Media Matters

The self-help industry is pivoting towards unique experiences

If one starts with the birth of self-help, one goes back to books. Some of the most potent self-help content is personal development literature written by the likes of Dale Carnegie. This was the age where information was the actual asset, and the focus of the industry was on distribution.

It was difficult to get valuable advice out there, and we’re grateful for the greats who authored their books. One can assume that thousands more never got to give out their secrets because they weren’t into books.

“Books are no longer what books were back then,” says Ashley Patrick, an author who is also a self-help heavy-hitter in her own right. When we connected with her, it wasn’t for her advice but for her perspective on the history of self-help. “A lot has changed, but one thing is still the same: book sales don’t make money.”

Ms. Patrick explains that self-help authors started touring and, in their lectures, noticed something that is obvious in hindsight. “Not all attendees had read their books. Often, people would bring their friends along. At that point, it became obvious that there was a market outside of book readers. And that ushered in the dawn of video.”

From Youtube to TikTok, video still remains relevant, but its initial function was to improve the accessibility of the contents of the self-help books. “Accessibility has remained at the forefront of innovation,” she says. “Podcasts became popular when looking at a screen became a liability. As commute times increased, audiobooks and podcasts took over.”

It is not possible to have a conversation about the evolution of self-help without including Ashley Patrick. She has her own place in the industry’s history as she is one of the first coaches to flip the direction of self-help content. She was an advocate for accountability as the self-improvement obstacles.

In 2020, she discovered Clubhouse, and an idea emerged. Being a radio host and realizing the potential of audio-interaction online, she created an open-ended mastermind. In a first in the self-help industry, she started hosting calls where her followers from the radio show as well as her Facebook friends would join to listen to her and discuss their issues.

Some say that this is what inspired her peer multi-millionaire Antonio T. Smith Jr. to turn his daily meetings into live zoom calls. Ashley insists that the inverse is true. “I was already hosting community self-help sessions but stumbling across Antonio’s fresh Zoom call made me move away from a smaller platform to Zoom, which is far more accessible,” says Patrick.

Self-help, according to Ms. Patrick, is all about participation. “We’re past distribution and accessibility solutions. Now we need solutions to encourage participation,” she explains. “One of the things I admire about Antonio is that he gets very specific with his audience and doesn’t try to force a ‘one-size-fits-all solution on his listeners.” Ashley’s own live sessions titled after her brand Just Talk are open to everyone. She encourages participation, personalization, and accountability.

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