Bibliophiles lamented the passing of another cultural milestone in the print world this month. But for many, the announcement of the death of Encyclopedia Britannica’s print edition came as little surprise.
The venerable publication reached its apex in the mid-90s but had been sinking fast as the Web began to explode. Two-hundred and forty-four years later, the 4,000 remaining copies of the weighty collection quietly sunk into storage.
Good riddance, you might say. It was Britannica’s determined refusal to accept the realities of an online world that undermined its future. The writing had been on the, uh, browser for years. For Britannica to go all digital now was too little, too late.
To the casual observer, it would have been easy to write the obituary for Britannica under the headline “Print Is Dead, Web to Blame.”
But Britannica had been online since 1999—almost at the beginning of the Internet boom. And, they were free to all at the start, nearly two years before anyone had even heard of Wikipedia.
But the Web didn’t directly kill Britannica. It was the powerful cultural shift that the Web brought with it: The death of a single point of view.
Seemingly overnight, the world moved to a crowd-sourced model of the truth. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter and even SMS left any notion of traditional journalistic authority in the dust. Things happen, people tweet, you decide.
This cultural tide is now lapping at the doors of enterprise. Over the next few years, crowd-sourced BI will be the way smart companies uncover and solve business problems.
The others? They’ll be history.