Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Media Company Looks to Profit from Education

The Association of American Publishers estimates the K-12 textbook market approaches $3 billion in the United States, with an additional $4 billion spent on teacher guides, testing, and reference material. So it should come as no surprise that companies other than traditional publishers are looking to grab a piece of that pie.

Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC, is doing just that with the introduction of a line of digital textbooks called Techbook that will provide video, virtual labs, and downloadable content, according to a report in The New York Times.

“It’s kind of perfect for us,” Discover Communications CEO David M. Zaslav told the Times. “Educational content is core to our DNA, and we’re unencumbered—unlike traditional textbook publishers, we’re not defending a dying business.”

Tough words perhaps, but education publishers are not going to concede their turf without a fight. Pearson, McGraw-Hill Education, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have all introduced digital educational products and recently teamed with Apple to sell high school textbooks through its iBook store.

“Over the last 10 years alone, we’ve invested $9.3 billion in digital innovations that are transforming education,” said Will Ethridge, CEO of Pearson North America. “One way to describe it would be an act of ‘creative destruction.’ By this I mean we’re intentionally tearing down an outdated, industrial model of learning and replacing it with more personalized and connected experiences for each student.”

In the meantime, Discovery has a staff of 200 working on its Techbook project. The cloud-based technology works on any hardware a district might be using and will cost about $38 per student for a six-year subscription, compared to the $70 average price for a traditional textbook.

“Television is always going to be our primary focus, but we’re incredibly excited about the business potential of the Techbook,” Zaslav said. “Education is an area of solid, sustainable growth.”

Techbook is only targeting K-12 students for now, so it’s just scratching the surface of education’s “business potential.”

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