Why I Quit Platform University

Last month I joined Platform University, Michael Hyatt’s membership site for book authors and anyone else who wants to build an audience. This is an extension of his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

Michael clearly knows what he’s talking about. He has over:

  • 300,000 unique monthly visitors to his website
  • 123,000 Twitter followers
  • 92,000 monthly podcast listeners
  • 70,000 newsletter subscribers
  • 17,000 Facebook fans

Those numbers represent Michael’s “platform”—his online audience. If he wants to sell a book (or anything else), all he has to do is let his tribe know about it.

The whole notion of building an online platform according to Michael’s model is seductive. Who could resist?

Well, I did. I canceled my Platform University membership after one month. Perhaps my reasons will stimulate your thinking.

Begging the Big Questions

The bottom line for building a platform, says Michael, is creating great content. But after consuming dozens of interviews and webinars from Platform University, I found myself still wondering:

  • What exactly is great content, anyway?
  • How do you build such content in a systematic way?
  • What is content anyway? How does it differ from the information, stories, instructions, and ideas that we published in books and articles before the Internet came along?

I never got in-depth answers from Platform University (or from anyone else who’s written about building a platform). These are tough questions—and easy to avoid.

Endless To-Do Lists

What I did get from Platform University is an urgent message to get busy. There’s so much to do!

Platform University abounds in suggestions for getting your domain name, choosing a web hosting service, setting up a WordPress blog, recording podcasts, tweaking your website design, and completing a hundred other technical tasks.

But if you have nothing valuable to say, then isn’t all that stuff beside the point?

Endless Demand for Content

One big problem that we face in the age of online platforms is the implicit demand to keep cranking out content. There’s always another blog post to write. Another Twitter timeline to replenish. Another Facebook page to update. Another Pinterest image and another Instagram photo to publish.

And that’s not just for today. It’s every day. For the rest of your working life. I’m seriously wondering whether Michael Hyatt—or any of us—can meet this expectation.

Is it any wonder that the Internet sounds like a vast echo chamber? Content gets retweeted, reposted, and regurgitated in countless other ways. Fluff abounds, clichés rise to the top, and the repeated strains become transparent. In the place of real ideas, we get lists, link bait, and self-promotion.

Can you believe that there were ever people like Margaret Mitchell, who published one novel (Gone With the Wind) during her lifetime? Or Robert Pirsig, who wrote two books (including Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance) and then declared that he was done? That kind of restraint is looking pretty good right now.

There Are Other Ways to Do It

While consuming content from Platform University, I fell into the assumption that Michael’s way of building an audience is the only way. To be fair, Michael doesn’t directly say do it my way or hit the highway. But then again, he doesn’t point to alternative models.

Yet those models abound. There are many people building an online audience, and they do it in different ways. See the following for examples:

P. S. Michael’s a good writer. If you want to build a platform, first check out his excellent blog, which you can read for free.

21 thoughts on “Why I Quit Platform University”

  1. Currently working on a “helpful hint for busy bloggers” entitled “How to slowly and painstakingly create a slightly above average blog post” since that’s the only way I know how to do it. Also considering a post on “Everything always takes a lot longer than they said it would.” Perhaps this is the key to “great content.”
    p.s. Anyone familiar with Robert Pirsig is alright in my book (I read Lila as well).

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  2. Michael Hyatt (PLATFORM UNIVERSITY)

    Jeff Walker (PRODUCT LAUNCH FORMULA)

    Stu McLaren (TRIBE)

    …and probably many more.

    All mates, all working together to promote each others’ products through Affiliation so they can all make money from each other on top of selling their products.

    I signed up for the $1 trial of PU and very quickly realised that 7 days was nowhere near enough time for a trial. I believed if they didn’t realise that, then they probably knew I didn’t have a chance to trial it in that time and so my credit card would simply be charged by default after that first week, anyway. That felt like a scam, even if it wasn’t.

    So I didn’t stay with PU.

    BUT – I did sign up to TRIBE.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think these guys are all nice, reputable fellas who simply know a way to work us to make money. Fair enough.

