One Simple Rule For Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

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You get it… New Year’s Resolutions are often left in the dust. Infographics like the one above are enough to scare anyone away from even trying to make a New Year’s Resolution. Here’s one simple rule to make and keep your resolutions this year:

Make only one. For one month.

Too often, people list 2, 3 or as many as 10 New Year’s Resolutions. That’s crazy!! By setting your expectations so high, you’re not only taking what is already a busy schedule and loading it with EVEN MORE things to do, but even worse you’ll very likely not accomplish any of your resolutions and will be left feeling depressed and inadequate.

So this year, whether it’s learning to speak another language, improving your finances, or losing weight… focus on the one change that will make the biggest impact in your life and do it for one month

One change is manageable. It’s doable. And better yet, for at least a month, it’s achievable… unlike 92% of New Year’s Resolutions made in the US each year. If the one change that will make the biggest impact in your life is to learn Spanish, Portuguese, or English we’re offering 20% off our language learning plans with the promo codes below. If your one resolution is something not related to learning a language, we hope this one simple piece of advice serves you well. Share it with your friends on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere using the social sharing icons below.

New Year’s Resolution Special Promotions

Bronze Plan (lessons once per week): 20_OFFBronze

Silver Plan (lessons twice per week): 20_OFFSilver

Gold Plan (lessons 3x per week): 20_OFFGold

Platinum Plan (lessons 5x per week): 20_OFFPlatinum

How Rosetta Stone Buying TellMeMore Doesn’t Bode Well for Language Learners

Today, Wednesday, December 11th, Rosetta Stone announced the acquisition of Tell Me More for $28 million. What does this mean?

1. Rosetta Stone would rather buy innovators than innovate themselves

TellMeMore is a company with interactive software that goes beyond Rosetta Stone’s text, audio, and image association approach. By acquiring TellMeMore, Rosetta Stone is adding features such as language explanations, word lists, and cultural relevancy.  This continues an acquisition spree by Rosetta Stone which includes Lexia Learning and LiveMocha, which we at Lingo Live covered back in April. Nevermind that TellMeMore’s web application uses Adobe Flash as the backbone of their software (listen closely for the collective groan of 600 million iOS users). Rosetta Stone is adding another piece to their smorgasboard of language software options, which leads to our next point.

2. Language learning providers are becoming gigantic conglomerates

Rosetta Stone took out a major competitor at the price of essentially one year of their revenue. This follows similar acquisitions by huge organizations which have lead to most of the options for language learning being owned by either Berlitz, Pearson, or Rosetta Stone:

The Big Eat the Small

But forget the economics. What’s more interesting is how this further complicates what Rosetta Stone needs to convince users: that they know the most effective way to learn a language.

TellMeMore employs an explicit method for teaching languages, where users can review grammar explanations and analyze the structure of the language if they want. This is entirely different from Rosetta Stone’s learn-naturally-as-a-child approach, which is even more different from LiveMocha’s communal, social-network approach. How can Rosetta Stone maintain credibility as language learning experts with so many contradictory approaches?

The answer: it doesn’t matter. Rosetta Stone will likely keep TellMeMore as a standalone entity but just flood their users’ email inboxes with Rosetta Stone deals, much as they have with LiveMocha users. By doing so, they can sell more product through a low cost channel (email marketing) and clear out their inventory of obsolete CD-ROMs.

However, this contradictory, multi-faceted approach to language learning, and the negative experience of users who have been usurped by Rosetta Stone, will dilute the value of their brand in the long term.

3. Rosetta Stone is focused on Institutions

Back in May, when we presented Lingo Live’s institutional offering at a corporate conference in Dallas, Rosetta Stone’s massive presentation space, complete with a juice bar and roaming sales reps, made our guerilla marketing efforts look paltry. I spoke to one of the executive members of Rosetta Stone’s E&E (Enterprise & Education) division and the message was clear: institutions are where it’s at.

Over 85% of TellMeMore’s revenue is generated from corporate and higher education verticals. Through the acquisition, Rosetta Stone will be able to grow their E&E business from only 22% of their revenue to something closer to 30%, and they’ll drop their cost down by combining their sales teams. They’re chasing the money, as they should be since they haven’t turned a profit in years, but whether or not their pricing changes as a result of this monopolization of competitors remains to be seen.

