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Earlier this year, Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that it would discontinue producing its annual 32-volume printed edition.

"By concentrating our efforts on our digital properties, we can continuously update our content and further expand the number of topics and the depth with which they are treated without the space constraints of the print set," Encyclopaedia Britannica's president, Jorge Cauz, explained.

Despite the fact that the historic publisher reportedly has more than 500,000 subscribers paying $70/year to access its content online, Encyclopaedia Britannica's digital future is still in question. After all, an upstart like Wikipedia may not have the same trusted brand as Encyclopaedia Britannica, but Wikipedia's model has given it a far larger audience.

So what is Encyclopaedia Britannica to do? There are no certain answers, but one thing is clear: if it's going to succeed with digital, it needs to make its brand more relevant and visible online.

The good news for Encyclopaedia Britannica is that it appears to be doing just that with a new Bing deal that will include answers from Britannica Online directly within Bing search results. Yesterday, Microsoft announced the partnership on the Bing Search Blog:

Starting today, we’re excited to announce a partnership with Encyclopedia Britannica to include Britannica Online answers directly in the Bing results page.

The answer provides a quick overview of the subject, a thumbnail image, and useful facts and figures making it easier than ever to get trusted content in search. We also pull in direct links to other trusted sources.

Interesting, the example searches provided still feature Wikipedia as the top result, but Britannica.com does have a prominent listing on the first page, sometimes above the fold. That's a big improvement for the publisher, which, it should be noted, doesn't appear on the first page of the SERPs for the same queries on Google.

Obviously, more prominent placement on Bing won't secure Encyclopaedia Britannica's digital future. Better and more prominent placement on Google would deliver far more bang for the buck. But for an organization that appeared to have been left behind, it's surely a step in the right direction.

Patricio Robles

Published 8 June, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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