    Stu in his TRIBE course shows you many, many ways how to gently (and sometimes, not so gently), coerce people into signing up and then staying. Essentially, it’s all a trick.

    Then you suddenly realise he employed these processes to get you in, and you do feel a little dudded, although you know it all works, because it worked on you 🙂

    That said, the information he supplies is indeed helpful, entertaining and oh so slick. He has his stuff together. No doubt about it.

    But what about the content?

    I felt it was a lot of information and, although I haven’t yet finished the course yet, I believe a few things:

    1) You should be able to download the videos for playback on mobile devices when you want to.

    2) The information is detailed, but it’s all about WHAT you should do and nowhere, so far at least, does it show you HOW to do it. It is all very well being told what he does, but, HOW do you do it? There is a BIG difference. It needs a very detailed timeline on how to work things. For example: HOW do you get people to KNOW about your products in the very first place? Apparently, you run a launch. Ok, HOW? I just don’t understand how people get to KNOW about your products in the very first place so they realise that they want them. Another thing: How does Stu get his course pages looking so great? What are the mechanics behind that? What software does he utilise, and how do you make the course modules automatically progress with you? How do you attach course notes and downloads, etc?

    There is so much information in his course but no real instruction on HOW to do it all. No road map. No hand-holding. And, in honesty, this is what beginners need.

    The other thing was, before signing up for the course, I expressed my concerns to the TRIBE “tribe” about the cost of the course when I had little money to spare on such things if they didn’t work. I got a detailed answer back from them, quickly reassuring me that I either went with it and changed my life or stayed where I was in business. They did say, however, that the pre-sale introductory videos did have a lot of the information in them that was in the course and I may, in fact, be able to get enough info from them if I didn’t spend on the course. Then, just before I decided to sign up, I expressed my concerns once again and explained that I was very concerned about the cost of the course and what happens if it doesn’t work? Guess what? I got EXACTLY the same answer, word for word. A canned response. Didn’t make me feel too convinced about a personalised, caring service when I was parting with $3400 Australian.

    Although I haven’t done their courses, I would imagine Jeff Walker and Michael Hyatt are very similar.

    I am sick of the pre-sell hype about how they were nothing and what they did to change their lives made them something. Enough of all that. Quickly show us what to do, step by step and let’s get on with changing our lives without the fluff.

    Hold our hands. Guide us through. Step By Step.

    THEN it will be great value.

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  3. I have cancelled my Platform University membership also, and I am have to say that I am very frustrated and disillusioned. I agree with you about content. While PU does offer some good material, much of it common sense or not applicable to actual content writing. The rest is available elsewhere without the cost. What is more disturbing to me though is the fact that my account was debited 2 weeks prior to my billing date. I have been trying to contact support for ten days. My first email received a reply that said they were too busy enrolling new members to reply to me right away and to be patient. But I received no further reply. Over the last week, I have sent a second email (still no reply) and left three phone messages, and still no response. I sent another email tonight to Michael’s email, which promises that “we do our best to reply within 24-48 hours.” We’ll see. They have lost a lot of credibility with me. When a company promises immediate support but (1) doesn’t have time to support current customers because they are too busy enrolling new ones, (2) doesn’t reply to multiple support requests for 10 days, (3) deducts charges 2 weeks before the billing date stated on the account and then receipts the charge for the stated billing date, and (4) has no phone number to call and connect to an actual person, that doesn’t seem like a business practice I want to learn to emulate. I’m done.

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  4. Thanks for reading, Steve, and I’m glad that you found something of value in Platform University. You make good points here. I am collecting my ideas on this topic for a future post on platform building.

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  5. Doug, good afternoon. This is the first comment I’ve read by you and thanks for your insight. We’ve never met; I’m Steve, nice to meet you (OK, that’s taken care of).

    I joined Platform University (PFU) and I missed some of the same things you mentioned. I then just picked the PFU interview with Shauna Niequist, and found myself looking (listening?) for something. Anything. And I found some good, challenging stuff (at least for me).