Rosetta Stone needs to be seen as the pinnacle of language education. However, the diversity of their methodologies, their lack of creativity in their discount-oriented marketing approach, and their pattern of usurping communities of happy learners will cause individuals to look elsewhere for their language learning needs.

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How Google Helpouts Could Teach Michael Bloomberg to Speak Spanish

Google, a company whose daring ventures range from self-driving cars to prolonging death itself, announced today a platform called Google Helpouts, dubbed “a new way to get and give personalized help over live video”.
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Helpouts utilizes Google’s proprietary video-chat application, Google Hangouts, to allow people to get personalized help from individuals and businesses with expertise across multiple topics. Through Helpouts, a Mom can connect live with a nutritionist to receive tips on how to cook healthy meals. A programmer can get a veteran hacker to opine on his code through live discussion. Even Michael Bloomberg can achieve his goal of speaking Spanish like a native with the help of one of our native Lingo Live Spanish teachers!


If you have a problem that requires human expertise, Google Helpouts can connect you with the perfect person. Equally important, Helpouts provides the platform that makes reaching that person more convenient and efficient by removing barriers such as geography and time-zone, and streamlining payment and scheduling.


Learn Spanish with PaolaListings give information on the individual or organization providing the instruction and may even include a video introduction from the expert themselves. Users can then connect or schedule a session for later and payment can be made for sessions up front or by the minute depending on the provider.


The ability to find and connect with a trusted expert online, in a matter of seconds, is something that simply does not exist in the world. EduFire,a company that launched in 2009, attempted to create a similar marketplace for live instruction. A former senior executive at Edufire told me “managing supply and demand is critical. If you have too many experts, they lose interest when the platform doesn’t give them enough students,” thereby creating a negative experience for the student who isn’t getting a response from the teacher. Successful platforms also need to have the technical capabilities to make the connection between student and teacher as quickly as possible.
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When the right fit is met, the lifetime value of the user is tremendous. Students cultivate a meaningful relationship with their instructor over months or even years of lessons. With Helpouts, there’s no limit to how it will impact they way we learn and connect with people all over the world.


The Best Spanish Songs

At Lingo Live, we are often asked ‘What are the best Spanish songs?’ Here’s a definitive list from our native Spanish tutors so you can see specifics from each dialect of Spanish (e.g. Mexico, Peru, Guatemala…etc). Each song will help you understand Spanish and nail pronunciation.

Diego (Mexico): “I suggest slow songs, such as ballads without a lot of noise and simple instrumentation.”

Song #1: “No”; Cantante: Shakira

Song #2: “Dia de Enero”; Cantante: Shakira

Song #3: “Para tu Amor”; Cantante: Juanes

Why These Are The Best Spanish Songs: “You may think I suggest these two because they are very famous artists only, but I think that the lyrics of their songs are simple and the music is not boring. They are Colombians, and it is said that the Colombian accent is more neutral and easy to understand. Other good examples of Colombian music with uptempo songs with simple lyrics is Bacilli.”

Tal vez se pueda pensar que sugiero a estos dos artistas porque son muy famosos solamente, pero yo pienso que las letras de sus canciones son sencillas y la música no es aburrida. Además, son colombianos, y se dice que el acento colombiano es el más neutro y fácil de entender. Otros buenos exponentes de la música colombiana que tienen canciones movidas con letras sencillas es Bacilos.”

Lily (Peru):These are great Spanish songs and are also a lot of fun to listen to!”

Song #4: “Atrevete”; Cantante: Calle 13.(Ponunciación y comandos).

Song #5: “Olor a tabaco y Channel” ; Cantante: Bacilos. ( Pronunciacion y pronombres).

Song #6: Another song by Bacilos: “Laura de no está”

Song #7: ”Héroe”; Cantante: Enrique Iglesias.

Why These Are The Best Spanish Songs: These songs are great for pronunciation and understanding pronoun use.”

Kathy (Guatemala):

Song #8: “Una Canción”; Cantantes: Los de Adentro.

Song #9: “Que Te Enamore” ; Cantantes: Sevando y Florentino

Song # 10: “Pa Ti No Estoy” Cantante: Rosana.

