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How can the size of a potential market be accurately estimated?
December 30, 2010 12:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I conduct research into whether or not there would be any interest for a paid tutorial website?

After looking into it for a few weeks, I'm pretty opposite-of-impressed with the state of free online art instruction. (related previous question)

There are tons of speed drawing videos online, most of which seem to be a way to show off and are of limited instructional use.

I've also seen lots of step-by-step walkthrough of how artists have created an illustration, like this one. It does contain some information on technique, but I think only an art student of some experience is in any sort of position to synthesize the information and make it a part of their toolbox.

Then there are a bunch of random, disconnected videos that may do one thing or another pretty good, but it's a crapshoot and incomplete.

So I thought to myself, why not create a website that provides digital art instruction, with an emphasis on digital illustration and painting (rather than photo manipulation or effects work)?

A mixture of art tutorials (like the one linked above), Bob Ross style "paint along" videos, and straightforward instruction on technique, anatomy, etc, branching out from a core collection of videos building essential skills.

(Similar in idea to this site, which covers cooking.)

The only thing is, I have no idea how large a market this might be. Is there any way to find the sales figures for Wacom's Bamboo line of products? (Under the theory that burgeoning artists would be the likely purchasers of those products, and thus potential customers.) Is there any indication as to whether users of Deviant Art would be willing to pay for instruction, or does their community fulfill their needs to the point that an outside site would be a hard sell?

Basically, I'm planning on making some videos along these lines anyway. I got a tablet for a family member for Christmas, and I want to make sure they learn to like it instead of just getting frustrated and letting it gather dust on their desk. But is there a business opportunity here? Are there a thousand people who would pay $25 a year to have access for a library of these kinds of videos? Or is it more like 10 people willing to pay nothing?

I assume there are ways to research this and test the waters. What are they? Also, are there quality sites out there for art that already cover this territory?
posted by jsturgill to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are several online schools which currently provide this service:

- Gnomon Workshop
- The Art Department
- Schoolism

They are very expensive ($500-1,000 per class) because they hire top industry professionals and often give students one-on-one critiques. It's a decently-sized market -- large enough that these three high-caliber online schools can compete with each other for the same interested people.

Rather than a thousand people willing to pay $25 versus 10 willing to pay nothing, my sense is that it's more like 200 people willing to pay $1,000 (provided they feel like they're investing in their career prospects, to get a job as a concept artist for the movie/games industries), and then a million people willing to pay nothing.

The middle ground is tough, as you have noticed. I think you'd find more success selling one-on-one private online instruction using some sort of screen sharing software. Digital art lends itself well to this system, and personal feedback IS valuable. That's what people will pay for, I think.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:36 PM on December 30, 2010


The simplest and cheapest way I can think of to test the waters is to create your tutorials and get them out there. Upload your videos to YouTube, link to your site for detailed instructions. Embed the videos on your site. Use AdSense to generate revenue rather than a subscription model. You can launch all of this with an investment of time and get a pretty good idea of the market for it. If the market is large, then you look at things like your own YouTube channel or a different advertising or even revenue model.
posted by IanMorr at 12:42 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


A lot of people who attend existing online schools and workshops are hoping to see others sprout up that cover the same techniques with different subject matter. I joined one once and was amazed at how fast the drawing & painting subjects began to bore me to death. Didn't sign up for any more classes after that.

Like everything Internet, one key is going to be finding a niche, and that might help you. It's fair to say "Gnomon already exists" but there's certainly room for competition in any number of areas -- differentiate yourself on price, or differentiate yourself by a different target market, and the opportunities are certainly there.
posted by circular at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2010


Rather than a thousand people willing to pay $25 versus 10 willing to pay nothing, my sense is that it's more like 200 people willing to pay $1,000 (provided they feel like they're investing in their career prospects, to get a job as a concept artist for the movie/games industries), and then a million people willing to pay nothing.

Is there a third group? Regular Joes looking for help in learning a new creative outlet, or kids without a decent art program at their public school?

The customer base for the site that exists in my mind would be similar to those people who take inexpensive art classes run by the local community center or arts council.

The sites you linked to appear to offer (or want to offer, anyway) a complete art school replacement. I can't do that. Those $1,000 customers might as well be on the moon, unless I start reaching out to venture capital.
posted by jsturgill at 12:53 PM on December 30, 2010


A lot of people who attend existing online schools and workshops are hoping to see others sprout up that cover the same techniques with different subject matter. I joined one once and was amazed at how fast the drawing & painting subjects began to bore me to death. Didn't sign up for any more classes after that.

Could you elaborate on that? Did the tutorials paint the same person's portrait over and over again, or something?
posted by jsturgill at 12:54 PM on December 30, 2010


Two thoughts I have:

1) What is the online art tutorial equivalent of Khan Academy? Does this equivalent charge fees for its lessons?

2) If #1 doesn't help: just put videos up and see what the response is.
posted by dfriedman at 12:58 PM on December 30, 2010


Is there a third group? Regular Joes looking for help in learning a new creative outlet, or kids without a decent art program at their public school?

The customer base for the site that exists in my mind would be similar to those people who take inexpensive art classes run by the local community center or arts council.


I guess I sort of buried the lede re: my final point -- the reason people pay for inexpensive local art classes is that they get personal help and feedback from an instructor they can see and talk to. The instructor looks over their shoulders and says, "Don't do this...do it like this. There, much better."

How many times have you watched a tutorial video and the guy is like, "Now just fleegle the dablons..." and you're all, "WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?!" And you can't ask him because the video is 5 years old and the e-mail bounces back?

Art students can watch a video a thousand times, but still struggle and wonder "Why doesn't mine look like that?!" If you can figure out a way to connect students with instructors, so they can see what each other is doing, ask questions and give feedback, people will pay for that.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:10 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) Test the product directly, before you even build it! Read about the concept of a minimum viable product (MVP). Put up a page that shows what the product will be as if it actually exists and offer a link to sign up. This will show you how many of those readers would actually be willing to sign up for your product if it actually existed. If there are enough of them, build it! And if you don't know how to code, check out this resource for how to launch without knowing how to code. And this slideshow.

2) That being said, there is no substitute for getting out and actually talking to people about it. Email those artists on DeviantArt. Call up friends and uncles and cousins. When you meet new people around town, ask them what they think. Talk to as many potential customers as humanly possible.
posted by squasher at 2:43 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


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