This is shaping up to be a dreary week for print media.
We’ve heard rumor that CNN might pay $200 million of a website
, learned that newspaper is the nation’s fastest shrinking industry
, and on Tuesday, found out Encyclopaedia Britannica will go all digital.
The Chicago-based publisher said 2010 edition will be its last one in print.
In a series of blog posts
on the Encyclopaedia Britannica website, editors and executives remained optimistic about the decision.
“Today is a commemoratory moment at Britannica,” wrote Jorge Cauz
, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. “We are energized by the fact that our efforts of the last few years have been successful. We have completed our transition from print publisher of the Encyclopaedia Britannica to a digital provider of knowledge and e-learning solutions.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica was first published in 1768. According to The New York Times
, they became a status symbol for families in the 1950s. Sales of the encyclopedia peaked in 1990, when 120,000 editions were sold in the U.S., the Times
Now, only 1 percent of the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s revenue comes from its print editions. Curriculum products and online subscriptions make up the bulk of it.
But, once again, editors at the company kept up a sunny disposition.
“The encyclopedia will live on—in bigger, more numerous, and more vibrant digital forms,” the editors said in a blog post
. “And just as important, we the publishers are poised, in the digital era, to serve knowledge and learning in new ways that go way beyond reference works. In fact, we already do.”
Shortly after the announcement, the Wikipedia entry for Encyclopaedia Britannica
was updated to reflect the change. Wikipedia and other online resources are credited with accelerating the decline of the traditional encyclopedia.
However, in a 2008 interview with Ragan.com (PR Daily
’s sister site), Tom Panelas, the director of corporate communications, said he didn’t believe Britannica was competing with Wikipedia
“Their model, which allows them to scale up very rapidly, also has some pitfalls and short-comings,” he said.
In 2008, Britannica rolled out a blogger relations program—an advanced idea at the time—in which it gave free one-year subscriptions to “Web publishers,” which included bloggers. The WebShare program created a lot of buzz, and some questions about the ethical nature of giving away subscriptions to bloggers.
“We don’t think there’s an ethics issue there,” Cauz told Ragan in 2008. “What we’re trying to do is make sure they have free content there.”
Questioning the ethics of giving away free stuff to bloggers? Oh, how things have changed since then.