Song #11: “Te Mando Flores” ; Cantante: Fonseca

Why These Are The Best Spanish Songs: “These are different dancing rythyms from Colombia. I hope that they serve you well!”

“Estos son diferentes ritmos baladas y ballenato de colombia. ojalá alguna sirva!”

Welcome Lia, a new Lingo Live instructor from Argentina!

We are excited to announce the newest member to our team, Lia, who joins us from Buenos Aires, Argentina! You can learn more about Lia below, or view her personal page on our website, including testimonials from her students, here: http://lingo-live.com/lia.html

Lia has over 10 years experience teaching Spanish and also has experience conducting Business English, Crash Courses and intensive language courses in companies. Her experience also includes preparing students for international exams such as Cambridge and Toefl, TOEIC, DELE, BUSINESS SPANISH AND BEC.

Lia has her educational degree from Teachers Training College and is an undergraduate translator at Instituto Lenguas Vivas Posadas with a specialization in science, literature and technology. Currently, Lia is also taking up a program in Education at ITACA University, México.

In her own words: “For many years, I have been organizing E-Learning programs and trainings for students from all over the world. I teach English and Spanish online through communicational tools such as Skype or virtual classrooms. My clients are important companies such as Coca-Cola, Johnson Group, Mustang Systems and Melitta France, situated in Europe, the US and Latin-America. For each student, I create a learner profile in order to find out the student’s needs, objectives and interests. Thus, I am able to develop my own pedagogical material, focusing on the student’s progressive learning and personal development. In addition I have a wide experience in DELE training and Business Spanish for business people and professionals.
On the other hand I have experience in translating various documents such as contracts and other legal documents, general business documents, marketing material, diplomas, certificates and websites. My language combinations include Spanish-English and English-Spanish. I also have experience writing marketing-related articles in Spanish and English for different clients.
I am also organizing Spanish immersion courses in Buenos Aires for foreigners desiring to learn Spanish in an environment where the language is spoken by natives. These immersion courses distinguish themselves from ordinary lessons as lessons are conducted while students immerse in the Argentinean culture: they might take place on a boat on the Rio de la Plata or on an Estancia, while visiting museums or during city tours. Last but not least, I am committed to my job, I am creative and responsible and I enjoy working with groups and people from my own country as well as from foreign countries. I enjoy exchanging cultural experiences and I am always open for the questions, ideas and concerns of my clients, students and my business partners. Together, problem-solving and reaching objectives is more interesting, effective and enjoyable. “

How to Conduct Guerilla Warfare… I Mean Marketing

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This is not you.

warfare (n.) \ˈwȯr-ˌfer\: a struggle between competing entities; the waging of war against an enemy.

Entrepreneurs relish the idea of guerilla marketing. Stories about “cojones” and “getting your name out at all costs” are typically heralded as the hallmark of an entrepreneur’s journey. The courage and boldness it conveys paints a sexy picture of Che Guevara.

Despite the ludicrous metaphor, guerilla marketing really is warfare. You have an event of some kind, a tradeshow or otherwise, that serves as a fixed arena for accomplishing a goal in a limited amount of time. There are clear winners and losers (just look at the desperate faces behind “lame booths” on the last day of a conference). Each move you make could put you exponentially closer or farther away from your goal of attaining new clients.

Guerilla marketing is war against the three I’s: Irrelevance, Impertinence, and Ignorance. You’re battling these three concepts in real-time, trying to seize the day by getting your company in front of real buyers who are ready to sign up for your product (e.g. “the conquered”). We’ve attempted various forms of creative guerilla marketing over the past year and a half, including regaling morning arrivals at a trade show with a mariachi band this week. Often times, despite the creativity of our efforts, we find ourselves caught up in the trap of the three I’s.

Irrelevance

The absolute worst way to lose the war is to get mired in irrelevance. You’ve found a cheeky way to get in front of your customers and you’re elated at the reception you’re getting! You’re talking to someone about the great product that’s behind these fantastically creative individuals but your product just isn’t their bag, baby.it's not my bag baby

Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Your solution should be simple and should only solve one to two major problems that a certain subset (of people or organizations) has. You’ve always known that but the adrenaline of engaging someone through creative means makes you lose sight of reality. You’ve got their attention and they’re digging your style. Your strategy worked!

