Thanks to Bill for passing this along.
Brandon Hidalgo never had much patience for the rigors of academia. Funny, then, that he now runs Chantilly, Va.'s the Teaching Company, which sells loads of prerecorded lectures on meaty topics, such as the history of the Vikings and The Art of Critical Decision Making, delivered by scholars from the snootiest of ivory towers.
Hidalgo's Great Courses catalog offers 350 courses and more than 5,300 hours of lectures given by profs from Harvard, MIT and Oxford. A 12-lecture, audio-only CD set titled the History of Hitler's Empire, given by University of Pennsylvania professor Thomas Childers, goes for $20. At the high end a 96-lecture DVD set called Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy, taught by professor Alex Philippenko of UC Berkeley, sells for $230. The company's annual sales: $110 million.
How do you peddle such pricey content when a blizzard of educational material is free online? Hidalgo's team takes a surgical approach to direct marketing--and that means nonstop testing, online and off, of every message that customers see. "We live and die by metrics," says Hidalgo, 38.