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Whenever we get to talk about content in tech and business, it almost always revolves around marketing. Rarely do we discuss content being the core product or service.

True enough, there is much talk about making money out of content such as blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels. But how about going deeper into thought leadership as a valuable commodity? Instead of content being just a tool for residual income, why not push for ‘expert content’ as a viable product?

Perhaps some disassociation from the traditionally academe-oriented image is in order. Expert content has traditionally been linked with universities, textbooks, and peer-reviewed academic and scientific papers.

Technology, however, has disrupted this. Information is now searchable, and experts have found other means to publish their content online. E-learning is a billion-dollar industry and is expected to reach US$31 billion by 2020. Online learning company Lynda.com was acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion last year in order to secure a foothold in professional training.

Here’s why I think the industry of ‘expert content’ is ripe for disruption:

#1 – The academe no longer holds a monopoly on ‘expert’ content

Expertise does not have to be academic. The rise of blogs and peer-generated content means people are interested in a long tail of topics, and not just academic stuff.

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Each niche and interest will have their own experts. Wander through YouTube and you will see various channels featuring expert content and how-tos on special interest topics. They are as helpful and informative as self-help books, if not more.

Before digital, anyone who wanted their content out had to go through traditional publishing means. This meant submitting to publishers and going through a lengthy vetting and editing process which could take years, and which went through a lot of middlemen.

Digital changed all this. Content creators suddenly have the means to create, publish, and market their own content.

Today, expert content comes in a variety of forms. There are books, e-books, blogs, audiobooks, podcasts, video content, training portals, coaching groups, and web conferences. Educational content can even be deployed as standalone mobile apps. Publishing can literally take seconds and content can even go live at any moment. There are a variety of ways content can be monetized too.

#2 – Authoring and publishing tools are widespread

As with any growth market, the ecosystem is still evolving. Those venturing into it may find themselves looking for a combination of tools to help them deliver expert content as a product or service.

Authoring tools for a variety of media are now widely available. E-book authoring can be done using word processors and tools like Sigil. Interactive content can be done through Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline. Learning management systems like Moodle and Sakai allow developers to create their own virtual classroom. Udemy and Skillshare have both become sort of marketplaces for those looking to participate in a consolidated arena.

Focused platforms like Kajabi lets users create digital products, enabling them to consolidate marketing for expert content and allowing users to open their own membership sites with marketing features under one platform. Such platforms will develop as more of these tools move towards better integration, ultimately providing more streamlined options for content developers to monetize content. Ventures can even explore creating a region-oriented marketplace for expert content.

Also Read: Marketplaces on the rise: What does the future hold for e-commerce platforms?

#3 – There are various gaps and potential business models

When it comes to rising to internet superstardom, entertaining content has been in the spotlight for too long. Collectively, the top 20 YouTube earners led by Internet celebrities like PewDiePie and Roman Atwood, raked in $70 million. Expert content seems to have taken the unglamorous route. Fortunately, there is also a wide group of people looking for personal development.

As Lynda.com’s success story shows, there is money to be made in such content. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) like Udemy and Skillshare, which focus on professional development, have proven to be lucrative. Content developers earn a good side income from the courses that they create. The Khan Academy may have taken the more benevolent route and made their content free, but it is a success either way.

Emerging economies like those in the Asia-Pacific appear to be prime markets for a variety of content. With the relatively high cost of education, those looking for continuing education can now opt for open universities that provide more convenient schedules and oftentimes cheaper options for those looking to secure degrees.

Technical and specialised content like those found in Lynda.com and Udemy can be geared to professionals looking to upgrade skillsets at a lower cost than graduate school and certification programs. Then, there are those who might want to explore more niche topics on specialised trade and hobbies either for livelihood or appreciation.

There is still much room for growth – even more developed countries like Japan and Korea have yet to reach the figures seen in the US and Europe.

#4 – You can find your own niche

Developing content is relatively easy, provided that expertise is present and entrepreneurs in the region can seriously take a look the opportunities. The world needs less fluff and misinformation these days. The private sector may even opt to collaborate with academics in order to produce expert content in the more traditional sense. They can also look at blue ocean markets and look for interesting and emerging fields which are not as formalised as those being actively taught in schools. In fact, more localised content can be a competitive advantage against established players.

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For example, it was only in the past 10 years that schools and universities in the ASEAN region started offering more focused programs in fields such as game development. Many industry veterans resorted to self and peer learning to get started. Until today, many still swear by forums, MOOCs, video tutorials as means of acquiring skills not learned in schools.

Learning can also be made more relevant based on the experiences and environment specific to the region – something that courses in Lynda.com and Udemy may not necessarily have.

The takeaway: Exploring expert content as a viable product

Regardless of format or topic, the business of expert content is a viable product that entrepreneurs can consider offering in a growth market. There are low barriers to entry and the market can be developed.  We can move beyond thinking that content development is for freelancers and teachers, and treat it as a formal industry so that there may emerge better platforms and ecosystem that can serve a true market need.

What is key is keeping the audience in mind. The content must be targeted and useful for the target audience and, as we know about anything in business, effective marketing counts. Effort must be made to make expert content known and drive audiences towards consuming content.

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The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here.

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