While you’re convincing these bozos who are really just more intrigued in you than in your company, real buyers are subtly poking around through your marketing materials. You’re the bozo, because you’re irrelevant and you don’t even know it.

You should have an idea in your head for what % of people in a given forum are going to truly care about the problem you solve because its their problem. This is great for two reasons. First, you have a hypothesis on a need within your industry that can be tested in reality. Secondly, you have a mental barometer that allows you to let the irrelevant freeloaders take your swag and go, keeping your eyes and ears out for that busy buyer for whom you’ve been sharpening your machete. Be gentle.

Impertinence

Being impertinent means being disrespectful or brash. There’s a fine line between grabbing someone’s attention and physically spamming them. People can’t unsubscribe from your intrusive engagements. Take note of the visual clues. If they’re walking briskly by or frantically reaching for their phone, let ‘em pass.

A lot of people have the boldness to guerilla market. You approach someone with something creative and try to sell them something without even an ounce of hesitation in your voice. Most people are nice enough to smile and maybe even exchange pleasantries. Successful guerilla marketers can tell if the person’s not in the mood. Imagine a girl being hit on by a guy in cargo shorts… are you that guy?!no

At worst, it can be intrusive and rude. At best, you come off like a used-car salesman. Avoid the Impertinence pitfall. Creativity and “right-place-right-time” only get you so far. Even if you saw something that made you think there’s no question you have a solution for this person and have vaulted the “Irrelevance” hurdle, don’t soil your cargo shorts by being flat out rude. Simple visual clues and a little southern hospitality will ensure the worst-case scenario means you have a quick pleasant greeting and get out of their way without trying to “sell”.

After our mariachi presentation at the aforementioned conference, we brought our 5+ gallons of leftover Starbucks up to the cafe in the Convention Center, offering it up for free to the 150+ people waiting in line. Half the crowd was not the least bit interested since they were waiting in line for something fancier than what we could offer. We gave them a smile, wished them well, and started filling up cups for the other dozens of people in line who were chatting us up, lauding our creativity.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some of those “disinterested people” stealthily grab some of our materials off our table. Our service became more credible due to the positive buzz it had created with nearby people who were more receptive. They weren’t in the mood to engage, simple as that, but the reaction we had garnered made them curious enough to remember us. One of those people feigning disinterest stopped me later in the day and we exchanged business cards and laughed about how mornings don’t start for him until he gets his latte!

Ignorance

I don’t mean ignorance in the traditional sense of being stupid or simple-minded, but rather uneducated. You absolutely have to prepare for your audience. As Jason Cohen points out, there are things you should be doing as many as 6 months from a conference to prepare. You have passed the Impertinence and Irrelevance barriers and are in the final hours of war… only to lose because you clearly don’t understand your customer. You’re unfamiliar with regulations in their industry or focus on product features that are of no matter to them and lose their interest. So close, yet so far.

Remember the simple circumstances: they have a problem and you have a solution. Just because your marketing effort has been spontaneous, doesn’t mean your research efforts need to be. You should already know the specific problem of your customer and what the implications of that problem are for his or her business.

In our industry, for example, we are promoting our Spanish language learning solution to medical professionals who rely on translators. These translators are often thinly spread across hospitals and are reserved primarily for critical situations. With medical institutions, we know to focus on this problem and also on how we can help them engage non-English speaking patients with basic Spanish dialogue upon arrival (a consequential problem). And don’t forget to note how health care reform is only going to make this problem worse, hence the reason we’ve been finalizing so many partnerships with medical care providers recently!

Legitimate knowledge of their problem and the establishment of a sense of urgency has not only allowed us to overcome the Ignorance barrier, but has also strengthened our beat down of the Irrelevance and Impertinence barriers, leading to a final death knell in all three I’s.

There’s no formula for guerilla marketing. You can’t draw it up and you certainly can’t know what to expect. You need a great team and a tactic no one’s seen before to truly get people engaged and smiling. But getting their attention is only half the battle. When you prepare to battle the three I’s of guerilla marketing, only then will your efforts be worthwhile.

Have comments, thoughts or ideas for us at Lingo Live? We would love to hear from you!

Muito animados… We’re announcing our first new language!

