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Britannica Postpones Site Plans
by Joanna Glasner

1:10 p.m. May. 10, 2000 PDT, the star-crossed Internet arm of the world's oldest encyclopedia publisher, is putting off plans to develop websites for specific geographic areas and cutting jobs in two overseas offices.


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Earlier this week, the Chicago-based company said it is laying off 45 employees at its offices in Sydney, Australia, and in London. The employees were originally brought on to develop national and regional sites, but the company decided to put that project on hold as it focuses on its main site,

"Like a lot of ambitious Internet companies, we tried to do too much at once. Right now we're very focused on driving traffic and creating great experiences at," said Rebeccca Theim, a spokeswoman for the company.

Britannica still will maintain offices in England and Australia, Theim said, but remaining employees will mostly be involved in developing Britannica CD-ROMs and DVD products, which have been strong sellers in those countries. She said the company intends at some point to revisit its plans to develop regional or country-specific websites.

The overseas staff cuts come as has been making efforts to expand its main site. The company currently employs about 400 people and operates offices in three U.S. cities and one in New Delhi, India, in addition to the Sydney and London branches. launched its free site in October, but had to temporarily shut down after massive press coverage, among other factors, prompted a surge of traffic that flooded its computer systems.

A few weeks later, a wave of advertising and other publicity accompanied its re-opening.

Now, after six months of operation, Britannica is logging more than 25 million page views a month. Besides the contents of its encyclopedia volumes, the site publishes daily news, magazine articles, historical information, and paid advertisements that the 231-year-old Britannica hopes to profit from.

While the company has put off its plans for country sites, Britannica has been expanding in the wireless arena. In April, the company announced it would provide the contents of the encyclopedia and local information for users of Palm VII handheld devices.

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Britannica Redux
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