Enid Burns for redOrbit.com
After ceasing print publication of its history volumes, it was fairly clear that Encyclopedia Britannica must forge an online presence in order to remain a fixture of historical information, even if the bookshelves are virtual. Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, just entered into a partnership with Encyclopedia Britannica to provide Britannica Online answers directly on the Bing results page as part of Bing’s answers feature.
Search for philosophers such as Giordano Bruno, and you’ll find a brief entry from Britannica Online Encyclopedia with a picture, brief description on who he was, and quick facts like date of birth. For a deeper look at the philosopher, users can click on the link to go to Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
Bing announced the deal on its Bing.com community site. Microsoft’s Franco Salvetti, principal development lead for Bing, posted the announcement saying, “A core focus for us here at Bing has been about delivering relevant information in a more organized way to help you find what you need more quickly and get stuff done.”
One commenter liked the addition saying, “it’s specially helpful to those who do not fully trust in Wikipedia,” the commenter noted. While the announcement said the changes would take place immediately, search results may vary. One might expect the Britannica Online result on top of the page, but the Britannica Online Encyclopedia entry is the fourth search result.
Even in the early evolution of the internet, Encyclopedia Britannica has struggled to remain relevant in the print world, but also to become present in the online world. At this point, online partnerships such as the one with Bing are crucial to the brand’s survival. “They’re probably on the extreme edge of print media that need to update to online really quickly,” Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst at M2 Research, told redOrbit.
The internet has displaced the need for books, to some degree, and Encyclopedia Britannica and its 32-volume printed edition felt that pressure. The company ceased its print edition in March and said it would focus on selling its established reference works to subscribers online, as well as mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets.
Mobile will be the next hurdle where Encyclopedia Britannica will need to stay relevant. “We’re living in an increasingly non-PC world,” says Pidgeon. “Smartphones are going to leapfrog PCs. The best thing to do is a web-based strategy, which would work on a mobile web browser.”
While Encyclopedia Britannica has had troubles staying relevant, Microsoft has had its own issues making its Bing search engine become relevant. “Bing is trying to compete and be a bigger force like Google,” Pidgeon says. “Bing wants to be more useful, more versatile, and more used. In the old day they used to pay people to use it.”
Bing still has some work to do to make the Britannica Online Encyclopedia entries more prominent on the page. Currently Wikipedia is the first search result for many queries, which doesn’t put the partnership with Britannica Online Encyclopedia in the spotlight. As the commenter stated, Wikipedia is not always trusted since it’s a user-maintained site. Britannica Online Encyclopedia is a professionally written and researched source.