After more than a year of fine-tuning our solution for Spanish, we are thrilled to announce that Lingo Live will be expanding into Brazilian Portuguese as of July 1st! We are beta-testing Portuguese at the request of Heineken, one of our largest institutional partners. After working with Heineken over the past year focusing on Spanish training for their employees, we couldn’t resist their urging to expand into Portuguese with the same combination of live, one-on-one instruction and self-paced tutorial instruction. There are countless reasons to offer Brazilian Portuguese to our students, the best of which is the tremendous amount of demand met by limited supply of specialized courses in the online world.brazil_portuguese

With a new language comes challenges. We remain confident, however, that sticking to our core of hiring excellent tutors and developing world-class instructional materials to accompany lessons, will deliver an extraordinary personalized learning experience to our Portuguese students. We’re announcing the beta launch of this exciting new language here in order to find out if any of you subscribers would be willing to join our Heineken guinea pigs as we roll this out.

If you are interested in learning Brazilian Portuguese and have very little to no experience at all with the language, please submit your interest here and we’ll be in touch shortly to set you up with an extremely cool, intelligent, and attractive Brazilian Portuguese tutor!

If you’re not interested yourself, but may know someone who is, please send them a link to this blog post so they can take advantage of this opportunity. We promise to give you a highly-personalized, authentic learning experience at no more than our cost (~50% of what you will see quoted on our website for our more developed Spanish platform). It’s our way of saying thank you for your feedback which will lead to us building a great service (and to you being fluent in Brazilian Portuguese to boot!).

Muito obrigado!

The Lingo Live Team

4 fun facts about Brazilian Portuguese:

  1. Of the roughly 176 million Portuguese speakers in the world, 165 million reside in Brazil.
  2. Although very similar, Brazilian Portuguese and standard Portuguese differ not only in pronunciation and vocabulary (influenced by the presence of Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese in Brazil), but also in terms of syntax. For example, Brazilian Portuguese places object pronouns before the verb; Standard Portuguese, on the other hand, places the object pronoun after the verb.
  3. Spelling of words also differs between the two versions of the language (similar to how the Brits insist on putting an extra “i” in aluminum or a “u” in color)
  4. The written version of Brazilian Portuguese much more closely mimics standard Portuguese than spoken versions heavily influenced by foreign accents

Rosetta Stone buys LiveMocha: 5 Reasons Why This Was a Mistake (Part II)

This is Part II of our previous blog post entitled “Rosetta Stone buys LiveMocha: 5 Reasons Why This Was a Mistake“. 

Previously, we learned that Rosetta Stone’s purchase of LiveMocha was a mistake because (1) LiveMocha doesn’t offer a mobile platform, (2) their user base and acquisition strategy is entirely different, (3) Rosetta Stone needs credibility in the language learning community, and (4) LiveMocha won’t give them that credibility because…

#5: LiveMocha and Rosetta Stone don’t meet the biggest need of today’s language learner: the ability to learn from a native, anytime and anywhere.

At LingoLive, we’ve interviewed hundreds of parents, teachers, doctors, nurses, corporate employees, students, and passionate language learners and have listened closely to the one consistent, resounding piece of feedback: “I want to learn from a native speaker”. Learn from a native, that’s a pretty simple concept.

We know what you’re thinking, Livemocha and Rosetta Stone both offer tutoring, what are you talking about?! Let’s break down this assertion:

Rosetta Stone’s TOTALe platform offers the ability to meet with a live teacher:

  1. in a GROUP class, not a one-on-one setting…
  2. only after you’ve progressed past a certain point in their software (long after most users have given up)…
  3. you can only choose a few time slots per week when the classes are available.

 

As for LiveMocha, the site offers one-on-one instruction from a native tutor, however:

  1. The lessons are prohibitively expensive (~$40 per hour of instruction)…
  2. the instruction has nothing to do with LiveMocha content because…
  3. the tutors have little to do with LiveMocha!

 

LiveMocha tutors are provided through a European online tutoring service called Learnissimo. By relying on a third party to handle the one-on-one conversational aspect of their learning, LiveMocha is marginalizing the number one desire of language learners and the most effective method for learning a language.

