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Businesses The Internet The Almighty Buck

Should Wikipedia Sell Advertising? 317

The Narrative Fallacy writes "The LA Times has an interesting story on the state of Wikipedia's finances and how with 300 million page views a day, the organization could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars if it sold advertising space. Without advertising the foundation has a tough time raising its annual budget of $4.6 million. The 45,000 or so individuals who contribute annually give an average of $33 each, so campaigns, which are conducted online, raise only about one-third of what's needed. As Wikimedia adds features to its pages, such as videos, costs will rise. 'Without financial stability and strong planning, the foundation runs the risk of needing to take drastic steps at some point in the next couple years,' said Nathan Awrich, a Wikipedia editor who supports advertising."
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Should Wikipedia Sell Advertising?

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  • Prepare yourself (Score:2, Insightful)

    by suso ( 153703 ) *
    Get ready for an onslaught of comments from people who want to have their cake and eat it too. (ie. those that don't want the advertising, but also don't want to make a donation to Wikipedia)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Okay! That's it. A show of hands please, who wants cake they can't eat?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KiloByte ( 825081 )

      ie. those that don't want the advertising, but also don't want to make a donation to Wikipedia

      Ok, I'll bite. What would you say about those who specifically don't donate to Wikipedia because of their policy []?

      So here's the deal: stop the book-burning deletionist jihad, and those who follow Howard Tayler's campaign will suddenly resume donations. And no, you can't squeeze any advertising money from the likes of me thanks to Adblock.

      Unlike commercial encyclopaedias, most of us do pay in some kind: we donate our time, our work, our expertise. Without community editors, Wikipedia would be nothing. St

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AvitarX ( 172628 )
        1) What you are demonstrating is that even non-add donations can influence (or try).
        2) You may repay by editing, but unless you define "us" in "most of us" as people who edit wikipedia than most do not. I will go as far as saying that I live with 2 people who have found errors in wikipedia and not fixed them (one that I remember was the date of a French author's birth, that burned 1/4 of the people in the class (the rest used the text book), and still didn't get fixed.

        I would personally think the best way
    • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:30AM (#22715044) Homepage Journal
      Allow advertising that anyone can edit.
      • by Flwyd ( 607088 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:33AM (#22717172) Homepage
        With moderation. That way a company can proclaim its product, past consumers can point out its flaws, and administrators can arbitrate disputes of false advertising and libel.

        While I had the same joke come to mind, I think the idea has serious merit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tom ( 822 )

          While I had the same joke come to mind, I think the idea has serious merit.

          Try that thinking part again when you're sober. There are already marketing companies out there who will sell you a grass-roots campaign. There are already companies out there selling you the service of cleaning up any PR mess you made. I'm sure it would be less than three days before one of them offers a "we'll provide both, the consumers and the moderators to put your product into good light on Adipedia" service.

    • Re:Prepare yourself (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @02:39PM (#22720278) Homepage

      Get ready for an onslaught of comments from people who want to have their cake and eat it too. (ie. those that don't want the advertising, but also don't want to make a donation to Wikipedia)
      There's a larger problem with advertising than "people don't like it." I am closely related to a nonprofit organization, one that could also make a butt-load of cash if we were to strategically place advertisments on our web site.

      There's a reason we don't and it's not that our visitors would object. IANAA and IANATL, but I do speak to them on occasion. Advertising revenues are what is known as "unrelated business taxable income". Notice the word taxable. It complicates life for a non-profit. Taxable income over a small threshold means that the organizations tax returns must be made public. If contributions and government support fall below 33% of total income, the organization no longer qualifies as "publicly supported." In essence, too much advertising income can jeopardize your status as a non-profit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by afxgrin ( 208686 )
      Yeah I wouldn't normally support advertising, but I think the value of wikipedia is too high to have it just die off from lack of income.

      I support AdWords type advertising, no absurd banners, and only across the top of the article, just above the tabs that say "Article, Discuss, Edit this Page, History".