    I try to be a “both/and” person, rather than an “either/or” one. So I thought MH’s PFU could be a thesis, and your observations an antithesis, and wondered what a synthesis might be. For me, it seemed the practical stuff is always needed, AND I also liked being “forced” to find some goodness in the more general flow of the PFU conversations.

    I am a neophyte in these concepts; if I have a voice and (eventually) some thoughts to share, I think I have to wrestle them to the ground in combining the conceptual nuggets with the more practical how-to’s. This may be some of my early steps.

    Again, thanks for your observations and letting me ramble.

    Regards.

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  6. Wow! I was just wondering if I should continue beyond this first month. I could not even find a form to introduce myself and if you press the help button you just get referred to a form page, so I just started participating in the forum expressing my frustration with wordpress and weebly and looking for another alternative. Fortunately I got a lot of great feed back from one of the members and will begin looking at squarespace as he suggested. ,I, too, am looking for “how to” information on blogging, podcasts, acquiring an e-mail list, using social media effectively, etc. and so far it seems to be all inspiration and no real information. But what I got the first week from one person who responded to my problem with website programs was so helpful. I’ll see how the next few weeks go but won’t wait as long as I did with lynda.com trying to learn WordPress. Thanks

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  7. Hi, I joined the Platform University and I did not enjoy it. I cancelled before the first months came to an end.
    The Masterclasses are just chats with his friends in which they cross sell their products (!), the behind the scenes are staged videos (looks like Hyatt is reading a teleprompter and the is very off putting) that consist of endless checklists. There is a lot of “high level”info and very little “I actually show you how to do it” action.
    I did not feel it was worth paying $30 a month for info that I can easily find for free on the internet.
    It all feels staged, there is no element of doing things because you are passionate about it. I got the sensation (purely subjective) that it is an obsessive way of trying to make as much money as possible, whilst “hiding” behind the message that you want to share your knowledge. I am not convinced, something is off.

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  8. Nice post and I fully agree on your point about content creation. Michael does provide some tips in this area, but it’s not his focus. That’s kind of on us as bloggers and business owners. How do we express what we know, engage the conversation, and connect with others. This is the trick. Is there demand for what we say and do people like how we say it. If that could be taught then you have a blog!

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  9. I agree, and I don’t think that anyone can claim expertise in building an online platform. The whole enterprise is so new and chaotic.

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  10. I will say that I am giving it a shot. I think with anything you take what works for you and leave the rest. I think my only issues is how overwhelming the information can seem until you let it sink and and can figure out what applies to you.

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  11. I just got done listening to one of Hyatt’s webinars about blogging and he was doing a hard sell on Platform University. It is never quite clear to me how to make money–I guess building a tribe such as he does. His talk on platform is seductive (I have read his book on Platform). Hyatt advocates outsourcing. I would like to know how many paid staff people he has on his team! I am not going to join the University. Thanks for your blog post and testimonial.

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  12. Blogging must be much bigger than writing a blog. It must be part of a mission that you are very passionate about or it becomes drudgery. If we have our eye on a goal and executing a blog is part of it then the thought cannot become about cranking out a blog. The thought must be about working toward your mission. When we focus on the obstacle we are overwhelmed but when we focus on the goal while we work on the obstacle, then overcoming our resistance to blogging is easier – not easy but easier. Blogging cannot be about just making money. It is like saying the goal of a business is to make money. Without money a business cannot survive but it is not its goal, its purpose for being. It is the same as saying the goal of life is to eat. We need to food to live but that is not our purpose. Find your purpose such as serving/helping others, and if blogging is part of how you accomplish it then keep that in mind and blogging will be something you will want to do as it takes you toward your purpose.

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  13. Michael was a bit overwhelming for me, too, Doug. I didn’t join Platform University, but even his constance emails were too much. I have a friend, Kim Grabas, who has a nice blog on building a platform: http://www.yourwriterplatform.com. She has an amazing amount of info and tips in each post. But still, building a platform and/or maintaining a blog by cranking out the content is tiring. And I agree with you that it’s important to keep providing alternative models, which is something I think you have taken on as part of your mission.

    Thanks for sharing this, Doug!

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