What MOOCs can learn from Goodreads and Google

Netflix give us movies made by others, and at the same time; movies they make by themselves. They do well, but it is a balance act one easily might lose. Here is a lesson on that, for the MOOC-provider, its users and suppliers, to chew on. Based on how Goodreads, Amazon and Google handle it.

Goodreads is a review site that has been around for a fairly long time, founded already 2006. It grew fairly rapidly when we got E-shops and E-books for books. A community for book-readers one might call it. Millions of people still use Goodreads.

Anyone surprised that Amazon bought Goodreads year 2013? Actually no. One clearly can see several possible reasons. Avoiding possible future competition could be one – if you have millions of readers you could also start selling books to them. Another one could be data. Getting to know what books that people read, and what they think about what they read, could be good knowledge to have if you run an E-shop on books. A third reason could then, of course, be that you, by owning them, could push your own books a bit stronger compared to books provided by others.

The last idea is already a fact, since some years back. You can check for yourself what it means. One of my own books could be found at Goodreads, this one. If you click on that link, you get two options for buying it – two different buttons to push. One button is called “Amazon”. The other one is called “Online Stores” – it is a list of all other bookstores out there. Could it be easier for you to push the Amazon-button?

And how does the other bookstores feel about that?

It is nothing unique with big actors acting like this. Google is probably one of the most well-known cases. On one hand they help you to search the web. On the other hand they control what search-result you get. However, you can pay to get access to their control-button. It is called Google AdWords.

But if you do not handle this balance act well, then you might end up with tremendously big problems. It is just fairly difficult sometimes to run two fundamentally different business at the same time, not the least if they are connected.

It easily drives you in two different directions at the same time. It could tear you apart.

If Amazon, by owning Goodreads, would push their Goodreader-users to far, they likely would leave. And some have, for instance this one. But a lot of people still do not seem to mind. Goodreads is still around, and fairly big.

Who decides where the limit is, on how far you can push this? No-one. It is a kind of power-game that decides it. The stronger position you have on the market, the harder you can push. The weaker position you have, the weaker your ability to push is. If customers and suppliers accept this, then no problem. If customers and suppliers hates it, then big problem.

At least so far; Google do not seem to have any major problem with their own advertising-business. On the contrary.

In the world of Mooc´s today you find platforms, like Coursera and Edx, being owned by some of their own suppliers. Coursera have an ownership-connection to Stanford. Edx have an ownership-connection to Harvard and MIT.

Is it possible to see that fact on their own sites, in a similar way as we can see the ownership that Amazon is having over Goodreads? Well, you tell me.

But imagine you could, would you then care? Would anyone care?

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