December 2, 2010
Ed-Tech Advocates Eye Rupert Murdoch's Move Into K-12 Market
By Ian Quillen
Educational technology experts say the purchase of ed-tech company Wireless Generation by media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. raises questions about how effective the partnership will be over the long haul, but they hope the Nov. 22 announcement inspires further large-scale private investment in the K-12 technology market.
They say the deal—in which News Corp. bought 90 percent of New York City-based Wireless Generation for $360 million—is far from a certain success. While the media conglomerate’s expansive resources may be unparalleled within the relatively small ed-tech business sphere, News Corp. may find it challenging to define its footprint in that world—perhaps one of the reasons it also recently announced the hiring of outgoing New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein as an executive vice president in the office of the chairman, where he is expected to help oversee educational endeavors.
Further, observers say, the longer, slower business cycle that typifies the education market may take some adjustment on the part of the world’s third-largest media company, which counts the 20th Century Fox film company, Fox’s numerous TV enterprises, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and book publisher HarperCollins among its holdings.
“It’s a very different business than any of the different businesses they’ve been in,” said Karen Billings, the vice president of the educational division of the Software and Information Industry Association, or SIIA, based in Washington. “Everything is a longer cycle. If they’re expecting revenue or profits over a traditionally shorter time cycle to satisfy investors, it’s going to be difficult to do.”
In addition, the widespread perception of News Corp. as conservative in its political sympathies—with such outlets as the Fox News Channel—combined with the for-profit nature of its new education endeavors may make building trust with many educators harder than it’s been for the philanthropic ed-tech efforts of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and film producer George Lucas, said Mike Lawrence, the executive director of Computer Using Educators, an advocacy group based in Walnut Creek, Calif...