Although Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica, shelved its venerable print edition in favor of a digital-only version more than two years ago, is looking to reclaim its legacy as the household reference of choice.
The 246-year-old, privately held company is shifting its virtual encyclopedia toward a free, advertising-supported model, believing it is poised to click with a new generation of online knowledge consumers.
“I think that most people in the consumer space would prefer to use Britannica to many other alternatives,” said Jorge Cauz, 52, Encyclopaedia Britannica’s president. “Whenever Britannica appears on search engines, we have a pretty amazing click-through rate.”
Once the undisputed king of reference libraries, with armies of door-to-door salesmen peddling the expensive multivolume sets to families across the globe, Britannica has struggled to find its place in the digital age, where user-generated Wikipedia offers something on just about everything for free.
Hoping to boost site traffic and grow advertising revenue, Cauz has opened about half of Britannica’s online database to the public at no charge. Two years ago, 80 percent of the articles were behind a pay wall, accessible only to subscribers.
Read the rest the Robert Channick’s report – Encyclopaedia Britannica sees digital growth, aims to draw new users – in the Chicago Tribune.