For the first time, Encyclopaedia Britannica is offering its Web-site content for free and has made its online and digital products into a separate business unit, company officials said.

Before, Britannica.com charged a $5 subscription fee, and the Web site contained only encyclopedia content.

The new site, though, features encyclopedia text - plus news articles from 80 newspapers and magazines, as well as links to related Web sites.

A Britannica.com spokesman said the Chicago-based company is following an Internet trend.

He said: "Right now, consumers' expectations are that it's going to be free. That's what the market is demanding, but that may change in five years. There'll be a vetting out of quality. Britannica.com may have certain pay-per-view kind of events on the Web site down the road."

Britannica.com plans to make money through advertising, sponsorships with newspapers and magazines, and by selling books and products related to the customer's search.

Don Yannias, who was CEO at Encyclopaedia Britannica, has left that post to become CEO of Britannica.com.