Creating Information Products – Which Format Should You Choose?

Information products usually fall into one of 5 different formats: text, audio, video, software or intangible/experiential products like consulting, seminars or coaching programs. In addition, these formats can be made into digital or physical products and often easily lend themselves to both.

Let’s start with text-based products. Some examples of text-based info products are articles, white papers, special reports, books, e-books, manuals, e-courses, binders or workbooks. These are generally the easiest to create and distribute because all you need is a word-processor for the more simple ones. As they get more complex, you’ll use graphics, PDF and page layout programs. For someone just starting out, a text-based e-course can be created very quickly and sent out via e-mail. Text products are by far the easiest to transmit over the Internet because they generally have the smallest file sizes. Of course, the file sizes increase as graphics are added, but the size is still insignificant compared to audio or bandwidth-hogging video.

Audio Products

These are usually audio CDs or downloadable digital files (generally MP3s). Technically speaking, audio is more complex to work with when compared to text products. With audio, you need to have a way to record (usually a digital recorder) and it’s important to get as clean of a recording as possible (this is easier said than done). Once it’s recorded, it needs to be edited with audio editing software. If you want your product to be really professional-sounding, you may want to consider adding some music and a voiceover intro and outro on the beginning and the end. When you have your recording sounding the way you want it, you then export it as a stereo file. If your product is going to be digital, you’ll take that master file and convert it to the format you want using a sound conversion utility. If you’ve decided to make an audio CD, you’ll have a bit more work to do. You’ll have to take your master file, cut it into “tracks”, export each track as a separate file and then use a CD burning program to assemble the individual tracks (files) and burn a master CD. This is the disc you’ll give to your duplicator. You’ll also need to create CD surface artwork and the art for whatever you’re packaging the CD in.

Video Products

The same basic process described above for audio also applies to video, except that you’ve now got a visual component. Video products are generally DVDs (for physical products) or if they are digital, they are usually converted to one of the following file formats: MP4, Quicktime, Windows Media or Flash. Be aware that working with video is much more demanding in many ways: it’s more expensive and generates far more data which means you’ll need a reasonably powerful computer and fast hard drives (7200rpm to do it properly). Another thing to be aware of when working with video is that, unlike audio, any edits you make will be visible on the video, which means it’s much more important to be able to deliver longer sections of content without making mistakes. You’ll also need to have the correct lighting and, if you want the video to be interesting, more than 1 camera so you can cut to different angles when editing. A minimum of 3 cameras is recommended for producing professional products – but that means paying 3 camera operators and then having 3 times as much video to edit later, which adds to your production cost (you’ll find a lot – if not most – of the expense when doing a video product is in the editing). Once you have your video edited the way you want, you’ll convert it to a downloadable format or get someone to “author” a DVD master, which means they’ll put a “splash” screen and a DVD menu on it and get it ready for duplication or manufacturing.

Software

Unless you’re a programmer, you’ll probably be working with someone called a “coder” who will be responsible for implementing your ideas. There are people on Vworker and eLance that write software and will work on a project basis. One thing to make very clear in advance is who owns the work – and it would be a good idea to check with an attorney to see what kind of contracts and agreements you’ll need to have signed to protect yourself. Other ideas for software products could be a toolbar or an iPhone or Android app.

Intangible Products

Most people don’t think of a seminar or coaching program as an information product, but intangible products like these can still be marketed and sold – and they can easily be turned into a product by recording or packaging them into one of the above formats. Many people make money not only from putting on a live seminar but also from recording it and then selling the seminar as an info product from then on.

Manufacturing costs

For digital (downloadable) products, the costs are negligible, aside from the bandwidth charges, which can add up if your product is “streaming”. If it’s downloadable, then you’ll generally only have to pay for the initial download, since most people will play it back off their hard drives from then on. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue unless your product is very video-intensive, like a multi-day video training. If this is an issue, then hosting your video on Amazon’s S3 service can really reduce the expense. For physical products, there are the “hard” costs of the materials, such as printing, media (CDs/DVDs) and packaging, not to mention the shipping costs, which leads many infopreneurs to wonder if they shouldn’t make all of their products digital.

General Nutrition Center – The Health Authority

Have you ever passed by a store and accidentally peered in to find multitudes of large plastic bottles and cardboard cut-outs of buff men and women? Then you’ve probably had the General Nutrition Center (GNC) first look. The store that inspires you to be healthy, and maybe someday achieve that sculpted body you see on their cardboard models. No one would ever have guessed that they actually started off as a small shop which has been operating since 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania managed by one David Shakarain.

