Guinness World Records Takes New Tact Online

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British publisher Guinness World Records Ltd., which is part of the Guinness Brewery conglomerate, recently launched its Web site, though fans will not see its best-selling book replicated online.


The site, at www.guinnessworldrecords.com, is positioned as an entertainment portal for ages 15 to 22 that borrows ideas from the Guinness Book of Records as well as from the Guinness TV shows broadcast worldwide.


"Our goal is to be, within an ambitious period of time, a top-10 entertainment site," said Stephen Nelson, CEO of Guinness World Records, London. "It's very complementary to the current presentation of the brand by terrestrial and print media. [But] it's not the book online."


The site offers an online database of all Guinness World Records as well as video images and audio clips of feats. Users can play online games, send postcards, download screensavers and record guidelines for potential record breakers.


At 5.5 million copies annually, the Guinness Book of Records is the most sold book worldwide after the Koran and the Bible. Users interested in buying the book are directed to a prominent Amazon.com tab on the home page.


"In a sense you could put the book online and make it an e-book, but I think we believe the gifting of the book and the market for it is cyclic," Nelson said. "It's generally skewed toward the back end of the year."


The book typically hits the market in August and September in anticipation of Christmas orders by consumers.


"For the Web, frankly, there are so many more interactive opportunities that I think it would be [redundant] just to replicate the book online," Nelson said.


Besides, he added, "it would be foolish to cannibalize sales [of the printed book]."


The site primarily targets Internet users in the United States. Britain still lags behind the U.S. in Internet usage, Nelson said, explaining the reason for the initial U.S. focus.


"An increasing portion of book sales and a high proportion of TV viewing is already centered in the U.S.," Nelson said.


Fox TV introduced the Guinness World Records Primetime show two years ago in the United States. The series is broadcast in 43 countries.


First published in 1955, the Guinness book is published in 23 languages and sold in 100 countries worldwide.


Nelson said the site will support itself through advertising and sponsorship revenue, admitting that this model "requires significant and heavy traffic as a result."


Guinness will advertise the site on sports Web sites such as ESPN.com and other online locations popular with its audience. It will undertake a series of record-breaking events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and Austin, TX. These cities boast high Internet usage.


"We expect high take-up by national news networks of the events themselves," Nelson said. "Communities love getting involved in record-breaking events."

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