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.