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iTunes Opens a Special Section for Free Collegiate Content

It would take a miracle for Hubert Dreyfus’s hourlong lecture “What Is Existentialism?” to unseat Rihanna’s R&B tune “Umbrella” as the top seller on Apple’s iTunes music store. But Mr. Dreyfus, a professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, has scored a minor iTunes hit with the talk, one of 27 lecture-hall sessions recorded last year during his course on existentialism in literature and film.

Now, more professors may get a chance to follow Mr. Dreyfus’s lead. Today the iTunes store unveiled its new iTunes U portal, a spot on the site that will collect college lectures, commencement speeches, tours, sports highlights, and promotional material, all available at no cost.

Some of the content — like Mr. Dreyfus’s lecture series — has been publicly available on iTunes for some time. But that material had languished on colleges’ own sections of the iTunes store, which were not commonly viewed by off-campus iTunes users. “Certainly, if you were not on the campus, there’s no way you were finding this stuff,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes, in an interview today.

The new portal should make it much easier for shoppers to happen upon collegiate content. The store’s home page now features a link to the special iTunes U section, and recordings offered through iTunes U now show up in search results.

For good measure, iTunes U has added college content that was previously not available to the public. As of today, 16 colleges — including longtime iTunes U users like Berkeley and Stanford University and more recent additions like Concordia Seminary and the Otis College of Art and Design — have contributed recordings to the online shop.

Mr. Cue said the new portal will help colleges reach broader audiences and provide something of value to their own alumni. “As an alumnus, when do you hear from a university? Usually when they’re asking you for money,” he said. “This is a way of having an online dialog with alumni that’s not just a one-way process.” —Brock Read

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