Random Penguins Ahead

October 29, 2012

In a rare glimpse behind the curtain, this weekend we heard a bit more about the owners of two of the Big Six publishers. Bertelsmann, owner of Random House, and Pearson, owner of Penguin, stepped into the spotlight as they announced the intended merger of their two trade publishing houses this morning.

So who are these two companies? Bertelsmann is a German-based media giant; Europe’s largest radio and TV broadcaster, largest magazine publisher, and the world’s largest trade publisher. You may remember them also as one of the largest music producers in the form of BMG Music. The list of publishing imprints under the Random House name, as well as the true extent of the rest of Bertelsmann’s holdings is quite overwhelming.

Moving from Germany to the UK, we find Pearson, the parent company of Penguin publishing. Perhaps best known in this country as one of the three textbook giants, Pearson’s influence on the current educational ecosystem is incredible. They hold many of the textbook names we remember from our school days like Addison Wesley, Prentice Hall, and Scott Foresman. In addition, they provide some of the largest student information systems and testing systems through PowerSchool, Success Maker, and other brands.

Assuming approval by regulators, the new Penguin Random House will dominate trade publishing; it will control more than a quarter of the US market.