Category: Internet TV

Lynda.com as the future of TV


Remember that the word TV is used in many ways. This is about how we use TVs: we watch TV & quite often we watch informative, learning channels.

Lynda.com is a subscription-based site providing software training through video tutorials structured in courses that are mostly several hours in length. I’ve used the site off-and-on for over ten years, and it’s a great way to learn how to use software from either a beginner level to advanced, in-depth techniques. With over 83,000 videos packed in more than 1,300 courses lynda.com is truly a fantastic way to learn. Course is not quite the right word. Considering that a topic may be covered in anywhere from 25 minutes to 15 hours the terms class or workshop is more appropriate.

A couple years ago Lynda.com branched beyond software training with additional content that includes creative skills (e.g., design, photography, video production) and even soft business skills (e.g., leading a productive meeting,  becoming a thoughtful leader).  Even more intriguing are the documentaries with typographic artisans, children book illustrators, and other creative topics.

Lynda.com has evolved into an entertainment channel, like those specialized channels on cable TV. But with Lynda.com you have the choice of which series to watch & when to tune in. Lynda.com even keeps track of what you watch in case you want to go back and view an episode again. Lynda.com isn’t available through any cable TV package. You subscribe directly on the Website, and it’s not inexpensive with a starting rate of $25 per month.

Lynda.com has entered the future of TV without ever promoting itself as such. Lynda.com is a definitive model that can form the basis for other vertical niches. The potential is enormous.

This is the future of entertainment for those who entertain themselves by wanting to learn about the world. Its mixture of educational and documentary programming surpasses anything found on today’s cable TV packages. One step further: Lynda.com is the future of many non-fiction books, particularly the how-to type of book.

Evidence that Lynda.com is onto something big: after many succesful years they just accepted their first round of external funding. With over $100 million to expand, keep an eye on how Lynda.com is transforming online learning into an educational entertainment product.

To get a glimpse as to how Lynda.com plans on utilizing this funding take a look at Robert Scoble’s interview with the founders of Lynda.com, Lynda Weinman & Bruce Heavin.  A few highlights:

Lynda Weinman describes that the new funding will be used in three ways:

  1. expanding content through creating new categories and going deeper into existing categories
  2. improving the delivery platform
  3. expanding internationally

Online learning is a hot market. Lynda says, there are “lots of flavors of online learning….We think we’re in the infancy of this industry & there is a lot of room for a lot of different angles on how to attack the problem, and part of the problem is that we don’t all learn the same way, that we don’t all have the same learning needs. (5:33 mark in the video).

Lynda Weiman had been involved in teaching since the late 1980s. She says it’s all about teaching but now there are different form factors for delivering the instruction. Her partner Bruce Heavin says, “The business model may have changed over the years from writing books, to renting classrooms, to selling VHS cassetts and DVDs, to eventualy making this online library, but the constant was teaching and education.” (23:00)

Note how the starting of Lynda.com rose from Lynda publishing the first book on Web design in 1996, which also was a time when people traveled to attend conferences to learn about new techniques in Web design and development. Scoble describes the quasi-entertainment factor: “Something’s going on here. We used to go to conferences…now we watch TV on our big screens and we can get the same quality. I personally like it a lot better, I have a comfortable seat here, I can stop a video, go get a drink.” Then he glances over to a line of books, “You’re competing with these things. Used to be a I brought a lot of O’Reilly Books.”

Bruce responds, “I don’t know if we’re really competing against books. I think we’re a splinter, kind of like how radio and TV splintered..just splintered different ways to get information….We’re seeing the change where people are going into video and want to see things in their living room and we think that’s huge.” (17:40)

Lynda describes their content that is not training specific, and I suspect this area will get a significant push with their new funding, “Sometimes it’s not the tool at all. It’s how you tell the story, how you make a composition, how you create emotion around something, how you negotiate, how you make something compelling. We’ve actually gotten into these soft skills as well as the tools, as well as inspiring documentaries. We’ve made 30 of them…our members just love that kind of material.” (20:45)

That material fulfills an entertainment need for many us. Learning and entertainment are not incompatible.

Forming a channel on the Internet


The other day I asked,”What is keeping new networks and channels from forming on the Internet?” The answer, of course, is nothing. The answer, of course, is that there already are a significant number of channels on the Internet. We often just don’t think of them that way yet.

The old-time TV set had a circular dial (remember those?) that you twisted to view the available channels. In my early childhood we only had four channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, & PBS) plus one fuzzy station (channel 17 whatever that was) that always had something interesting.

With cable TV came an expansion of channels but it was (and still is) packaged as a set of choices. With the Internet the options are wide open. Certainly there are dominant brands. We all know about YouTube. And there’s Netflix for traditional movie/TV watching. But how does a newcomer compete with that? Everybody offering anything on the Internet has the same problem: finding an audience.

People have an overwhelming amount of choices. People need a reason to view what you’re offering. What is it that you’re offering that matches their interest?

See where this is all going? Vertical niches. Many TV channels are built around a vertical niche: a cooking channel, a travel channel, a sports channel, a history channel, etc.

A vertical niche is all about creating a community, giving people a reason to not only visit but also to participate. More on this topic soon.

TV networks will never go for it…so what?


There’s a belief that Internet TV is hampered by the unwillingness of TV networks to license content. The critical question: why does Internet TV need traditional TV programming? As a greater supply of video-based content is built up on the net that is outside of traditional broadcast television then the need for those TV networks is less and less. HBO rose to prominence on the back of cable TV. What is keeping new networks and channels from forming on the Internet? The space for industry observers to monitor is what’s happening on the Internet already and not what’s occurring with traditional TV networks.