Making Freemium work for Video academy

“Freemium”—a combination of “free” and “premium”—has become the dominant business model among internet start-ups and smartphone app developers. It can also change the way users enrolled to your video academy.

This blog will outline the five steps needed to adopt freemium business model for your video academy

I know that giving your hard build knowledge and expertise for free may sound discouraging,  fortunately freemium doesn’t mean that you give it all for free.

Freemium has already become the dominant business model among internet start-ups and smartphone app developers for a reason. The basic idea is to give users some features or content free and they can access richer functionality or more content for subscription fee. The base purpose is to quickly grow your subscriber base.

I believe it is time to start adopting it for online video academies instead of only offering pay-per-live training or pay-per-training course models. As subscription is the most common business model associated with freemium I will concentrate on it.

What I outlined is a four step guide how to build your video academy based on freemium business model. However, before we jump into the steps, stop for a second and evaluate these freemium model examples from content business. These should help you to put yourself on the map. Perhaps it also helps you to have a look at iMPACT, a freemium video academy.

Freemium examples

Freemium model really works for both digital/internet products and content.

In media industry’s freemium services subscribers typically get better quality (e.g. HD vs. SD video), rid of advertising (e.g. Spotify), may access more content per month (e.g. newspapers’s paywalls) or get access to premium content (e.g. stock market tips and analysis).

You might think how this all applies to a video academy, but let me give you some ideas on the content and how to structure it. OK, are working based on freemium model, so we need to have both free and premium content, which could be divided e.g. like below:

Free “plan” could include

  • Free webinars, primary use case is to attract users to register and hear about your video academy. Topics can be more general “common knowledge” that you know will not be very high value.
  • Free video courses, with e.g. shorter videos and from more common topics
  • Free bulletins or comments on hot topics on your industry

Your subscribers would get

  • Premium webinars on the topics you know best. These could be also on current affairs, market studies or interviews of the key people of your industry.
  • Longer video courses
  • More video courses
  • In-depth analysis on industry topics
    more features to help subscribers to consume the content

Alternatively you could limit your free users to 10 videos per month and allow your subscribers to add e.g. 3 full video courses to their content library per month. This way their own video library would grow month-per-month and you academy would become more difficult to abandon. Another example could be a stand-up show video service, where the freemium model offers only 5 minute short clips, but as a subscriber you can watch complete shows. So, why not make two versions of your training content, short version and a premium one including all the important details.

The five steps you need to take to run a freemium model for your video academy

1. Think about the free offering

Step one is to think about your free offering
Free content is a marketing cost and its sole purpose is to get people to register for you service. If you are not succeeding in it, rethink your free offering. The opposite can also be happening, you get people to sign-up, but they are not subscribing. Perhaps your free offering is too good? Should you perhaps drop the amount of free videos per month from 10 to 5?

Employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read a text

Changing and evolving the free offering will help you to find the right combination that works for you audience. The way to do this is to collect data from as many data-points as possible and use it day in, day out.

2. User experience is key to success

Step two is the user experience. Both the user interface and content structure contribute heavily on the user experience and should be designed carefully. For most users the time is a limitation and it is vital that your users find the right content fast! 

Reducing the time searching time will improve user satisfaction. If your user interface is cumbersome, your user’s wont find what they want or if it takes long time to find it, they will abandon the service. One metric you should perhaps be measuring is  click-to-watch time.

To improve your user experience (UX) you need to design the complete user journey from onboarding to conversion and finally to usage and content personalisation. It is mostly about navigation and how your content is structured, but naturally the branding and “feel” also impacts how users experience your video academy. If you want read more on OTT UI/UX considerations, you may want to read this blog too.

The bottom line: the UI/UX has a huge impact on the success of you video academy!

3. Remove all barriers to register

Step three is to minimise barriers for your potential users to register to your video academy.

Make it as simple as possible.  You need to think carefully what is the minimum that you need for each registered user. Asking credit card information with registration will be a turn-off for majority of users, even if you tell them that it will no be billed. Is it just enough to get email to get marketing qualified leads or should your B2B video academy need also company and in-depth contact information?

I recommend to add call-to-actions to each page and motivate user to give just his/her email address to register and as next step ask additional information during the registration process, perhaps via reminder emails.

huge savings with video academy

4. Convert, convert, convert

Step four is to think the conversion from free user to subscriber.

On freemium servcies in-general conversion rates, on avevage, sit somewhere between 2% to 5%, although Spotify had it at 46% in 2019. On web sites job-related training have also high conversion rates (18,4%) based on SmartInsights, which means that even small improvements in conversion rates have impact on your total revenue.

The importance of fine-tuning offering itself cannot be exaggerated, but you need to communicate the benefits of the premium offering decisively and make sure you are not giving too much for free! There must be clear message and enough reasoning for people to convert, and conversion is what you want! Communicate the benefit and value with numbers and keep the comparison between packages simple.

Offering free periods of your premium service or giving hefty discounts helps you to find the price-points of your free users. Free trials in video business are normally 14 days, and they work well, since Recurly study showed that on B2B services on average 68,8% of trial users convert.

Additionally, you should also keep-in-mind that you can increase the total revenue with TVOD (transactional VOD), where users would purchase single access to your content. It may result in more conversion as users can test your service without committing to it for long term.

5. Embrace your subscribers

Step five, the final step, is retention. Once you have got your users to subscribe you need to keep them. It is cheaper to keep existing user than acquiring a new ones. The simple advice is to keep improving the premium offer, growing the gap between free and premium offerings. You really need to commit yourself for innovation.

For a video academy it is all about content and you need to be producing engaging content to your users and communicate this actively to both your free and premium users.



For educational video  especially it should be kept in mind that “experts seem to agree that it should be very short—between one and four minutes. The short length”, Debbie Williams, vice president of content development for BizLibrary, says, “allows employees to fit training in every day, improving their ability to rapidly develop skills and generate new, innovative ideas.” This applies especially for complex topics, which should be split into several videos. Make the design and narration clear and simple, minimizing sound effects and distracting visuals. “Keep text to a reasonable size,” and “limit the amount of text” you display at one time.

In addition to new content you should think about features you want to offer to your users like “continue watching on different device”, “save trainings for offline usage”, integrations with e-learning platforms, exams/tests, etc.

Freemium business model will have bright future

Thats it, these five steps are the corner stones for your freemium video academy. Naturally you need to think many other things from marketing to content production and how to run your company in general, but from freemium video academy perspective above steps give you a good starting point.

Using freemium model video academies will surely grow in the near future.

Consumers are embracing OTT services and according to Forbes, a staggering 55% of Americans have a subscription to Netflix, where over 1 billion hours of video is consumed per week, and 52% use Amazon Prime Video. The OTT market keeps growing steadily and as people get more and more used in viewing video on their devices it will reflect also to the B2B video market. In B2B video services the price-point can also be higher than consumer services due to the high value of the offered content.

The freemium model is growing in popularity at such rate it should be seriously considered also for video academies. It works well for a large number of technology and content companies already and users are getting familiar with it. For above reasons I see a bright future for the business model also in video space in the long term. I’d be curious to hear your experiences and opinions at  [email protected].

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