Turning Content into Commerce: A Case Study with Pearson Education

The book publishing industry has been disrupted, disrupted and disrupted some more. Book publishers have a reputation of being dinosaurs that don’t know how to embrace digital, headed towards extinction. But HigherEd publisher Pearson has schooled itself on innovation, exploring new digital commerce business models and acquiring EdTech startups, and it’s paying off. Today, digital makes up 50% of its revenue, with a goal of 70% by 2015.

What are some of the key ingredients of Pearson Ed’s digital strategy? They dished at PaidContent Live last week, and we’ve got the scoop.

Sense of entitlements

A digital textbook can be monetized by a variety of business models. For example, a student might buy time-limited access to content, or buy only the chapters associated with course syllabus. Textbook content could also become available as part of a semester-long subscription bundle. Supplementary material like study guides, sample tests, video or learning games could be accessed within content through micro-transactions.

A digital content commerce platform needs to recognize entitlements (rights to access content) and to support re-monetization like renewals, upsells and upgrades.

Programmers as merchandisers

Busting up a 400-page textbook into granular pieces requires this micro-content to somehow describe itself. Of course this supports search features, but also personalization and even guided-learning. Pearson Ed gives an example: the textbook diagnoses a student struggling with the quadratic equation, and prescribes a way out of the rut through supporting materials — perhaps within other publications. APIs make the content-fetching and push-recommendation possible, while analytics drive the intelligence.

Though these content recommendations could be monetized through micro-payments, \with content, it’s not as much about continuous transactions as customer lifetime value. Operational business intelligence is a big part of this, continually learning and shaping business models and consumption requirements that are unknown today.

Melting the snowflakes

Large organizations like Pearson can find it challenging to get different departments and business units to come together, especially when acquired teams come with their own ways of doing things. When different groups see themselves as unique “snowflakes,” IT ends up building a lot of point solutions. Pearson’s working on bringing many groups together to identify similarities, so less marginal work is done, and more core work that can be scaled across groups. Not only does this spare resources, it also creates more opportunity to integrate content across groups into new apps and products.

This and more was shared in the PaidContent Live workshop Rubber meets road – a case study for monetizing content everywhere with Pearson Education’s VP of Marketing Technology and Global VP of Online and Commerce, along with Elastic Path’s CTO and GigaOM’s VP of Research. Check out the full session replay below (41 min). (Disclosure: Pearson Education has recently become a customer of Elastic Path)

Subscribers: can’t see video? View the video on www.elasticpath.com

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2 Responses to “Turning Content into Commerce: A Case Study with Pearson Education”

  1. These are great thoughts, along with the video, to see how commerce is changing and how we need to think more creatively.

    -Gasper

  2. I’ve got to applaud Pearson Ed for the innovation they’re displaying in a very traditional industry. It’s hard to adapt to changing times when you’ve done things the same way for many years, but the publishing industry is being forced to do this.

    I will always love a real book (not going to lie), but the technological opportunities with publishing are exciting and, as you make clear, often bring in more profit than print.

    Interesting comparison of departments to snowflakes, and very right-on. Technology, and IT, does have the potential to bring people together in ways they were never able to before.

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