01 January 1999

ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA has scrapped all charges for accessing its website (, enabling all comers to browse gratis its massive database of authoritative information. Instead, it aims to build revenues via advertising, sponsorship and hyperlinks from its thousands of articles to related e-commerce sites. In the short term Britannica expects a significant decline in income: online subscription revenues will cease altogether while sales of CD-Roms and the thirteen-volume hard copy set will wither. Says UK managing director James Strachan: 'There are two centuries of trust out there. We have to keep building on that authority. Two years ago it would have been impossible to introduce this change because the business model hardly existed.' Initially, the free site is US-based but a UK version will go online in January.