Because of its staying power in the health supplements industry, GNC truly deserves the name General, in military terms, this connotes rank and respect. Their products range from over the counter medication, food supplements, vitamins, energy drinks and almost anything you can think of that is related to a person’s health and nutrition. Their first store has a reputation for being a relentless little health food store, it was damaged when the Ohio River overflowed but was rebuilt and continues to operate. Shakrain died in 1984 but has since then built an empire around the concept of health and nutrition. General Nutrition Center, as their name suggest has always been a leader in their industry, always being in the foreground of research and development and ensuring that their products are natural and safe is what made them an international brand. Since their beginning in 1935, they have opened around 6,000 plus stores in the United Stated alone and a few hundred more in 52 other countries. Also because of its popularity, the company eventually gave rights to drugstore.com to exclusively distribute the products online.

GNC products include all types of weight management aide, supplements, vitamins, amino acids, bodybuilding supplements, beauty products and herbal medications; the majority of these products are made by their own research teams while a few items coming from suppliers. The company ensures that they maintain the highest standards from researching and developing products up to packaging and distributing them. They ensure that all products go through 150 quality tests and follow the guidelines set by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA). All products are under their “money back” guarantee because it is GNC’s promise that all the ingredients in the labels are included in the products themselves. This ensures that any unsatisfied customer will be heard and it also gives a chance for the company to improve the quality of the items they sell.

They have proven their staying power not only in the heath supplements and fitness industry but as an international company as well. One thing that could be attributed to their continuous growth is their willingness to open up the corporate-owned business and allow franchisers to acquire stores. Truly, their reputation has lived up to their name, General Nutrition Center, an authority when it comes to health and fitness. If not for the countless stores around the globe, their name alone is priceless, even those who are not from the small town of Pittsburg trust GNC with all their health needs.

Understanding The Basics of Food Product Development

If you are not fully conversant about all the details regarding new food product development, then you are probably wondering what it actually is? Why is it necessary to create new products, as well as why companies feel the need to improve on a product once it has been released to the general public.

So what is product development?

The answer to these questions are actually quite simple, and they relate to the fact that humans need change, and what is good now is not always going to be good in the near future. Basically, every product, be it food related or leisure and clothing related fails to impress the general public after a certain amount of time, and for that reason, a product will need to be either replaced, or spruced up a little.

Market research is crucial

Good companies with years of experience in marketing products to the general public will be fully aware that they will need to develop new products, and they will know exactly what the consumer wants because they would have spent time and money on market research. Food companies in particular are constantly changing or developing new products in line with the forever changing tastes of the consumer. This is for the reason that the tastes of the general public is always changing and food companies always have to develop new products. So new product development has to be completed with due care and with an eye for detail because the continued success of a company largely depends on the company’s ability to produce new, interesting and varied products to the market place.

Difficulties with new product development

The problem with new product development is that it is not always straight forward, and in fact if it is done badly, then it can actually harm the profits and profile of the company, and some of the biggest global companies have got things spectacularly wrong in the past. All this is because they have got the market research wrong or have decided to not actually do any market research and have got complacent with thinking that the general public will but any product that they bring out.

Advertising the new product is crucial for the success of any new product and without a decent advertising campaign no new product is going to be a success and this has the potential to harm the profits of a company in the long term.

Generalizing: Learn the Lessons of History, But Which Ones?

A few months before Katrina, I caught one of the early Mardi Gras parades in a rural town outside New Orleans. Race relations there seemed different from those here in Northern California. Blacks were more outgoing and friendly to whites, and yet there also seemed to be more racial segregation. At the parade, the floats and teams were strictly segregated. The only integration I saw was a few clusters of black and white teens. I watched a policeman go out of his way to harass a black youth who was hanging out with some white girls.

As I was heading back to my car I saw one group by a 7-11 and thought to ask them directly about the state of race relations. A white girl spoke for them all, “Oh, it’s getting better. The police still give you a hard time but it’s not bad.” I thanked her and walked toward my car feeling pleased and hopeful; it was good to hear from a like-minded youth who was transcending past bigotries.

The girl called me back. “You say you’re from San Francisco?” she asked.

“Are they still letting gays marry there? ‘Cause I think that’s so disgusting.”

OK, not entirely like-minded. She had learned a lesson about bigotry, but she hadn’t generalized it. Me, I’ve seen enough instances of destructive bigotry to extrapolate to a universal pattern. Bigotry against blacks, Jews, the Irish, the Italians, the Chinese, gays-I get it-no bigotry is acceptable. What you don’t do to blacks you don’t do to gays either.

In this election I’m hoping a disenchanted nation will do some careful generalizing. Too much focus on Bush and Cheney’s bad character distracts us from questions about what makes them bad. If we conclude that they’re just bad apples, then what’s to stop equally counterproductive people with different names and faces from taking their places?

