Interesting Wikipedia stat: 98.3% of registered Wikipedia users are inactive.

While researching for a topic, I was led to Wikipedia. I noticed that they had almost reached the $6,000,000 figure they were targeting for donations. ($5,775,345 at the time of writing this).

Just before this round of appeals, there was an earlier donation appeal (and I think, one earlier as well). Given the track record, and current state of the economy, I doubt this will be the last of donation appeals.

Why does the Wikimedia foundation (who run Wikipedia) not want to place any ads on Wikipedia? If Wikipedia places a simple text link ad (Adsense?) on their pages, they can earn millions every month.

Wikipedia receives over 10 billion page views a month. For the sake of calculation, I will consider 10 billion page views exactly. Typical Adsense CPM for big sites is $5-$10 (not a proven stat – this is just the consensus).  That translates to $50-100 million a month! Even consider a 10% fraction (a very unrealistic $0.50 CPM) and it is still $5-10 million a month.

Is the Wikimedia foundation afraid to take on that much money? Are they afraid that they will be served with all sorts of lawsuits (copyright, defamation, piracy, etc…) when they see some green? Isn’t that what happened with YouTube when Google bought them? No one wanted to sue a small YouTube company, with no money. Once Viacom & co. saw the money in Google’s kitty, they attacked!

Here are some options for Wikimedia to earn just enough ad money:

  • Show ads at random intervals of time.
  • Show ads at the beginning of the month and stop when the monthly goal is reached.
  • Only select important pages to show ads.
  • Provide affiliate links to Amazon (or similar companies) for books, CDs, videos, etc… and venture other affiliate opportunities.

Or why don’t they just share money with contributors? One of the main reasons (if not the main reason) that people stop contributing is the lack of financial reward. Editing a wiki is exciting at first, but the amount of time that has to be invested, especially in this kind of economy, is not appealing to many people. The sheer statistics are overwhelming. There are a little over 8.5 million registered Wikipedia users and just under 150,000 active users (users who have a logged action in the past 30 days). In other words, 98.3% of users have become inactive. Why? 98.3% …. that is staggering. TANSTAAFL – the acronym for the popular, and very true adage “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”.

Wikimedia Foundation – it is time you start making money and rewarding people, starting with your employees.

To close, here is a tid-bit from the archives (March 2002) where Jimmy Wales talks about advertising:

Therefore, all plans to put advertising of any kind on the
wikipedia is called off for now.

We will move forward with plans for a nonprofit foundation to own
wikipedia, and possibly to solicit donations and grants to help us
carry out our mission.  (Ironically, I think that grant money would
come with many annoying strings attached, which we could not accept,
comparted to advertising money, which is virtually 100% string-free.)

[Source]
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Comments

26 Responses to “Wikipedia Almost Reaches $6 Million Target – Just Add Ads Already!”

  1. Random person on December 31st, 2008 6:12 am

    Why not bother to do a little research before running your mouth? That 98% of 8 million users that you talk about have never actually made even a single edit: many people just create accounts on websites because they can and never bother to use them.

    Wikipedia couldn’t be a charitable non-profit if they had advertisements because by law charities must be supported by THE PUBLIC. You think people don’t edit because they aren’t paid but I call bullshit; I think people wouldn’t edit if they were getting only a few dollars a month (after all; it’s the aggregate that gets a lot of traffic; not single articles) while playboy Wales gets $50million a month.

  2. Adrian Wood on December 31st, 2008 6:40 am

    Correction for you;

    “Wikipedia receives over 10 billion page views a month. [citation needed] For the sake of calculation, I will consider 10 billion page views exactly. Typical Adsense CPM for big sites is $5-$10 (not a proven stat – this is just the consensus). [citation needed] That translates to $50-100 million a month! Even consider a 10% fraction (a very unrealistic $0.50 CPM [citation needed]) and it is still $5-10 million a month. [citation needed]”

  3. romanm on December 31st, 2008 7:12 am

    You seem to have found out the obvious solution and you’re so proud of yourself, aren’t you? I for one, as a long-time Wikipedia contributor, would really hate to see ads next to the content that I helped created in my valuable spare time for the benefit of community. If I recall correctly, the POSSIBILITY of advertising was the very reason for the fork of the Spanish language Wikipedia in 2002. Occasionaly, I am willing to donate money to Wikimedia for the good job of enabling quality content without washing our brains with unwanted ads – a rare place of sanity in this world. I just hate ads on my hobby projects and would most definitely quit if I see them on Wikipedia.

  4. peter on December 31st, 2008 7:32 am

    wow, american people… there is a site without ads AND YOU COMPLAIN!?!?

  5. Wickethewok on December 31st, 2008 7:39 am

    I would bet that most websites have around 98% inactive users.

  6. David Gerard on December 31st, 2008 7:47 am

    The reasons Wikipedia doesn’t have ads are:

    * A large percentage of the volunteers who write the thing will get up and leave.

    Personally I have no objection to ads on Wikipedia, but the above is strong enough reason to consider them a deeply bad idea.

