How Does Have So Many Paid Subscribers If Information Wants To Be Free?

The web is full of free how-to articles and videos. So why do hundreds of thousands of new subscribers happily sign up every year to pay a monthly fee to learn software like Excel and Photoshop? And, more importantly, what can YOU learn from’s business about creating content that people want to pay for?

I invited the company’s co-founder, Lynda Weinman, to answer those questions, and to tell you the story of how she and her husband launched and built their business.

Lynda Weinman

Lynda Weinman


Lynda Weinman is the co-founder of, a provider of educational materials, including Hands-On Training™ instructional books, the Online Training Library®, CD- and DVD-based video training, and events for creative designers, instructors, students, and hobbyists.


Why customers are happy to pay

Lynda started when there wasn’t much competition.

A lot of Lynda’s early traction came from teaching software that students couldn’t learn elsewhere. Her early classes were done offline about programs that were so new that students were willing to fly to her class from across the country.

Lynda had a reputation before starting her business.

Before there was Lynda the company, there was Lynda the author. She wrote the very first industry book on Web design, Designing Web Graphics, in 1995. Each of her books included an incentive for readers to go to, where she built an audience that became her company’s first customers.

Marketing happened organically, through word of mouth.

Lynda said many times in the interview that marketing isn’t her forte, teaching is. So until recently, she focused heavily on class quality, and let the marketing happen mostly through word of mouth.

The offline competition is more expensive and less convenient.

Lynda doesn’t see her competition as the free videos on sites like YouTube. For her customers, the real alternative is expensive, offline classes at local schools. Compared to them, offers a reasonably-priced and more convenient option.

Lessons are taught by leaders at the tops of their fields.

For professional subjects, students want to know that they’re learning from credible teachers, something they can’t always be sure of with free content online.

Students can learn on their own time and repeat lessons.

In a traditional setting, students can’t repeat a class over and over until they get what they need. By using the videos, they’re free to move through each lesson at their own pace.

Lynda offers lots of free samples.

Free may not be the company’s business model, but it is one of’s best marketing strategies. Students can sample classes and get a feel for the quality of the teachers and materials before

Full program includes

– You’ll hear the biography of

– You’ll learn many tips that you can use to build your subscription-based business.

– You’ll see how develops its classes.


40 thoughts on “How Does Have So Many Paid Subscribers If Information Wants To Be Free? – With Lynda Weinman

  1. Dave Doolin says:

    I love the internet! It's a winner-take-all system! And I intend on winning somewhere, just as has won in their niche.

  2. Matt says:

    Hey Andrew. Thank you for the mention! These interviews help so many entrepreneurs and through them you have motivated thousands into taking action. As a user this interview really makes me happy to be a student. Lynda has worked very hard to ensure that you get the most out of every lesson and I don't know where I would be without them.

  3. Great article! It is definitely true that word of mouth is awesome marketing.

  4. Paid Subscriptions or Free Web based content. Do you want to pay for structured learning material or do you want some crappy tutorial for free ! Both will probably give you the same result in the end but it all has to do with the journey to get the result.

    Its all about the Teacher!

  5. Bulkish says:

    Hello Andrew, although the video buffered completely I couldn't “see” the entire video properly because it got stuck for me in the beginning (on pc-firefox-3.5.3), the audio is fine.

    Lynda, like Donald Trump have focused effectively on two critical aspects: Focus and Quality. But what's more important than those? Desire. For me, the fact that we don't live forever is the #1 desire-generator to work hard today-not tomorrow, to build something meaningful, a legacy, just like you mentioned in your video-bio.

    Best regards and keep up the good interviews.

  6. aaronwulf says:

    Great interview, Andrew! It really goes against what everyone else is saying how things must be free on the Internet. Lynda proves that it doesn't have to be!

    The audio was perfect, but the video didn't show up for Safari 3.2.1 on my Mac. Just wanted to let you know.

  7. briteguy says:

    Wow, this is very helpful. I know for sometime and it is very very nice to see that Andrew you are interviewing the companies I know of and admire. Thanks Andrew so much for your great work!!!

  8. Tiago says:

    I would be interested to know how she protects from being copied without permission.

  9. patrics says:

    Video freezes, audio is good.
    So it's “radio-time” today ;)

  10. JLH Studios says:

    Andrew, you continue to amaze me with the caliber of people that you bring onto the site to inspire all of us! Thank you for being so passionate! I really enjoyed your interview with Lynda and will listen to it more than once – for sure. She interviews artists and features them on her site so I have had a chance to see her interact with people before and she is consistently a class act. Her company is a tremendous asset for those of us in education. I teach Multimedia Design Technology at a technical school in Southwest Florida and enjoy using my premium account and couldn't do my job without it. Software Technology continues to grow at a pace that is too hard to keep up so I depend on's services to partner with me to provide a solution for a definite need in my design program. Thanks again and keep the excellent interviews coming! Great job!!!

  11. Darn you Andrew for getting all these great people interviewed. Now I have to link to you more than I already do on my blog!

    Nice work my friend.

  12. Andy Warner says:

    I agree with Bulkish on a couple of points.
    1. The video displayed clunky
    2. Her company is very focused

    The passion for her company speaks for itself. The other point to note is her commitment to authenticity. She has not and appears will not “sell out” to water-down her product in hopes of mass appeal because she has stayed true to her core.

    The great take-away from me for this story is that she was naive enough to build a business for the consumer and remains close to the consumer.


