We got interesting news from the two European competitors of Livemocha. Markus Witte, Co-Founder of Babbel wrote a blog post about the success of Babbel 2.0. If you can remember, Babbel changed from their freemium model to a premium only model in November 2009 which of course has caused some discussions if this was such a clever move.
The Co-Founder of the language learning community Busuu, Bernhard Niesner, wrote on their company blog about the launch of a new group feature on the site.
But let’s start with Babbel first. Like Markus writes on the Babbel blog, the decision to dumb the freemium model last year rose some eyebrows but apparently the decision was the right one, at least for Babbel. According to the post Babbel grew by 80.000 members in the first two and a half months of 2010 alone.
So, how and why did it work out? If you take a look at the philosophy of the market leader Rosetta Stone you will read that they want to attract people who are serious about learning a new language. If you now take a look at the Babbel post you will read
The change has brought in a committed cadre of learners happy with Babbel’s usability, efficiency and overall quality. It shows that our concept works.
A committed cadre of learners, hence learners with a specific goal or deadline. Markus gives another good reason for people paying for language lessons
The financial crisis has left Babbel unscathed, while at the same time the tense state of the job market has motivated more and more people to take their further education and career preparation into their own hands.
Paying for a service means that you trust the service provider that your goals will be achieved with its help and obviously people trust Babbel and its partners enough that they are willing to spend their money on their offers.
Another interesting points in the blog post are some figures on who is using Babbel. Thus most members are native Spanish speakers, the most requested language to learn is (not surprisingly) English and the average age of the member is between 35-45 years.
Now, if we play a bit FBI profiler what will we get? Someone who is in a good positioning in his/her job but because of the crisis he/she cannot be sure that it stays this way. So some extra qualifications like speaking a decent English in a globalized business world is essential. And either those people pay it out of their own pocket or they get the money from their employers. Hence money, especially at a quite low rate like on Babbel, is not the issue. Quality of content and user experience is. And of course renown brands like Collins help, too as those customers grew up with names like this in mind during school and university.
Secondly, I was surprised that native Spanish speakers are the largest part of the Babbel members as I anticipated it Busuu’s home market. So, one could ask if Babbel is gaining ground on Busuu’s own terrain and if so, what is the reason for that?
Which brings us to the second news in this post: Busuu launched a new groups feature on their platform. As you know, Busuu recently secured some funding from an Austrian business angel who also joined the company as an advisor. Busuu also won the Innovator’s pitch at this year’s CeBIT fair at the beginning of March.
Busuu members can now join groups which are built around specific topics like Spanish for Tapas, French recipes or on environmental issues. The goal is to practice your language skills by discussing with native speakers on those different topics which I think is a really nice idea because it is one of the main reasons why you would want to learn a language (if you are serious about it). You want to discuss your ideas and express your feelings on topics like you would do in your native language, so this is really a helpful feature to my mind. Busuu members with at least three stars can open a group on any topic, invite their friends and then moderate the discussions.