Where Should You Publish Your Online Course?

This is the question course creators face when just starting out with creating online courses.  It seems like the choices are endless.  But there are two main categories to choose from when making this decision.

Marketplace or Platform Only

Those are your decisions.  Here’s the difference:

  • Marketplace: Course platform + audience of people wanting to buy courses
  • Platform Only: Course platform – audience of people wanting to buy courses

Let’s break that down a little more to understand why one vs the other.

Marketplace

If you have no audience or if you’re just starting, this can be the best place for you.  Marketplaces offer an audience that is willing and ready to buy.  They also have the platform needed to hosting your course.  Support is available to help you get your course up and running as well.

Keep in mind though, just because a marketplace has an audience of buyers doesn’t mean your course will get bought.  Creating a great course is certainly needed that solves problems for a specific segment of people is still required.

Advantages

  • Fairly easy to use course platform
  • Support through entire publishing process
  • Audience of buyers
  • Usually generous royalty deals
  • Non exclusivity (confirm this with each marketplace)

Disadvantages

  • In some cases royalties can be heavily skewed (i.e., affiliate purchases)
  • Restrictions on communication with customers (in some cases no communication)
  • Customers belong to marketplace, not you
  • Exclusivity (confirm with marketplace)

Marketplace Examples

Udemy: One of the largest marketplaces.  Non exclusive.  Easy to publish. Pay for course model. Good courses usually have no problem making money.

Skillfeed: Fairly small by comparison.  Non exclusive.  Easy to publish. Subscription Model. Can be easy to generate revenue but usually difficult to increase it.

Pluralsight: Premiere, cream of the crop.  Huge with corporate clients.   Exclusive.  Must audition and be accepted as an instructor.  Subscription Model. Great revenues.

Skillshare: Another great platform. Non exclusive. Subscription Model. Can be good revenues.

The above list is in no way exhaustive and only covers the more popular marketplaces.

Platform Only

One-stop shops.  Just like marketplaces, platform only websites will handle the complete publishing cycle for you.  From hosting of the course to handle payments and refunds.

Platform only sites are just for publishing courses.  There is no audience of buyers.  You must drive traffic to your course.  However, there can be more flexibility in the platform compared to marketplaces.  This means you can do more to tailor your course format for better engagement and overall learning.

These platforms aren’t free however.  There is usually a monthly fee associated and sometimes a per transaction fee.

Platform Only Examples

Fedora

Recurly

Rolling Your Own [Advanced]

There is one more option I want to throw in.  It is the most cost effective, allows the greatest amount of customization and flexibility plus provides for the highest profits.  This is hosting your own membership website.  Beware, the learning curve is very steep and this endeavor can be time consuming.  But if you already have the technical knowledge, it can be best solution.  You will own the customer, there will be no restrictions in your communication with them and you’ll keep virtually 100% profit every time (payment processes will retain a very small percentage).

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Summary

If you’re just starting out, using a marketplace can be a great way to go.  They have the platform plus customers with wallets who are ready to buy.  But if you want to hold on to the majority of revenue and have the traffic, platform only formats can be the way to go.

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