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Fundraising vs ads redux, WikiConference India nigh, a world lit up with articles

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By Skomorokh and Jorgenev

Wikipedia: stop begging and embrace ads

A 2011 fundraising banner featuring an appeal for donations by Jimmy Wales on an anti-advertising platform.

Stephen Chapman, a search engine optimization and internet marketing expert and a self-professed Wikipedia fan, has written a piece for ZDnet, where he suggests that Wikipedia run ads to support itself instead of relying on donations. The article focuses on Jimbo Wales' personal appeal, about which he says "it just seems ridiculous to me that he’s so adamant about not implementing ads". Chapman decries Wales' aversion as "an extremely misplaced endeavor" in the light of the ability of popular sites to monetise their userbase and the significant costs of running a popular site. He proposed that it is not immoral to generate revenue from providing a facility useful to the public, and rejects the notion that running ads is necessarily at odds with a non-profit website's mission of providing free access to information, or with Wales' stated desire to keep the Wikimedia Foundation "lean and tight".

The “free encyclopedia”, ... is only really free to the people who don’t donate.

— Stephen Chapman

He dismisses the backlash that the introduction of ads might provoke as the short-lived and overwrought posturings of a loud minority. Arguing that ads need not be intrusive or a major annoyance to users, to fulfill the needs of revenue generation, Chapman argues "there is so much flexibility with ads these days, it’s crazy to continue writing them off". Those diehards who would fiercely object to seeing ads, he reasons, could easily employ blocking software such as the Adblock Plus browser extension.

So powerful does Chapman believe the site's hold is over its audience, he maintains it would not need to collaborate with advertising middlemen such as Google AdSense; companies would be queuing up to advertise directly on-site. Chapman takes Wales to task for the precociousness of the declaration that "Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others". In Chapman's view, this takes for granted the project's position; if Wikipedia ran into financial difficulty, he says, it could be easily copied, improved on and dramatically monetised by others with more sustainable business plans. He concludes:

The article has been somewhat poorly received. In the first day after publication the article received three comments in favor of Chapman's proposal and 15 critical of it. The official launch of the 2011 Fundraiser is expected some time this week.

WikiConference India heralded

A world lit up with articles

A world map of nearly 700,000 geolocated English Wikipedia articles, each represented by a single yellow dot.

On the Zero Geography blog, Dr. Mark Graham, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute revealed the latest attempt to map the geographic distribution of Wikipedia's coverage. The maps created by the Institute's researchers show every geotagged article in the November 2011 versions of the Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Persian, and Swahili Wikipedias. The map of the English Wikipedia, which had nearly 700,000 geotagged articles, is visible to the right.

Of the varying emphases on different parts of the globe in each of the language versions, Graham commented: "...if your primary free source of information about the world is the Persian or Arabic or Hebrew Wikipedia, then the world inevitably looks very different to you than if you were accessing knowledge through the English Wikipedia. There are far more absences and many parts of the world simply don't exist in the representations that are available to you." The post was picked up by The Guardian's Datablog, where it attracted much commentary, as well as by Gizmodo and The Huffington Post.

In brief

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Map of Wikipedia articles


  • Oh yes, I'm all in for an opt-in for ads! Let the Stephen Chapmans get their ads they sought so after – targeted to the article content! 'Cause what are you reading Wikipedia articles when ads can tell you what you need and what you are looking for! Nageh (talk) 23:01, 14 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Ads are an awful idea, imo. And the author of that piece seems to be yet another reader misinterpreting "free" to mean "no cost" as opposed to free as in freedom. The English language is driving me nuts. --Yair rand (talk) 01:45, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Advertisements fundamentally compromise our integrity and our neutrality. If Wikipedia starts up with ads, hundreds of core editors will leave in disgust, myself included. Sven Manguard Wha? 02:55, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • The subscription model is a valid way to raise revenue and that is exactly what Wikipedia has. Its just its subscriptions are discretionary meaning there are no admin overheads to run it. With subscriptions we work to please the subscribers. With ads we work to please the advertisers who represent "Big Money". Lumos3 (talk) 12:19, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
    • I agree, nothing is free and the one who has money will pay for Wikipedia when the fundraiser run, our experience also show that lots of people are more than happy to pay for it, so no need to change model. Ulflarsen (talk) 00:29, 16 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • The Chapman article is a standard space-filler article that the tech press run every fundraiser and should be treated as such, i.e. ignored - David Gerard (talk) 15:03, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
    • Editor's note The Signpost's coverage of the Chapman article is a standard space-filler we run in the absence of any fundraiser-related story in a slow news week and should probably be treated as such. ;) Skomorokh 15:12, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
      • Does that mean if more people were to write and submit "personal opinion pieces", there would be less need for standard space-fillers? (Possible conflict of interest disclosure: yes, I am working on an opinion piece, myself ;) -- llywrch (talk) 19:48, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • If advertisements are allowed, they should be limited to passive text or images. That is, the ads should not move or do anything unless the user clicks on the advertisement. Otherwise, my old computer would be overwhelmed. JRSpriggs (talk) 20:19, 15 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Some of us donate the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in time. If ads were added we would leave and the money raised would not be enough to rehire us. Ads would be a bad idea and a loss of "total value" for the site. The business world has such a narrow view on economics having no idea how to assign value to much of human existence and therefore ignores it completely.--Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 03:51, 16 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • There is definitely a demographic that believes their Econ major, MBA, or business writer or management career provides them with a perspective on every aspect of the world superior to any other. These types are uninterested in the concept that increased advertising and consumerism is not always, in every possible situation, a net gain for society. Consumption may be the engine that fuels the global economy, and it may bring many benefits, but to put it in ways these types can perhaps understand: we receive diminishing returns and increasing costs from consumerism (past a certain threshold). Anyone interested in an in-depth discussion of the costs of the ubiquity of advertising and consumerism (in our private lives, in our ability to make decisions) might be interested in Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action or alternatively, any of Critical Theory.
Myself, I am tired of these Maslow's hammer business enthusiasts who tell the lie that somehow ads will be more "free" than donations. Advertising has many costs that come with its benefits. They are hidden costs that must be carried by society, and unlike a donation drive, are not finite. One of those costs which makes advertisements particularly unsuited for wikipedia is that they create a conflict-of-interest that would in time reduce freedom and neutrality.--Monk of the highest order(t) 08:57, 17 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • I would opt in to ads to see what it's like. The targeting might actually work here, to the point that I would want to click on an ad. Most ads I see aren't relevant enough to warrant clicking, so are just obtrusive annoyances, but I could imagine it being different here. - Peregrine Fisher (talk) 19:17, 21 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • IMHO Wikipedia is going to include adds when the profits = contributions dry up. As long as people are willing to give their own money Jimbo can promote himself and Wikipedia as a noncommercial product. I have few doubts that he will change his mind when (and only when) the first financial losses begin to appear. Flamarande (talk) 22:41, 21 November 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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