Pearson Plug & Play: Connecting with New Audiences Through an Innovative API Platform
Founded in 1844, Pearson PLC is the largest book publisher in the world. It holds a 47 percent stake in Penguin Random House, the world’s largest consumer book publisher, and a 50 percent stake in the Economist Group, a publishing group that specializes in international business.
Challenges and Opportunities
Pearson has flourished since the early Victorian era despite massive shifts in business, technology, and culture around the globe. The company’s success has much to do with its adaptability: it began as an engineering and construction firm before transitioning to the world of publishing in 1921.
The past decade, however, has arguably brought more dramatic changes to Pearson’s business than any other period throughout the company’s long history. With the emergence of new content platforms, channels, devices, and formats—and the challenge of maintaining interoperability across these increasingly complex ecosystems—Pearson has embraced a more flexible architecture to remain nimble in the face of rapid change.
“There’s been an important shift in the world around us,” says Diana Stepner, vice president of innovation partnerships and developer relations at Pearson. “Environments are more open. APIs are becoming the norm. And at Pearson, we see that as an enormous opportunity.”
Initially, Pearson created APIs around three major properties: DK Eyewitness Guides, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, and FT Press; it later added the Pearson Kitchen Manager as a resource for food enthusiasts and chefs. Developers can access all of these through the Pearson Plug & Play portal, combining Pearson content with other material and data to build innovative products, connect with a broader range of audiences, and explore new revenue opportunities.
More APIs are sure to come. In the meantime, Pearson has listened closely to developer feedback and made its APIs even more flexible by moving to a NoSQL-based solution on MongoDB.
Apigee technology makes it all possible. Apigee Edge—composed of API Services, Analytics Services, and Developer Services—protects data, controls traffic flow, enables in-depth analysis of API usage, and helps manage the developer lifecycle.
“From the start, Apigee gave us a lot of guidance to get our APIs up and running,” Stepner says. “Their expertise was invaluable in helping us identify and establish API best practices, and we’ve worked collaboratively with them ever since.”
Screenshot from developer.pearson.com
The Pearson Plug & Play platform has sharpened the company’s focus on making more content available to more audiences. These days, whenever Pearson starts a new project, participants are encouraged to offer a supporting API. That helps ensure a constant flow of fresh content to the Plug & Play platform, making it an even more valuable resource for developers both internally and externally.
For years, Pearson has been perceived as more of a traditional publisher than a technology innovator. The Plug & Play platform is changing that.
“We’re actively reaching out to the developer community and participating in a lot of events,” says Stepner. “People are beginning to notice. They don’t talk about Pearson in the same way—as simply a publisher of books. They’re beginning to see us as a leader in the digital world.”
- Adapting to the emergence of new content platforms, channels, devices, and formats
- Maintaining interoperability across increasingly complex ecosystems
- Embracing a more flexible architecture to remain nimble in the face of rapid change
- Increasing the company’s focus on making more content available to more audiences
- Encouraging a constant flow of fresh content, making the API platform an even more valuable resource for developers
- Changing the perception of Pearson as a digital leader, not just a traditional publisher