Friday, January 30, 2009

SIIA Conference: Marjorie Scardino

Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson spoke at this weeks Software Information Industry Association meeting and here are my notes from that presentation.

Skills and capabilities that new generations are going to need to be successful in the 21st Century include: the ability to be imaginative, capable of or exhibit group working skills and the ability to solve increasingly complex business and social problems.

As educators we also need to think about hard skills: Math and Science.

Embedded in the development of hard skills is the development of the ability to connect disparate information and to be able to evaluate the veracity of information and information sources. It is not a unique skill to be able to do a simple ‘barely defined’ Google search. Anyone can do this; however, students are not being taught the skills necessary to dig deeper, form arguments and determine back-up or be able to present their research.

On new technology. She cites/refers to a digital youth study: How the young interact with new technology. (Horizon Report).

There are five new technologies (and she adds a sixth).
  1. Mobile devices: language,
  2. Smart objects: sensors
  3. Ubiquitous computing semantic enabled software:
  4. Geo tagging: to all media.
  5. Storage and access: cloud computing.
  6. Electro foretic (sp) pages.
In her opinion, (and this follows how Pearson is expanding) companies have to take a long term view: change the way teachers teach, the way readers interact with news, information and content. Additionally, the long term view or approach to investment has to be consistent. She says, sustained investment is difficult in a public company.

The key to success is to involve your customers. Release your software early and enable a culture that allows ‘do-overs’ assuming they are corrected or improved rapidly. Other comments:
  1. Need to try everything: New companies have inclusive cultures that generate new ideas from all levels. This is important and the culture needs to be adopted by old line companies as no company can get it right if idea generation is concentrated at the top of an organization.
  2. Content and technology are inextricable bound together.
  3. Need to use technology that enables use of more of our intellect, allows us to reflect as well as analyze.
Discussing revenue models, Scardino spoke about a ‘the Ralph Lauren’ model of charging a lot for something and assuming people will pay for it. She seemed to be saying that if something were priced high then people would assume it had value and was worth the price. She then brought up an anecdote about her time as a newbie attorney in Savannah. When she moved there, she was one of many (but few women) attorneys charging $200/hr. She decided to charge $300 on the basis that people would come to her thinking she must be worth the extra (premium).

More recently she indicated that they have been able to raise the price of the FT and consumers have come with them on the price hike. She also noted The Economist’s revenues are 50% subscription versus advertising. A central component of their content strategy is to overlay the content with tools and analytics that extend the value of the underlying content. She says they as a company long ago realized that content was becoming a commodity in news and other segments like education. “There is only a few ways to describe photosynthesis” or describe history. Technology however can be a differentiator if used in an appropriate manner so the company attempts to understand how the reader interacts with the content. This approach is used in news, where there is more attention paid to analysis than news reporting, and also in education.

1 comment:

rgm2007 said...

Hi there,

Well, accessibility for disabled students is unfortunately not on the list, but Pearson has been working on this challenge:

'Unveiled at the National Instructional Materials Access Standard (NIMAS) Implementation Advisory Council meeting, Pearson HTMLbook moves the needle forward by incorporating features that are critical to the success of students with print disabilities. Students can then apply layers of assistive technology, such as screen readers that read the digital text aloud.

Through the HTML format, many of Pearson's math titles also will include a specialized electronic format that opens a new awareness of complex math equations for print-disabled students by displaying equations as text, not as images. Verbal descriptions of pictures, charts and graphics, which have traditionally been inaccessible to students with sight disabilities, may be included. [...]