When Britannica.com agreed last week to provide content over Sprint's PCS Wireless Web users, we wondered why. How often do you need complete info on, say, aardvarks on your cellphone? Britannica spokesperson Tom Panelas told us, "When I was in graduate school I used to hang at a bar that had an 11th edition Britannica. The bartender would use them to stop arguments. You know people have arguments all the time at the ballgame, at the theatre…. One of the great things about wireless content is that it's there when you need it!" Panelas says there are several potential revenue streams, including ad sales, sponsorships, getting wireless carriers to pay for content to make their services more competitive, and getting end-users to pay for premium content upgrades, "just like cable viewers pay more for HBO."
Britannica doesn't expect substantial wireless revenues anytime soon, "the name of the game is to get out there and start interacting with customers as the medium develops." The company also views their CD-ROM products as investments in the future of the Web because they contain broadband content all ready for when the bandwidth is available for it. By the way, rumors of Britannica's print edition demise are incorrect. The next print edition is scheduled for 2002. (We're hoping for a review copy!)
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