Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
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Edinburgh, Scotland, Great Britain
|Country of origin||Scotland|
|Headquarters location||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Key people||Jacqui Safra, President,|
Karthik Krishnan, Global CEO
|No. of employees||About 400 (300 in Chicago, 100 worldwide)|
The company was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 18th century, in the atmosphere of the Scottish Enlightenment. A printer, Colin Macfarquhar, and an engraver, Andrew Bell, formed a partnership to create a new book that would embody the new spirit of scholarship. William Smellie was engaged to edit the original three-volume work, published one volume at a time beginning in 1768.
The encyclopaedia's reputation grew throughout the publication of its subsequent volumes.
In 1920, the trademark and publication rights were sold to Sears Roebuck, which held them until 1943, when ownership passed to William Benton. The 12th edition was published in 1922/23, and the 13th edition was published in 1926. A thoroughly revised 14th edition was published in 1929.
By the mid-1930s, the company headquarters had moved to Chicago, Illinois, United States, and the editorial staff were now no longer disbanded after the completion of a new edition, but kept on as a permanent editorial department, to keep pace with the rapid increase in knowledge at the time.
Starting in 1936, a new printing of the encyclopaedia was published each year, incorporating the latest changes and updates. In 1938, the first edition of the Britannica Book of the Year appeared. This annual supplement is still published today.
William Benton published the Britannica from 1943 until his death in 1973. Benton also acquired Electrical Research Products Inc. Classroom Films and renamed it Encyclopædia Britannica Films. After the death of Benton's widow Helen Benton in 1974, the Benton Foundation continued to manage the Britannica until it was sold to Jacqui Safra in 1996.
In 1952, Britannica published the landmark set Great Books of the Western World, a 54-volume set of the "great books" of Western culture.
On March 9, 1976 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission entered an opinion and order enjoining Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. from using a) deceptive advertising practices in recruiting sales agents and obtaining sales leads, and b) deceptive sales practices in the door-to-door presentations of its sales agents.
Jacqui Safra gained ownership in 1996.
Under Safra's ownership the company has experienced some financial woes with freelance contributors waiting up to six months for payment and staff going years without pay raises, according to a report in the New York Post. Cost-cutting measures have included mandates to use copyright free photos. Britannica in December 2002 told employees it would raise the contribution paid into their 401(k) accounts, then eliminated them entirely. A company spokesman said: "We've had some cost reductions and belt-tightening but we're not going into details… We're a privately held company." Fall of 2017, Karthik Krishnan was appointed global chief executive officer of the Encyclopaedia Britannica Group. Krishnan brought a fresh perspective to the role based on several business leadership roles in consumer and B2B media, including RELX (Reed Elsevier, FT SE 100) and Rodale driving business and cultural transformation, and accelerating growth. Krishnan, an adjunct professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business also believes in the “transformative power of education”. Taking the reins of the company as it was preparing to mark its 250th anniversary and 25th year on the Internet and to define the next phase of its digital strategy for Everyday learners (consumers) and K-12 schools, Krishnan launched a series of new initiatives tied to two key themes. 1. Elevate better information in the digital universe 2. Transform learning inside and outside the classroom First was Britannica Insights, a free Google Chrome browser extension that helps searchers cut through the clutter, save time, learn more, and be sure about their results on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The purpose was to “provide trusted, verified information” in conjunction with search results that were thought to be increasingly unreliable in the era of misinformation and “fake news.”. Wired.com highlights Britannica's effort to fix false search results. The product was quickly followed by Britannica School Insights, which provided similar content for subscribers to Britannica’s online classroom solutions, and a partnership with YouTube to fight conspiracy theories on the platform in which verified Britannica content appeared both on YouTube search results and in a tile below relevant videos. 2018 was capped with the launch of Curiosity Day and Curiosity Compass on Dec 10th to mark the 250th founding anniversary and 25th Online anniversary. LumieLabs launched early 2019 won the teachers choice award for classroom. Britannica LumieLabs Helps Students Become Digital Storytellers. The groundbreaking and easy to use video-production Platform Promotes 21st century skills including Media Literacy, Curiosity, Creativity, Collaboration Summer of 2019, Britannica enhanced its LaunchPacks platform with Learning Strategies, which makes it easier for teachers to help students develop inquiry, close reading and summarization skills and meet Common Core mandates. Guardians of History launched in Fall of 2019 is voice and AI driven choose-your-own adventure for kids. The launch led to Britannica being recognized as a Top 20 brand in voice innovation. PUKU also launched in 2019 is an engaging Vocabulary-Building App for Kids. The new app empowers Students with Adaptive Learning, Custom Word Lists and a virtual pet. The app is the Winner of 2019 Summer Awards - Best New Mobile App. Britannica was recognized as the top company to watch in the EdTech space in EdTech Digest's State of the Edtech 2019-2020 report. Krishnan was also recognized in that report as one of the top 100 global influencers in Global Education Technology. Matching 401K contribution was reinstated under Krishnan's leadership. The company is now on the Best Places to Work list.
- "Encyclopedia Britannica Group Appoints Kathik Krishnan as Global Chief Executive Officer" (Press release). Encyclopedia Britannica Group. 12 December 2017.
- "Our Team". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
- Smith, William C. (February 2, 2004). "Venerable tomes go digital". The National Law Journal: P8.
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- Sydney Morning Herald online