Hobsons will soon own the world.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Free, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Thoughts | Posted on 06-05-2008


Just had a Google Alert come across that Hobsons has acquired CollegeConfidential.com, which has thought to have been a fairly reliable and unbiased source for high school students and parents everywhere. How will the community change as a result of this acquistion?

I’d expect to see collegeconfidential.com turn into a paid forum registration for ‘premium content’ soon. Either that or Hobsons just wants to do a little datamining and pimp their products. They will figure out some sort of revenue stream though, and I’d guess that it’ll put the user experience at risk.

I am trying to get out of their ‘Chat’ solution right now, and looking at a few options that I have heard many good things about. Chat University is an absolute joke. Look at this. Or any ChatU site really. Appealing? Not a bit.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread to see how the community reacts.

Free is here to stay? I guess I’ll hold on to that thought. Economics and a little $$ can do some crazy things.

[Press Release: Hobsons Acquires College Confidential]

Comments posted (10)

Guess the no more reporting the news didn’t last too long did it? :)

And you need to fix the CSS so that the subscribe to follow-up comments isn’t WAY down at the bottom of the page. I believe that’s an issue with a clear command gone wrong?

See I even had to leave this stupid extra comment to subscribe to the sort of wise crack I’m going to get back for the first comment.

Depends on how you define news. I view this as extremely pertinent to me as well as higher ed, and not something most people are going to see in their daily RSS feed read.

Something like a new feature or tool on YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, etc. Now that would be the area we aren’t covering anymore, unless it has a specific influence on something we’re doing in Higher Ed or a project we are working on. Make sense? :)

I’ll check the CSS, thanks!

So far it seems no one on that feed has commented on the things you’ve noted here. I wonder if they’ve stopped to consider them?

Very relevant higher ed news-related post.

I think College Confidential already had some bias – neurotic parents pushing their kids toward Ivies and wondering if the wind blows southwest on a Wednesday in their town, does their child have a better chance of being admitted to Princepennyalevard? Would it help if their student kept their back to the wind while juggling?

Paid college consulting services were always a component/offering of College Confidential, btw.

There have been quite a few higher-ed related buying sprees the last few years. College search publications (the magazines sent to homes and high schools of sophomores, juniors and seniors) have been bought up left and right by a small group of publishers. (Less salespeople calling me, though, which is a plus.) The same is true of some of the college search Web sites.

Nelnet (generally known as a student loan company) has bought up some key education products/services, as well. Much of the value is undoubtedly in the database of registered users, and the ability to market loan products to them. Nelnet owns petersons.com, for instance.

(Registered user database access is the value of niche social networks, be it for rock bands or for knitting. Compare that to a Facebook group, where the admin can’t click through to full profiles of group members, much less export data. Much easier to promote CDs, concert tours, or knitting kits when you can export the data…)

Hobsons has definitely bought up quite a few different products. The wide range of offerings by them and other higher ed focused vendors is appealing to many admissions offices, no doubt, who lack expertise and want a turnkey solution.

The integration and data sharing between the products has promise/appeal. On the other hand these vendor are often less than experts at many of the products/services they offer. “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

To pick one example, if I’m sending e-mail I’d rather use a vendor that focuses on e-mail and has a solid understanding of sending infrastructure, throttle limits (sends per connection, acceptable simultaneous connections, send rates per hour…), ISP relations, active deliverability monitoring, third party deliverability auditing, etc. What good is the integration factor of some of the higher ed vendors if the e-mails being sent are getting caught by a spam filter?

Note where the business world is heading in terms of integration – different products from different vendors integrating together.

As a business I can use Salesforce (Web-based CRM software with a multi-billion dollar revenue stream – experts in their field), and separately pick among a number of e-mail service providers (experts in *their* field) that seamlessly integrate with Salesforce. Thus I can use a company with true e-mail expertise for sending marketing and transactional e-mails based on targeted lists generated in Salesforce, and have metrics (opens, click-thrus…) from those e-mails automatically appear within Salesforce. I can have dashboard views of these campaigns, and also see how potential clients interacted with these campaigns.

The higher ed vendors focused on technology are doing a lot in terms of building awareness that technology in outbound marketing and recruiting is useful, as higher ed is often behind the business world in this regard. Good time for them to be in their field – it must feel like shooting fish in a barrel.

And because higher ed is behind, they don’t notice the infrastructure issues. I honestly don’t think some of these higher ed vendors realize the infrastructure issues they have…

Some quick pragmatic comments:

Hobsons Key Facts database powers some college search Web sites such as CollegeView and, more notably, Naviance (another Hobsons acquisition). The same database seems likely to power the CollegeConfidential college search in the future, as well. If you don’t have login info now to update Key Facts info, it is even more imperative to contact Hobsons to get that info.

Use the power of Google’s advanced search to keep track of what is going on in sites like CollegeConfidential, including the date tool. This generally outperforms any built-in search tool.

For example, http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&as_q=butler&as_epq=&as_oq=&as_eq=&num=10&lr=&as_filetype=&ft=i&as_sitesearch=collegeconfidential.com&as_qdr=m3&as_rights=&as_occt=any&cr=&as_nlo=&as_nhi=&safe=images

(Note the date dropdown box next to the search button.)

Thanks for the comments, Rob. Great insights! I made the first page of that link, whoo hoo! We keep pretty good tabs on CC, even though there is not much BU talk on it. We’re also up to date with Naviance. I just changed our Early Action dates on Naviance and CC about 2 weeks ago.

On one hand, it might not be bad if I could just log into Hobsons and change info that would filter out to all the sites they own, but a company their size doesn’t usually work well on something like that as much as we’d like them to.

The discussion forums at CC are exceedingly corrupt. The moderators are allowed to have two identities and will often edit their own posts or bolster their own arguments with their alternate identities. They do not enforce the TOS in anything resembling a uniform manner, and often the moderators are the worst offenders (under other names, of course). It will be interesting to see if CC will have to clean up its act now that it is associated with Hobsons.

Thanks for the insight! From what I have seen out of Hobson mergers, it will be business as usual.

I’ve been involved in college search, and I’ve followed the discussion forums at CC and also at another web site/message board called AdmissionsAdvice. I was interested to see that there is a thread on AA regarding the merger between Hobsons and CC. Rumor has it that the person who runs AA, and who started a thread about the merger, used to be affiliated with CC in some way. Looks like there are some others who are interested in this merger too.

You’ll find the thread under “College Confidential To Partner with College Marketing Firm” in the College Related News forum.

Here’s an excerpt from the post:

“It will be interesting to see how this will affect College Confidential’s discussion community. One of the best things about CC has been that it is a place where people can discuss their personal opinions about various colleges. I can’t help wondering if open, unbiased discussion of Hobson college customers will now be censored or at least monitored more closely.

I’m also wondering about whether CC will now become a vehicle for colleges to market to its members, similar to what Princeton Review does when you register there. Be prepared to start receiving emails from colleges if you post in their threads, or discuss them on the website there.”

http://www.admissionsadvice.com/ (When you go to this web site, on the left hand side, there is a link to the discussion board)

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