    You don’t demonstrate any understanding of how the Wikipedia volunteer community works or why they do what they do.

  7. WikiEditor on December 31st, 2008 7:53 am

    Terrible idea which would not only be contrary to the entire history of Wikipedia but also compromise its integrity as a nonprofit foundation. Advertising revenue is taxable, even by a nonprofit. Paying contributors would open up an even bigger can of worms both legally and editorially which would completely destroy the current dynamic.

    One of the biggest strengths of Wikipedia has been that although the content is free it remains the central source for the definitive text of that content. Commercializing Wikipedia with advertisements, or worse, paying (some) editors, would overnight guarantee an exodus of both readers and writers and a balkanization of Wikipedia content. One of Wikimedia’s greatest assets is its credibility, which your scheme would undermine. It would also eliminate overnight its pool of cash and in-kind donors who would see no reason to donate to a commercial entity.

    Finally, WHY? Why does Wikimedia need 100M of advertising revenues? It is doing just fine with its current revenue. Every year Wikimedia rakes in far more donations than the previous, and expands its programs. If there was a problem raising revenue, Wikipedia would not go offline. Maybe Wikimania would be scaled down or some of the big administrative staff would have to take a paycut or take a hike. There is no reason to commercialize just “because they can.” There are already commercial mirrors of Wikipedia with advertising. They are ugly, and no serious Wikipedia user consults them.

  8. sgros on December 31st, 2008 8:46 am

    It’s simply unbelievable situation. Wikipedia founder almost begs for donations and very few persons gave anything. Within those that give something I count not only those that give money but also those that contribute. And to put simply, it’s human nature. Very few will give if they don’t have to. And because of this selfishness I don’t see a problem that wikipedia places ads. All those people that are coming now will come no matter if there are ads or not, and the wikipedia will have money to make its content even more relevant and rich.

  9. Matt on December 31st, 2008 9:59 am

    Contributors don’t stop because of “lack of financial reward”. Contributors stop due to sabotage by other editors.

    I myself stopped because of “deletionists”. I could put a great deal of effort into an article, only to see some jerk decide that it’s not “notable” enough and propose it for deletion – at which point dozens of people in ivory towers, who don’t have the slightest interest in whatever topic the article was about, will issue votes to delete.

    So, why should I bother doing research, taking photographs, or writing anything at all?

    Someone once said wikipedia should be “the sum of all human knowledge”. I wish they’d listen to him.

  10. BillFromBuffalo on December 31st, 2008 10:37 am

    I created a Wikipedia account for correcting 1 article. In my case it was a description of a photograph. Description stated that “It is believed that the picture was taken in CityX”. I changed it to read “The picture was taken in CityX”. I’m sure many others have created accounts to edit/correct those 1 or 2 articles as well. So don’t equate millions of users accounts to millions of article writersas the vast majority are very minor editors or dormant.. .

  11. retepvosnul on December 31st, 2008 10:38 am

    Adding ads on Wikipedia is an insanely bad idea. Wiki has done lots of work to be a credible source to include when working on a project. Crying that wiki is a bad source to refere to is more an old habit then it is actually true.

    Now take a look at all those checklists that can help you determin if a source is useable and credible. Most wikipedia pages score pretty good. now add adds and see the score plummet. This is for a reason too, but now wiki is free of this, lets keep it this way.

    Ads DO ,if you like it or not, taint a sites objectivity in one way or another.

  12. George William Herbert on December 31st, 2008 11:06 am

    Why not advertise?

    A) As noted, a lot of article editors don’t want it

    B) Not needed. Donations, annoying and intermittent as they may be, are paying for our spiffy shiny foundation and staff, the servers, bandwidth, and conferences just fine.

    C) Would undoubtedly eventually lead to conflict over ad revenue versus content. Even if content won those conflicts hands down, the conflict would be disruptive.

    Sure, we could turn Wikipedia into a cash cow. And most people who go there to read articles would still go there. But… Why? The Red Cross doesn’t charge for disaster relief. Libraries don’t charge for book checkouts (as long as you bring it back on time). Wikipedia is a charity organization, and a free service to the world. It needs operating funds, but we have those covered. So … Why?

  13. Moulton on December 31st, 2008 12:25 pm

    Jimbo Unilaterally Cashiers WMF’s Section 230 Immunity

    Declares Course Materials in Applied Ethics “Beyond Scope” of Project

    Jimbo’s recent intervention in Wikiversity, where he declared various academic lines of inquiry (primarily associated with a course on Applied Ethics) to be “Beyond the Scope” of Wikiversity (and all other WMF-funded projects) is probably a bigger issue for Section 230 Immunity than other arguments.

    At the same time that Jimbo publishes an appeal to donors to contribute to WMF’s mission of bringing the sum of all human knowledge to 21st Century youth, he declares that a wide swath of educational material on Wikiversity is beyond the remit of the project, and he personally expunges it.

