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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

21 Responses to “paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies”

  1. Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

    And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

  2. ciaranj

    If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List’: Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.

  3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

  4. Mindbendingpuzzles

    What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

    I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.

  5. Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.

  6. Brendan

    Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on eBay.com and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.

  7. Zato Gibson

    “Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

    I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.