      Heck - if they can generate enough income, contributors to articles who receive a "rating" of some sort from, let's say ... 100+ random visitors should get paid for their contribution. It would encourage qu
  • it ruins the impartiality, it ruins the experience, it compromises the purpose, blah, blah, blah, zzz...

    you have to pay the bills. idealism doesn't pay the bills. a "compromised" wikipedia is better than no wikipedia

    there really isn't anything you can say that is more illuminating on the subject. either you can run the site financially or you can't. it really is that cut and dry
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Xacid ( 560407 )
      Also if they were able to receive funding, say from the/a government then there could be a lot of speculation again about impartiality (is that even a word) and a whole different set of issues. I would like to see them reach the status though where they *could* receive funding as a library though...
    • And would be about a perfect match for Wikipedia, unobtrusive and topical. I say go forward and earn enough to keep the doors open and grow.
      • It's all moot anyway

        a "compromised" wikipedia is better than no wikipedia
        Wikimedia disagrees, and has sworn to shut down wikipedia before selling advertising. Also, how is wikipedia only worth "hundreds of millions"? It's one of the top 10 most popular sites on the internet (according to blech Alexa).. didn't facebook and youtube sell for more than a billion?
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by NickCatal ( 865805 )
          It is worth hundreds of millions because it has none of its own content. Anyone with enough hardware could copy WP's content, code, and system settings (all publicly available info) in a week or two (depending on your level of skill in linux/mysql/php/mediawiki)

          As for hardware expenses. Wikipedia buys all of their own equipment rather than leasing it from any provider (which would save them quite a bit of money in the short term, especially since they keep buying hardware to replace old hardware.) Their rap
    • by mochan_s ( 536939 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:41AM (#22714484)


      They can adopt distributed updates and such and ask universities to help with the bandwidth costs. Instead I guess they want to keep all the chips in hand so that they could one day turn into a billion dollar company.

      Wikipedia is run by submitters and editors. If people feel that updating and maintaining wikipedia gives their habits away to advertisers, then it will also kill wikipedia. There will be startups that will focus on just music or movies or just on mathematics and provide a better experience per the negatives of advertising. Most people end up in Wikipedia through google searches and it won't take long for the wikipedia articles to go stale while the contributors move somewhere else.

      Plus, those bandwidth heavy images, videos and sounds isn't updated frequently and can be asked to be cached in distributed storage across the internet in universities. Since article updates propagation might be hard in distributed file systems, at least the media should be straightforward.

      There is a lot of stuff that can be done.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EaglemanBSA ( 950534 )

        They can adopt distributed updates and such and ask universities to help with the bandwidth costs. Instead I guess they want to keep all the chips in hand so that they could one day turn into a billion dollar company.

        Actually, I think Wikipedia would have a hard time getting universities to pitch in - most professors I know don't quite understand it, and absolutely abhor its use. I know of professors who will fail an assignment citing it as a source.

        It's important to maintain that Wikipedia is not a primary source, but more of a source guide. Encyclopedias always have been. A lot of people forget that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mmyrfield ( 1157811 )
          Maybe your problem is your profs then. The vast majority of mine hold wikipedia in quite high regards. Obviously they won't accept it as an academic source, but they usually say it's usually a damn good source of well-structured information for the user that knows how to use it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Or they could just get an AdSense account and put a tiny little "Paid advertisement" section at the very bottom of pages etc. and completely forget about it. No politics. No making deals with other advertisers. No pandering to the demands of advertisers etc. Plus, the ads would end up being extremely targeted and on-topic, plain-text only and non obtrusive.

        It wouldn't make as much as selling banner spots to the highest bidder etc. that's for sure. But it would probably generate enough to pay the bills which
        • Or instead of ads on the wiki pages, have a link at the bottom of each page, "Link to advertising of products related to this topic" and put the ads on a separate page entirely.

          And then advertisers could pay for better placement etc. on the AD PAGE, if they felt the urge. Thus the Wiki content would remain unsullied, yet Wikipedia could bring in some cash.