  13. monocat says:

    This interview was very welcoming. Great as usual. I am on a path of setting up a site similar to for a niche market. I've been struggling of how to launch it; paid subscription or free with ads/sponsors. Most interviews and blogs I've read so far point to the direction of paid recurring subscription from day one.

    One question I wish that was discussed further was the profit sharing with the authors/trainers. What would be a fair compensation? I'm assuming there are different compensation plans according to a trainer's qualification and topic being taught. Any insight would be appreciated, especially from Lynda. ;-)

  14. Hey Andrew,

    Great interview, the video was not working before (glad to see you fixed it). The things that stand out to me the most were the three F's and only selling quality. Having quality control over all aspects of her business seemed to be a focal point. I love her logo.

  15. Mark says:

    Great interview yet again! Thanks, Andrew. What an inspirational entrepreneur Lynda is! Very passionate, articulate, hardworking, and honest. This certainly puts in a new light for me. I will think of it first if I have such a need. Lynda is an outstanding spokesperson for her company.

  16. Lang says:

    This was a great interview. I've been a member of for a few years and have learned several softwares using her service. I have a few questions:
    How did she come up with the $25 price point? (the perceived value at this price is HUGE)
    Why not $39.95 or $49.95? Like you said in the interview, actually taking the class costs even more than $100.
    Was this price point targeted at college students at first?
    And just for curiosity's sake did her husband draw that image of her? :)

  17. AndrewWarner says:

    I'm getting married this week, so I'm taking time away from email.

    If you need to reach me, please email me after Monday, Oct 19th.


  18. What a coincidence. I just joined (for the second time) to learn my video editing software. Then I found she had a class on learning the Mac. And a class on Garageband. Then I come here to find you interviewed her!

    Her site is an incredible value for $25 per month, and I've thought of somehow fashioning a health teaching site after her.

    I am wondering why the video is blurry. And what's that dark band on the bottom? It looks like you're both sitting at a highly polished grand piano.

    Congratulations on getting married, Andrew. I hope you both find happiness to last a lifetime!

  19. AndrewWarner says:

    I'm getting married this week, so I'm taking time away from email.

    If you need to reach me, please email me after Monday, Oct 19th.


  20. martinleblanc says:

    Congrats :-)

  21. carlosB says:

    Nice interview

  22. naveed ahmad says:

    a really great interview :) and thank you so much i really wanted to about her I am a Graphics Designer and a Photographer and i must say..i had learned alot from here, stuff that you never get in school its like straight-forward thing :) which is cool
    i call them my Teachers :)

  23. loumindar says:

    I listened to your interview with Lynda Weinman yesterday and was disappointed. That's why I didn't comment right away. I wanted to give it some time before I said anything. I'm glad I did because I have a better appreciation for what Lynda had to say after sleeping on her thoughts.

    Like just about everyone you have interviewed, Lynda comes from a place of passion. I don't think Lynda's passion comes out the same way as Maria Sipka's does. Lynda is a bit more reserved and isn't as emotional about her passion. But it's still there, it's still real, and it still drives her.

    I didn't connect with Lynda the way I have with many of your other guests, but what she has to say is still very valuable. Thanks for interviewing her for us.

  24. Mike Stenger says:

    Really stretches your mind to achieve further with what you're doing. If she can get that many PAID customers where there is a massive amount of FREE tutorials, videos, etc., just imagine what you can do in other markets!

  25. At the end of the day, people are willing to pay for their problems to be solved. Period.
    And most of the time, paid services are just better. Think about it. They cannot produce something half-assed or they lose customers, and they have the resources to make “awesome” happen.

    Free is good. Not free is sustainable good.

    Good job to Lynda.

  26. coreyquinn says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Another solid interview from an internet vet and successful businesswoman. It was inspirational to hear her story and I learned a lot. Thank you!!

    Just a thought: since I am interested in subscription based businesses, I realize in watching this video that some of the benefits of text based transcripts of the video interview include the ability to:

    1) skim the content / find the content that I am particularly interested in
    2) re-view the content w/o needing to find the particular area of interest within the video

    Thank you for these interviews – keep up the great work. When are you going to start charging for this premium content?? I hope there is a grandfather clause for some of us regulars :)


  27. Imran says:

    Wow!!! what a GREAT site! just found it via twitter! Keep up the great interviews Andrew. This site is exactly what i was looking for ;-)

  28. Girl Startup says:

    I have to say I have been a bit disappointed with Lynda. A lot of their tutorials are out of date, or don't teach users the proper way to do things. Their HTML course is terrible. I've also had problems viewing videos as they wont load. If anyone has another site they can recommend I would love to hear it! I would like a site that goes for more deeper than just the easy and basic way to do things.

  29. elramirez says:

    Very inspirational story emphasizing the benefits of word of mouth promo. She's of the best in online education and they are walking their talk by innovating their website constantly and providing great material. I have used their site when there are titles of interest to me.

  30. joelyboyblue says:

    The price of classes are far higher than she specifies. Its more like $400 for a class and $100 for a book. Lynda is well worth it.

  31. kalaloch says:

    As of 4/2010 does NOT teach HTML, it has it on its list, but they only teach XHTML. This is some what frustrating because I signed up for the HTML.

  32. kalaloch says:

    As of 4/2010 does NOT teach HTML, it has it on its list, but they only teach XHTML. This is some what frustrating because I signed up for the HTML.

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