LiveMochissimo
Not a game of Spot The Difference

From a business standpoint, this makes sense. You build a platform with content you can build cheaply or license from third party providers, then recoup those costs over time by charging users for access. You know live instruction is important but you offer it merely as an added feature due to its costs and complexities. As we saw in Part 1, these strategies aren’t exactly working out as both companies have struggled to get the most fundamental business ratio right: Lifetime Value / Acquisition Cost of the user.

Shouldn't those arrows be going in the opposite direction?
Shouldn’t those arrows be going in the opposite direction?

Outdated or cumbersome software doesn’t stand a chance in today’s world. Users are demanding more and are telling the world wide web about their dissatisfaction with monotonous, cookie-cutter software. Today’s language learner looks for a more personalized, interactive, and convenient experience that makes them accountable to the learning. Most busy learners are choosing between:

  1. an interactive group class somewhere in town, which lacks personalization and mobility,
  2. expensive private tutors, who usually aren’t natives and can be inconvenient, or
  3. giving up since they’re too busy to figure out the lesser of two evils.

 

Learn from a native, why is this so complicated? While some platforms, like Verbling, offer the ability to access native language partners online, they lack structure. As Tim Ferriss points out, native English speakers suck at teaching English. Speaking your native language is merely second nature, not a “skill”. By assuming that natives can teach their own language, you are claiming that anybody can teach.

Teachers are trained to understand the differences between their language and yours. They know how to adapt the language to your intended uses (e.g. a business meeting, buying train tickets, meeting your girlfriend’s parents…etc.). Most importantly, they have the patience and skill to get you through concepts that are wearing you down. If you’re learning the language, you need a real teacher.

The LingoLive Method – Native teachers accessible anytime, anywhere

Our students at LingoLive have proven that a great teacher is a need so valuable and immediate that they’re willing to pay for it. However, we’ve learned over the years that having your own teacher is only part of the solution. It can take weeks of private lessons to get to a point where you’re both on the same page, meanwhile the learner is incurring the cost. Enter software.

Rather than a lecture-style format where the teacher talks and you listen, we flip the classroom for language learning by pairing software with live, native tutors over video chat. If you signed up for a free Spanish lesson today, you’d have instant access to video tutorials and online exercises where you can start learning the language at your own pace. Meanwhile, your progress would be sent to your tutor before your lesson so he/she knows your level and what you need to work on. During your live online lesson, you’ll be developing areas of proficiency while learning how best to communicate with a native.

Diego and Megan hard at work
Diego and Megan hard at work

Here’s an example: Megan, a nurse in Connecticut, is meeting online with her Mexican tutor Diego,  as part of her twice a week lesson plan.

Diego: “Your online review tells me you have difficulties with the future tense.”

Megan: “Yup, I understand past and present but future tense is something I never use”.

Diego: “OK, using the future tense tell me:

  1. what you are going to do later today…
  2. how many patients you will see next week…
  3. and what your goals are over the next year?”

 

By the way, all of this will be in Spanish because Megan has already achieved our Purple Belt proficiency level within the first month.

The result is a system where Megan spends 100% of her online lessons with Diego SPEAKING Spanish. He corrects her pronunciation and helps her break through areas of frustration while Megan learns new concepts on her own time. In Diego, Megan has someone who is not just a highly-qualified Spanish teacher, but also will personalize the learning to her needs and make her accountable. She can reschedule her lessons easily in Diego’s online calendar and can access him anywhere she has an internet connection. Most importantly, she has a friend she can trust who is teaching her so much more than just the language.

A private tutor in Megan’s area will never offer such convenience, personalization, and accountability. Best of all, Megan pays around $22 per hour, about half the cost of an equally-qualified tutor in her area (if she can even find one).

Delivering breakthroughs

Our goal is to deliver as many of those “a-ha” language learning moments as possible, whether that happens through an online video tutorial or through a breakthrough in one of your private lessons. We’re far more likely to bring our students these “a-ha” moments because our strategy was created specifically for Spanish by Spanish linguists; they’re not language strategies copied-and-pasted across vastly different languages.

