Today the language learning community busuu.com and the renown German publisher PONS announced a partnership forming the third collaboration between an online community and a classic publisher after Livemocha / Pearson and Babbel / Hueber / Collins.
PONS is part of the second largest German publisher Klett and develops for more than 30 years language learning material and dictionaries in over 35 languages. The PONS material will be interactively included in the already existing busuu courses and are complementing the learning experience. The PONS Grammar Guides will provide the learner with detailed grammar explanations.
From today on the new PONS Grammar Guides are currently available for German and Spanish native speakers learning English, French, Italian, Spanish and German. The integration of this material is only the beginning of the partnership between the two companies. More languages and even business courses will follow.
Bernhard Niesner, Co-Founder of busuu says
The integration of the PONS material completes our existing program perfectly. We are very happy to have found a strong and innovative partner in PONS.
Gabriele Schmidt, CEO of PONS says
The interactive learning approach of busuu.com convinced us. The integration of our material in this web 2.0 environment completes the existing offer of PONS and opens us an access to new target groups.
I think this shows that my feeling back in the last decade was not false. In March I wrote about partnerships as a new trend in online education and in July I drafted my thoughts on new life for old content. The busuu / PONS partnership might be one of the last great deals we’ll see in this sector. There are not that many top publishers left and I don’t think that the now “married” ones will give their content to other communities in the same market.
To me this is a very good fit. Both companies are targeted on the European market so they share the same client base. Another important factor for me is the community. TechCrunch Europe pointed out that busuu is not only the smallest language learning community compared to Livemocha and Babbel but also the only one of those three that has no funding yet. For me this is not a disadvantage per se. As I wrote in the comments on TC I think the important factor in this game is the conversion from free accounts to buyers of premium content. The fact that you have 4.x million accounts and $14 million USD in funding does not mean that your product actually converts better. You need a community that is serious about learning a language and not a community that wants to collect “friends” from around the world.
This leads to a whole post of its own but I think you can compare the situation with a library, you know those buildings with physical books in them. The older ones amongst us may still remember them. When you were learning there it was silent, no one was talking or only at a very low voice because people there where serious about it. Learning on Livemocha can be like learning in an Irish pub, with live band, free Guinness and a rugby match on TV. It might work but the focus for most of the members there is not exactly the learning of a language.
And a very interesting side note that is not mentioned on TechCrunch: busuu was approached by PONS for this partnership.
Anyway, I already invited Bernhard Niesner for a follow up interview on EDUKWEST so I hope I will be able to give you some more information on this deal soon.