Investing Millions: Merriam-Webster’s John Morse on why the costly “Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary” will pay off.
Extra: How was the online component of this new dictionary—http://www.LearnersDictionary.com—developed to supplement the print version?
Morse: … We try to create the best possible print experience and online experience. It’s up to the user to determine what experience is more pleasing and satisfying—with the fervent hope that they find that both are satisfying and [they take] advantage of both. It’s not the case where we try to outsmart the user somehow. It’s not, “… If you want this feature, you have to come here and interact in a different way.” Both have to be as good as they possibly can—let the user decide. What I think we’ve learned, so far at least, is that whatever publisher creates the best online experience for its products will probably get the most market share for its print product. You can’t drive people to buy your print product by holding back something from your online product.
Extra: How big is online usage for Merriam-Webster?
Morse: That is the fastest-growing part of our business. … [Merriam-Webster.com] averages 100 million page views a month. … Clearly, it’s becoming a dominant way that people use their dictionaries. I’m glad we were in at the start and have established a presence. It’s caused us to learn new tricks. If you asked me 20 years ago what I didn’t have to understand and master, it would have been advertising and sales. One would never imagine that you would have advertising in a dictionary. One does indeed expect to have them today. We’ve had to develop a new skill set, which didn’t come easily.
An interesting, unintended benefit of (being online) is that it has increased our brand recognition in international markets. With the online dictionary, we were offering a compelling free-dictionary presence in [English-speaking] countries that didn’t have their own dictionaries online. We were picking up the European and Canadian markets. We began to start seeing new native speakers even if they had not used our print dictionary.