As always, we’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to comment on this post to let us know how we’re doing or find us on twitter. Earlier, we provided a link to a free trial Spanish lesson. We hope you take this opportunity to test drive our solution for yourself.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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Rosetta Stone buys LiveMocha: 5 Reasons Why This Was a Mistake

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“We are passionate about building a world in which every person is fluent in multiple languages, and today, I am thrilled to announce that we have taken the next step towards that goal. This is how LiveMocha CEO Michael Schutzler began his announcement that he will no longer be battling language learning behemoth Rosetta Stone and would instead be acquired by them.

What Michael’s letter did not mention was what Rosetta Stone, “one of the most durable and well-known education brands in the world”, intends to do with his company, which was arguably their largest online competitor over the past few years. Early rumblings from the tech blogosphere predict everything from shutting them down to moving Rosetta’s entire online platform onto LiveMocha. RST management, and particularly their new CPO Westley Stringfellow, recognize the value of the online community that LiveMocha has built.

The discussion around the acquisition by financial analysts and language learners alike has evolved into what most discussions on the topic look like in general: what actually teaches people a foreign language? Financially-inclined or not, everyone cares about what the most effective product is.

There are 5 reasons why you should be skeptical this acquisition will save Rosetta Stone, which has been running in the red for the last few years.

#1: It’s all about mobile…

Everyone knows this. Even a 4-year old on mommy’s iPhone could tell you the platform is basically worthless unless I can access it quickly, anytime and anywhere that I want. LiveMocha DOES NOT HAVE a mobile app! Their users have been begging for it. Other language learning apps have nailed design, usability, and pricing and don’t seem to be very complicated (Duolingo, MindSnacks, and LivingLanguage to name a few). This acquisition doesn’t do much to nail mobility.

#2: Rosetta Stone and LiveMocha have entirely different users, pricing and acquisition channels…

Let’s look at the marketing strategy and revenue model for each. For lack of a better analogy, this is like Stella Artois (mediocre beer, overpriced) acquiring Pabst Blue Ribbon (mediocre beer, underpriced):

LiveMocha (a.k.a. Pabst Blue Ribbon)

  • Revenue/User Acquisition: LiveMocha offers a freemium model which allows users to connect with other native learners in the hopes they can upsell them on the site’s premium materials. Hence the reason you may have been wowed by their claim of 12 million users (it’s unclear what proportion of them registered once and never returned… most “users” we interview to fall into this category). A former founding member of LiveMocha noted to us that the freemium model gave its users an in-depth understanding of what they were going to get so they didn’t need to spend as much time on communicating the unique value proposition with a pretty website. The problem, however, was simple: they gave too much away for free.
  • Marketing: LiveMocha focuses a lot on referrals/word-of-mouth and email marketing since their product has relatively happy users for the price paid. Marketing spend is far more targeted than Rosetta Stone’s.

Rosetta Stone (a.k.a. Stella Artois)

  • Revenue/User Acquisition: Rosetta Stone doesn’t allow much in the way of a demo and puts a large price stamp on their shiny yellow boxes. Lest you be scared off by the price, the sign-up process is accompanied by heartwarming photographs of cultured visitors in a foreign land along with maybe a vague snippet from outdated reviews still featured prominently as a seal of approval. Rosetta Stone does a remarkable job “selling the dream” and maximizing on the buyer’s point of least resistance, a concept LiveMocha never seemed to grasp.
  • Marketing: Aggressive ad spend, ~50% of their ~$250MM in annual revenue to be more precise. Whether it was an infomercial riddled with Americans butchering Italian or the bright lights of an airport kiosk, something got you to know their brand. Any hyper-targeted marketing spend has been directed at governmental contracts and institutional sales which they’ve done an incredible job with considering what people have to say about their product (more on that next).

Unfortunately, neither strategy is really moving the needle much: Privately-held LiveMocha sold to Rosetta Stone for about half of what they raised in capital over their 5 years of existence. Meanwhile, RST has been delivering a negative return to their shareholders over the last few years.

#3: Rosetta Stone needs credibility in the online community…

Rosetta Stone analyst Ian Bezek told us their customer base is very hard to segment, but Rosetta Stone buyers generally fall into the 30-50 age range, are predominately located in the US and Canada, and are relatively affluent. Pushing aside the massive opportunity internationally and focusing only on this domestic market for language learning, what does the future look like for Rosetta Stone?