    • by Himring ( 646324 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:47AM (#22714548) Homepage Journal
      you have to pay the bills. idealism doesn't pay the bills.

      Look. Our little liberal is growing up and becoming a conservative....

    • by altoz ( 653655 )
      can't they just do what pbs and npr do? get corporations to "sponsor" and put really unobtrusive advertising...
    • by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) * on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:01AM (#22714714) Homepage
      Rubbish. A Wikipedia that doesn't even try for NPOV, impartiality or any of the core things that make up the project now is not worthwhile at all.

      Won't people stop with the stupid advertising nonsense already? Not everything is about money!
      • money is really just an abstract expression of human interest and value. pick the most idealistic human endeavour you can think of. it has value to other human beings. therefore, it is monetized. sure, it needn't be expressed in actual dollars, but a conversion to that occurs at some point for anyone who interacts with that human endeavour. the church? marriage and love? science? they all involve cash transations at some point

        why do you think you achieve some sort of higher moral ground or purpose by shunning money? all you do is hobble your own ability to properly understand how the world you live in actually functions. i'm not asking you to worship money. and money certainly leads people to do evil things. but again, money is just an abstract expression of human desires. the real evil is aspects of human nature itself, not a piece of green paper with alexander hamilton's face on it

        all i'm asking you to do is grant money the proper respect it deserves for quantifying abstract human interest in such a way that it makes the world we live in a better place. yes, money is a great invention, like the wheel or the semiconductor. it makes your world a better place. bartering chickens for school books gets kind of old after awhile. thus the glorious invention of money. and no, i'm not gordon gecko. i'm just a realist. realism trumps cotton candy idealism any day. and the most sober realistic consideration of money in this world is that it makes your life better

        cotton candy headed idealists can be so stupid
        • You totally miss the point. I have no problem with money, indeed I work to make money, to keep me and my family provided for.

          But when someone gives you money for advertising on a project like Wikipedia, they basically want something for that money. Now it would be nice to say that they only want their ad on the project. But it won't work like that. They'll most likely want editorial control also.

          Then you have the problem with what happens with all that money. The WMF could make a lot of money out of ads. Bu
          • there's no such thing as making more money than you should. you have a value, it should be arrived at. where when i say "you" am referring to any person or corporate entity, like wikipedia

            cronyism? nepotism? greed?

            do you honestly think purposefully impoverishing yourself will protect you from this?

            money is not a prerequisite for such failures of character
            • Actually, you can get too much money. The WMF needs $x to keep it all running, pay for staff. They don't need anything more than that.

              And no, you can't keep out nepotism and cronyism by just restricting ads. However, the more the money floating about, the higher the risk of it occuring.

              I notice that you still haven't covered my other point: undue and unwanted influence by advertisers on content.
        • by NickFortune ( 613926 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @10:09AM (#22715546) Homepage Journal

          You can model any human activity in terms of money, certainly. But that doesn't make that model the predictor for all classes of activity. I mean you can model every human activity in terms of garbage if you want to: every human activity produces some waste materials, if only from from the excrement of those so engaged and the waste heat of the work performed. You can say every human endeavour is about anything with a little ingenuity.

          But the fact that we can analyse Wikimedia purely in terms of money is not an argument for them using ads to finance their operation, any more than being able to conduct the analysis based on refuse constitutes an argument for them buying a fleet of garbage trucks.

          Don't confuse the map with the territory, dude.

      • Not everything is about money!

        Everything has a cost, and in this case, there is money to be paid. Someone pays that. Would you rather it was a few large patrons who would have corresponding leverage? Google text ads are unobtrusive and could easily be limited to one page in ten or whatever percentage is needed to pay the bills, and then no one has any leverage over funding.