Everyone says, “People who don’t learn the lessons of history are forced to repeat it,” but if that statement doesn’t miss the point completely, it just barely grazes it. Sure, we should try to learn lessons-but the real question is which lessons, what generalizations? From Stalin and Hitler should we generalize to no more leaders with mustaches? No more short people?

What we want, of course, is to generalize lessons from history that end up paying off in the future. Unfortunately, although that’s a great goal, it’s useless as a rule of thumb. The future isn’t here yet, so you can’t use it directly to guide your generalizations.

“Son, my advice to you is buy low, sell high, and always learn today what worked tomorrow.”

Still, our society’s accelerated progress over the past few centuries is largely a product of culture realizing that right generalization is the name of the game. Science and engineering are largely attempts to systematize the process of effective generalization. In the hope of promoting that process, however slightly, here are a few generalizations about generalization applied to the coming election.

Undergeneralizing: Sometimes we fail to learn because we fail to generalize at all. Bush voters who now criticize the president tend to defend their votes. Yes, Bush turned out to be a lemon, an exception to the otherwise fine products of the conservative movement. Gore, Kerry, and the whole liberal agenda would have been much worse. McCain will fix things. Abu Ghraib? A few bad low-level soldiers. There’s nothing to learn, no generalization to be drawn.

When McCain said the economic problem was caused by greedy people on Wall Street and that the answer was to fire the head of the SEC, he sounded like unsophisticated leftists I knew in the ’70s. The problem is a few greedy people leading big corporations. Replace them with un-greedy people like me and it will all be groovy.

Overgeneralizing: Litmus-test radicals think they’ve found the one or two factors from which you can generalize to everything you need to know about a candidate. A Christian? Anti-abortion? For gay marriage? Divorced? A loyal spouse? For change? A traditionalist? The Sufis say, “He who’s burnt by hot milk blows on ice cream.” Not all dairy products will burn you. And not all Christians are great leaders. To litmus-test radicals on the left or the right, expert status isn’t earned through careful analysis but through passionate self-certainty. They’ve found the one cause that matters. It’s a priority not because they’ve compared it to other issues but because they can make an impassioned argument for its intrinsic and isolated merit. “But don’t you see, it’s a fundamental right!”

Motivated generalization: An alcoholic ponders what’s causing those daily hangovers. Monday: gin and tonic; Tuesday: vodka and tonic; Wednesday: whiskey and tonic; Thursday: rum and tonic. Clearly it’s the tonic.

Generalization serves two masters. One is, of course, our future selves. We hope to learn history’s real lessons so we don’t have to repeat them. The other is our present gut instinct, which definitely prefers some lessons to others. The alcoholic’s future self wants to avoid future hangovers, but the alcoholic’s gut doesn’t want to discover that those hangovers are caused by alcohol rather than tonic.

Most Republicans don’t seem to want to consider the possibility that they’ve had a substantial chance to try their ideas out in the real world and that in general those ideas don’t work as well as they had hoped. Just this week, days after the $700 billion bailout was announced, I was probing a right-wing friend about the core values and principles that drive his beliefs. He’s for the bailout as the lesser of two evils. On core values, though, he proudly told me one thing he knows for sure. Liberal efforts to regulate the free market have failed over and over and should never be tried again. No mention of the possibility that conservatives have anything to learn here.

This same friend tells me that he relishes arguing with liberals like me because our arguments are so weak and implausible. He’s the second conservative to tell me that this month. In other words, we generalize poorly. We’re either slow learners or we’re driven to our generalizations by our gut instincts, not our rational minds as they are.

Psychological research* indicates that we all generalize through two parallel systems, the rational mind and the gut, and that the gut predominates. The gut is faster acting than the rational mind. It’s often right or we wouldn’t survive. But there’s plenty of evidence that the gut gets it wrong consistently on crucial matters.

Ideally, therefore, we’d be rational about when to use our gut instincts and when to be rational. Among the more troubling findings therefore is strong evidence that most of us assume we’re more rational than we in fact are. We interpret gut instincts as rational instincts. Guts have the upper hand. Our guts tell us our rational minds are telling us that our rational minds are generalizing from the evidence and not our guts. We generalize incorrectly about our generalizing performance and skill.

Me and all my Obama-supporting friends included. We assume we’re the rational ones. Given the psychological evidence regarding everyone’s ability to interpret their interpretive prowess, we’re disqualified as authorities on the subject of our own rationality. So are our equally gut-motivated Republican detractors. Indeed, posterity gets the final word on whose generalizing skills were best. It alone knows how skillful we were at generalizing to the right lessons of history to learn and not the wrong ones. Unfortunately it was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing.For a great new survey of the findings, check out Nudge: Improving decisions about health wealth and happiness.