Blackboard's Market Share Erosion

Barry Dahl is asking the question, “Is Blackboard losing clients?” and has created a wiki for people to enter information on whether they are migrating to Blackboard, migrating from it, or re-evaluating their installation. In general, it would be great to see more visibility of information of this kind. I’d love to see a wiki or database where schools can enter the LMS(s) they are using and their state of evaluation for the future, regardless of brands they adopt or consider. But at a coarse-grained level, we already know the answer to Barry’s question. In November of 2007, bolstered by the excellent financial forensic work of Jim Farmer, I wrote a post entitled “Blackboard Is Losing Customers, But What Does It Mean?” Then in March, 2008 I reported on a survey by the American Association of Community College’s Instructional Technology Council (ITC) showing a loss of Blackboard’s market share within the American community college cohort.

The main takeaways from these data points are as follows:

  • Blackboard is losing market share.
  • Most or all of this loss is happening at the low end of the market.
  • The two main drivers for loss on the low end are (1) Blackboard raising their average price to $50K/customer, and (2) Blackboard announcing the imminent death of WebCT CE, which is forcing low-end campuses to re-evaluate their vendor situation.
  • Despite the market share loss, Blackboard is growing both revenues and profits.
  • The reason Blackboard is growing both of these is that they are able to cross-sell and up-sell more product to their higher end customers (and even some of their mid-sized customers) while acquiring new high-end customers. 
  • So far, it appears that Blackboard is continuing to do very well on the higher end of the market, probably because they are perceived as a “safe bet” by the average risk-averse university.
Blackboard CFO Michael Beach explicitly acknowledged much of this in the company’s last quarterly earnings call. Responding to a question about Blackboard’s shrinking number of international customers over the quarter, Beach responded,

Yeah, I think clearly we never want to lose clients, but I think the trend, which generally what we’ve kind of experience broader across Blackboard, which was we had attrition of low priced customers at the same time we were adding higher priced customers. So, the overall dynamic the overall impact on contract value is positive but from a unit back that we, we didn’t had enough to cover the losses.

So the answer to Barry’s question is yes, Blackboard is losing clients, but that doesn’t mean that they are losing net business.

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About Michael Feldstein

Michael Feldstein is co-Publisher of e-Literate, co-Producer of e-Literate TV, and Partner in MindWires Consulting. For more information, see his profile page.
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