Encyclopedia Britannica Socializes Content, Takes on Wikipedia

Encyclopedia Britannica ran its business for almost 250 without disruption, until of course, Social Media democratized content and new user-generated resources such as Wikipedia changed everything.

Up until recently, if you wanted to utilize Britannica’s services you could purchase the 32 volume Britannica, which has 65,000 articles, for just $1,400. Or, you can access it on the web for $70 per year.

Britannica has just shifted the game back into its favor with the release of a clever and powerful new program, Britannica WebShare. If you’re a web publisher, which is defined as someone who publishes with some regularity on the Internet, be they bloggers, webmasters, or writers, you can now access Britannica for free.

The application process is short and sweet. It took me about five minutes to apply and I was authorized a few hours later.

I can now research and share information from Britannica on the Web, whereas, until now, I’ve used Wikipedia for such services.

For example, here’s a link to the topic of “social psychology” and also an embeddable widget for information on U.S. Presidents.

Britannica has also integrated other portable services to distribute content across the social web such as Delicious, DIGG, FURL, Reddit, among others. Viewers can follow links to read the specific articles at Britannica, but they can’t navigate to other parts of the site.

While some make a case that Britannica needs to open up its content for free, I won’t disagree, I’ll only say that Britannica is on the right path to ensure that its legacy and intellectual assets remain relevant.

Just to give you perspective however, Comscore reports that for every page viewed on Brittanica.com, there are 184 pages are viewed on Wikipedia (3.8 billion v. 21 million pave views per month). In Britannica’s defense, the content is indisputable and much more reliable than many of the topics I’ve struggled with over at Wikipedia. This has everything to do with editorial infrastructure and generations of review and evolution versus a few years.

Either way, no matter what industry you’re in, the new Britannica Webshare program is a tremendous resource.

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  • Chris

    I’d even guess that Wikipedia is OK with this move, and even happy about it. That’s the beauty of an abundance based world

  • Dragan

    There is need for a relevant definitions, indeed. For example, look on Wikipedia for the term Social Media… That is not a relevant definition (in my opinion), and I have not time to change it with more relevant one… It is good to have a competition…

  • beatofhawaii.com

    I think EB is way late on this. In many ways, the internet and search have replaced EB. For me, even Wikipedia is basic, though useful. I prefer corroborative research.

  • Mariana Sarceda

    EB’s new approach to knowledge in this era of new social media is welcome. I don’t trust Wikipedia completely so I’m glad that now I have somewhere to check info against or even search for free.


Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. More so, he humanizes technology’s causal effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation.

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