    To my mind, that not only abrogates the letter and the spirit of the WMF Mission Statement, it also dispenses with the “hands-off” Section 230 argument that otherwise lawful and traditional educational content is not censored.

    But what concerns me more than the plausible prediction of an epic failure of WMF is the fraud that is being perpetrated on the donors and the disservice being delivered to impressionable 21st Century youth who have fallen into the anachronistic culture of the Jimbonic Jackboot Juggernaut as it ambles down the Puerile Pogrom Parade.

    More than anything, it grieves me to watch these youngsters fall into reprehensible fascistic practices that ethical pioneers fought so hard to eradicate down through the past 4000 years of bloody political history.

  14. A Wikipedia Contributor on December 31st, 2008 2:47 pm

    The day Wikipedia starts paying contributors is the day I stop contributing.

  15. Peter on December 31st, 2008 4:05 pm

    Will we start putting ads inside books and reference material of all kinds too? Hideous idea.

  16. Aditya on December 31st, 2008 5:52 pm

    @ Adrian – This is another big reason why contributors leave – citation for everything. 2+2=4 … [citation needed]

    @ peter (1) – Not related, but I’m not American.

    @ sgros – I agree with you. Ad or no ads, people will still keep coming back.

    @ George William Herbert – Libraries rely on fines and renting out facilities (rooms, etc..). State libraries aren’t free. The tax you & I pay fund them. The Red Cross’ funds are getting depleted [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28431964/]. Donations alone cannot be a permanent solution – especially in an economy like this where Toyota is announcing its first loss and Microsoft is likely to announce a 17% reduction in force (layoff).

    @ Peter (2) – Books & reference material are bought. There comes a time when you have to put ads to support operational costs.
    Earlier this month, a teacher in San Diego placed ads on a test since the school cut costs for supplies and he had to spend his own money so that children could get a better education (ridiculous, I know). He placed ads to cover his costs. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-12-01-test-ads_N.htm for more.

    And finally, to everyone who says that they will stop contributing when Wikipedia starts paying – Wikipedia doesn’t revolve around you. There are probably 10 times more people who will *start* contributing if rewarded.

    Quality may suffer – but look at Google Answers (now defunct) vs. Yahoo Answers as far as quality is concerned. And before you jump to say “that’s why Google Answers is defunct”, find out the real reason why they closed.

  17. KeepItCool on January 1st, 2009 3:48 am

    Why not putting an option in wikipedia where people can opt in for ads if they want to contribute or just leave it as it is if for people that don’t want ads.
    This way it would be possible to serve both interests.
    And because it’s an opt in for ads nobody will take ads without its own authorization.
    Instead of a donation banner on top, it would appear a request to opt in.

    What do you think?

  18. Heathhunnicutt on January 1st, 2009 2:02 pm

    From the article:

    “While researching for a topic, I was led to Wikipedia. I noticed that THEY had almost reached ” (emphasis added)

    Wikipedia is a community. Decisions such as whether the community should accept and support advertising on the community’s product should be made by the wikipedia community, on the wikipedia talk pages.

    I encourage this article’s author to participate in Wikipedia, and take the dicsussion there.

  19. Gregory Kohs on January 1st, 2009 4:39 pm

    I found an amazing list of 10 reasons why one shouldn’t donate to the Wikimedia Foundation, in its current state of poor governance. Check it out!

    http://www.mywikibiz.com/Top_10_Reasons_Not_to_Donate_to_Wikipedia

  20. Anil on January 1st, 2009 8:50 pm

    On registered people not contributing:

    To motivate authors, rather than thinking of paying them, I think it would be better if Wikipedia starts giving credits to the contributors by listing their names/handles/urls at the end of respective articles.

    Even otherwise giving credit is something very much required, IMHMO.

  21. HaeB on January 3rd, 2009 10:37 pm

    Erik Möller, the current Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, gave some answers here: http://whygive.wikimedia.org/2007/11/22/why-wikipedia-does-not-run-ads/

    The idea that a lack of financial reward stops volunteers from contributing is unproven and controversial, to say the least; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carr-Benkler_wager

  22. NO ADS ON WIKIPEDIA on January 4th, 2009 12:22 pm

    Why should they add ads? They got all the money they needed.

  23. Dan Hammond on January 5th, 2009 12:38 pm

    Great post! Hope you find my blog, http://blog.heebie.co.uk/ , which covers Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia Foundation projects) of interest.

  24. Adam on May 7th, 2009 7:40 am

    I wonder when they will start to beg for money again? In this economy, it’s impossible for many to afford food, etc.. for themselves. Donations are out of the question.

  25. What’s happening lately (3 years of TechieLife) : Technology News – TechieLife – Computers, Internet, Personal Technology on December 9th, 2010 2:01 am

    […] day before we rang in 2009, I wrote about why Wikipedia should stop appealing for funds and place text ads to generate revenue. This post was slashdotted and brought in over 5000 visitors that week, which was pretty impressive […]

  26. Kreb on March 3rd, 2011 8:41 am

    So inspiring! Right now, I still got a long way to go. I hope to see more posts! =)

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