own work,” the Report concluded. “[This] means identifying and sharing best practices at the ground level, and encouraging reporters and editors to promote their stories. In addition, we must take the process of optimization, for search and social, more seriously and ensure we are updating our tools and workflow along with our changing needs.”

10. Find staff people who take well to digital. Make sure hiring managers understand the demands of the jobs they’re trying to fill, and can assess the skills of applicants. Put less emphasis on traditional journalism skills in digital hires, and put more emphasis on digital skills in journalism hires. Empower and develop your digital talent by asking them to help shape, rather than simply implement, strategy.

11. Start a task force to lead the digital-first, new-product thinking. One conclusion I found interesting: “Kill off mediocre efforts. To free up resources for new initiatives, we need to be quicker and smarter about pulling resources from efforts that aren’t working. And we must do it in a way that is transparent so that people understand the reasons behind the decision, so that they will be willing to experiment again.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

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