paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies

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13. Pearson

Business information, United Kingdom (Public)

Last year’s rank: N/A

Digital Content Revenue

$3,140,000,000 (34% of total)


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Digital Snapshot

Pearson says its business has “fundamentally shifted” from one-fifth to one-third digital revenue in the last five years. It is thanks largely to the group’s many education businesses, like its MyLab homework system in the U.S., which are transitioning from printed books to e-books and from one-way education to collaborative learning through online platforms, for which Pearson has 42.9 million users. But a 29 percent jump in digital subscriptions to The Financial Times to 267,000 meant the paper made 47 percent of its money (£200.69 million) from digital in 2011. E-books hit 12 percent of Penguin revenues.

Key Move

Though iPad’s 2010 launch gave wings to digital subscriptions, the FT turned its back on apps. As the platform wars came to a head, Pearson’s business paper yanked its iPad and iPhone edition from iTunes Store, grumbling about lack of customer data and Apple’s 30 percent commission. Instead, the FT became one of the first big publishers to swap executable apps for web apps – its well-regarded HTML5 edition effectively mimics its forebear, contributing 19 percent of new digital subscriptions, which continue chugging away at the same pace as before.

Our Methodology

Pearson’s annual report said: “In 2011, our digital revenues were £2bn or 33% of Pearson’s total sales.”

Source: 2011 Annual Report

— RA

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