Friday, May 3, 2013

Penguin's New Breakthrough

In case you haven’t noticed, Ed Tech continues to boom. Last year Ed Tech startups grabbed more than $1B in funding -- ONE-BILLION-DOLLARS... just looks bigger that way. Since my first passion in business was actually educational technology, from time to time I’ll post about Ed Tech applications. Here’s the first!

Penguin Publishing is an old company, they’ve been around since 1935. Most people probably consider publishing a dull and non-innovative space. Some may even believe that with advent of Amazon Self-Publishing traditional publishing companies are already in decline. I beg to differ... and Penguin’s new app really blew me away.

Poems By Heart

This is probably my new favorite app, really!

Why? I guess some people are forever hopelessly romantic long after high-school. Poems By Heart is a really fun and simple way to memorize poems. You can impress your friends or, if you’re like me, someone special to you by reciting to them poems of all kinds, from William Blake to Emily Dickinson, and more.

This app isn’t just my favorite because if the value it gives me -- that is, my wife loves it when I recite to her a romantic poem -- it is my favorite because it is one of the most innovative ideas I’ve seen in a long time. Penguin Publishing has taken something many people probably had forgotten about, and made it interesting and modern all over again. Truth is, we all wish we could rattle-off poetry like they do in the movies, don’t we?

Poems By Heart is a game, with levels of difficulty for different poems. The app takes you through stages, removing words from stanzas or lines to help you memorize. You select the correct words from several below the stanza or line you’re memorizing. For your final mission you have to recite the poem by heart to the app, and it records it for you. You get points for doing missions quickly and filling in the blanks with the correct words.

Not only is it fun, it’s educational since you are engaging with literary history (the poem) multiple times, learning vocabulary and usage -- not to mention learning about the poets themselves (or just poets period!).

But it gets better. From a business perspective, this app is a brilliant innovation. It’s clear that Penguin invested a lot of time and talent to leverage it’s massive store of content to generate new revenue through mobile. While the app offers new users with two free poems, to memorize more poems -- or specific poems that you love -- you have to purchase sets. The sets are sold as poetry genres now, but you can imagine with all the poetry in the world the possibilities for Penguin are endless.

Hat’s off to Penguin... then again, “He who binds to himself a joy / Does the winged life destroy....” We’ll see if it sticks, but so far looks like a big win for Pearson and for poetry all around.