Rodale just launched its new paid online education platform Rodale U this month and one of its programs, The Transformation Challenge, has already passed the 5,000 sign-up mark. The program was added to the platform just over a week ago and is base-priced at $9.95.
The annual Challenge is a three-week program designed to help participants eat healthier and get in shape as the summer months approach. Started in 2013, it was originally facilitated through a free daily email.
"You never know when you throw one of these things out there whether people who are used to one way will sign up for a different format," says Bruce Kelley, editor-in-chief of Prevention and EatClean.com. "Prevention has done really well in getting our readers and users excited about the Challenge, but we never charged for it. This is the first time we asked them to help cover our costs."
Over the last two years, the program has attracted about 45,000 participants.
The May issue of Prevention featured a cover story on the program, which Kelley says likely drove about half of the sign-ups. Online, the Prevention team has linked relevant articles back to the Challenge program page, and prestitials and other interrupters have driven the rest of the sign-ups.
Rodale is integrating the online education platform deeply into its branded content. The May issue feature story is one way the company is driving conversions, but its book division is also tightly tied to the initiative.
The education modules often feature Rodale book authors as part of the faculty and book sales are bundled in as a higher-tier price point.
A silver-level bundle at $39.95 for the Challenge includes a copy of the diet book "Sugar Smart Express." Kelley says they've sold more than 400 of those so far. A $200 gold level limited to 50 participants includes the book and one-on-one instruction with the program's coach. In all, a spokesperson says there have been around 500 up-sells.
A key component of the program is its community functionality. Participants can sign on and leave comments and announce their progress. "It's a social play," adds Kelley. "On every page there's a button to discuss and the comments are piling up. There's a lot of cheerleading, confessionals and support. We talk a lot in this business of creating a sense of community and a social environment and this has been one of the better models I've seen and the damn thing hasn't even started yet."
The Challenge program kicks off tomorrow and the spokesperson says there have been more than 1,000 discussion threads started.