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When media companies branch into education, failure often ensues

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 17 2013 7:00 a.m. MDT

With traditional media outlets seemingly scurrying to update antiquated business models, a revolving door of media conglomerates is seeking some measure of financial refuge in the education field.

David Bergma, MCT

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With traditional media outlets seemingly scurrying to update antiquated business models, a revolving door of media conglomerates is seeking some measure of financial refuge in the education field.

“It’s no secret that ‘traditional’ publishers and broadcasters are scrambling to find new ways to make money beyond subscriptions and advertising,” Todd Tauber wrote Saturday for The Atlantic’s business website, Quartz. “One increasingly common (yet largely unnoticed) way that many of the biggest, best-known, most-respected media owners are doing that is by launching educational programs featuring their brands, content and talent.”

Tauber, who co-founded The Economist’s education division, pinpointed three major differences between media and education: customers, capabilities and businesses. “Only a handful of these initiatives (most notably News Corp.’s Amplify) have turned into meaningful, lasting businesses. … More commonly, they end up shut down after their corporate parents lose patience,” he said.

An article in Monday’s New York Times highlighted one such instance of a media entity striving for a foothold in education: The immensely popular interactive video game Minecraft has found its way into classrooms in California, Sweden, Denmark and Australia.

The Times’ Nick Bilton reported, “Around the world, Minecraft is being used to educate children on everything from science to city planning to speaking a new language, said Joel Levin, co-founder and education director at the company TeacherGaming (that) runs MinecraftEdu, which is intended to help teachers use the game with students. …

“ ‘Kids are getting into middle school and high school and having some ugly experiences on Facebook and other social networks without an understanding of how to interact with people online,’ (Levin) said. ‘With Minecraft, they are developing that understanding at a very early age.’ ”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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