  • Users can easily be informed not only of Rosetta Stone’s shortcomings but also of the countless lower cost and/or free competitors who are beating them at their own game, either through honest reviews or detailed effectiveness studies.
  • Very few reviewers point to a true value in Rosetta Stone’s product. In the case that you do read something crediting Rosetta Stone’s approach, it is almost always followed by a lower-cost alternative that is just as good or better.
  • Users will look for a red flag before buying because it is so easy to do.

Again, executing the sale at the point of least resistance is key. However, today’s buyer only needs to type “rosetta stone review” in Google and watch the red flags flood their screen. What % of 20-35 year-old potential users do you think do this, or are already informed, before buying Rosetta Stone? I would be shocked if it were less than half. So if 50 out of every 100 people who are legitimate buyers do this simple research, how many of them decide to trust Rosetta Stone despite the negative press? 10? 20? Maybe Rosetta Stone is only losing 20 out of every 100 legitimate buyers?

That’s still a 20% bounce rate on their conversion page! And that’s after they’ve accepted the price point. But more importantly, as more informed buyers slide increasingly into Rosetta Stone’s demographic “strike zone”, how large will this number grow and what compounding impact will that have on the size of the black eye blemishing Rosetta Stone’s pretty online marketing image?

#4: LiveMocha doesn’t provide the missing piece that will make Rosetta Stone’s product more effective…

Just give me what I need man!
Just give me what I need man!

Unfortunately, ideal solutions offered by the online community don’t point to LiveMocha. When a scrutinizing buyer follows the rabbit trail of clues as to a better alternative from the online peanut gallery, it leads to a hodgepodge of suggested apps, websites, podcasts and countless other tools which focus on specific needs (grammar, vocabulary, listening and speaking comprehension…etc). Who has the time and patience to research and aggregate all these resources? If LiveMocha were the answer, it would help Rosetta Stone improve their online reputation and increase conversions.

So what ends up happening? It’s likely the buyer will just take up a class at the local community college or meet with a low-cost tutor at a coffee shop. If convenience is really important and they want something online, they’ll likely just drop the dream altogether rather than “wasting their time and money”. I put this in quotes because we talk to these people every single day. Which leads us to the last and most important reason this acquisition was a mistake.

#5: LiveMocha doesn’t meet the single biggest need identified by today’s paying language learner (neither does Rosetta Stone)…

SHAMELESS PLUG WARNING! This next section outlines specific product flaws in LiveMocha and Rosetta Stone’s approach to language learning with a comparison to what we’re building at LingoLive. It goes into detail about the single biggest need identified by the hundreds of busy language learners we have interviewed. If you don’t want to hear our view as to how we’re trying to solve the challenge of how to provide personalized, convenient langauge learning in an increasingly mobile online world, you should stop reading here. 

If you are interested, sign-up to our free newsletter by clicking our logo below and we will email you a link to the fifth and most important reason why Rosetta Stone’s acquisition of LiveMocha is a mistake (Part II of this report). This important assertion is outlined in detail and backed up by our own research talking to hundreds of parents, college students, corporate professionals, travelers, doctors/nurses, and other language learners throughout the globe. As always, happy to keep the discussion going on our Twitter page.

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SXSW Wrap

 

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Hundreds of thousands of people converged on Austin, Texas over the last two weeks to witness everything from discussions on outsourcing your startup to the musical melodies of Trinidad Jame$. Needless to say, it was an exhausting week. Highlights included Elon Musk’s keynote address that followed the test launch of the reusable Grasshopper test rocket.

 

For LingoLive, the SXSWedu portion was significant as we got the opportunity to learn about developments in the EdTech, or educational technology, space. Bill Gates talked about the tipping point for the education technology market. Jessie Woolley-Wilson talked about mastery learning, adaptive learning, and how software can empower teachers through data.  And finally, Al Gore kicked off the start of SXSWInteractive by touting the importance of personalized, self-paced learning and particularly how video enables this in the 21st century. Most of it resonated with us as a company, as we aim to build the most effective online language learning platform utilizing self-paced video tutorials coupled with live one-on-one instruction with a professional tutor. There will be challenges, of course, so we try not to get ahead of ourselves. Rather, we aim to be more focused than ever on building this capability, soliciting feedback from our users, and achieving our goal, initially for Spanish, and expanding to other languages as soon as we are ready. Stay tuned!