        I'd like to know what your alternative is for paying the bills. Either patrons with their own agenda or a few text ads with no lever
    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:05AM (#22714754) Homepage Journal
      I think Google has shown that it is possible to maintain trust while selling advertising, although I think the Sponsored Link results at the top are skating close to the edge. In fact, Google use is so ubiquitous most people are trained now to mentally segregate content from advertising, providing that the design is clean and consistent about the segregation.

      The key is to do a good job on integrating the ads into the site design, so they don't feel intrusive nor are they confused with content.

      If you provide the best possible service, people will use it. If you are clear about what is advertising and what is content, people won't distrust you. If you aren't so greedy about selling eyeballs that you abuse the user's time by making him cut through a thicket of advertisements to get to his stuff (like Yahoo), you end up selling a smaller amount of prime real estate than a acres and acres of dump.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Phurge ( 1112105 )
        I wouldn't trust Jimmy Wales with my credit card. This just in from [] "The toughest two weeks of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales's career just became a whole lot worse, with a former chief scientist at one of the world's biggest technology companies claiming Wales traded Wiki edits for donations. Jeff Merkey, a former computer scientist at Novell, claims Wales told him in 2006 that in exchange for a substantial donatio
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Carnildo ( 712617 )
          You might want to read up on Jeff Merkey's history before you accept anything he says at face value. Back in 2004 or so, a judge wrote in the case Wolf Mountain vs. Novell that Merkey's view of reality bore only a very limited resemblance to that of anyone else.
    • It's the opposite (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NewAndFresh ( 1238204 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:12AM (#22714826)

      a "compromised" wikipedia is better than no wikipedia
      One of the important things that make wikpedia is that there is no advertising.
      Like many people have already pointed out, there are many other options.
      You add advertising and it's no longer wikipedia.
      So I'll fix that for you:
      a "slower" wikipedia is better than no wikipedia.
      • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:25AM (#22714970) Journal

        Now that deserves an Insightful mod. I dislike that questions such as this are just accepted without reservation: That you get to choose between Wikipedia and Compromised Wikipedia. Who framed those options and what did they do to reach the conclusion that this choice is inevitable.

        -A Proud Wikipedia Donator

    • there really isn't anything you can say that is more illuminating on the subject. either you can run the site financially or you can't. it really is that cut and dry.

      No it's not that cut and dry in the way that you state. There is another way. If they got their funding through the Wikipedia foundation, then the income from their investments should be able to keep it running.

      As it is, I don't think they are going to do this. It sounds like much of the board may be trying to make Wikipedia into a for-profi
    • by Esteanil ( 710082 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:22AM (#22714928) Homepage Journal
      Scenario: "I'm young, I'm idealistic. I haven't got a credit card, I haven't got paypal, but I do have a website with at least some few visitors. And I really like Wikipedia."

      Think this is uncommon? I certainly don't.
      So. How do we "monetize" this resource? Let them run ads generating income for Wikipedia.
      Someone(tm) in Wikipedia, or some trustworthy foundation, should set up an account somewhere, and then volunteers will make a few widgets to easily add ads to your site, a Wordpress plugin, banner rotation so you can donate a certain percentage of page impressions... I'm sure more things will come up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, considering that the Wiki is the one place many go to get first-hand info, I could see a special sort of advertising, where the company overtly contributes to articles about themselves, pay a fee to have an alternative to the normal Wiki page. The advert would come in one of those little Wiki disclaimer tags, for quick linking to the "corporate bullshit disguised as an article" version.

      Let's say FUBAR Widgets decides to buy a sponsored article. On the Wikipedia article, there would then be a link that
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by batman14 ( 1231454 )
      Just make a print version of wikipedia, or other internal products based on the knowledge written by contributors. They can also get money from educational foundations that invest thousands of dollars in knowledge technology. And universities can also pay a part of the bill.

      Ads are not the only model of economy to provide a free service on internet. That's google that wants to make us think that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LS ( 57954 )
      That's the question though, is there a possibility of "no wikipedia" if they don't take on advertising? I don't believe this to be the case. They've got a lot of donations (including mine) before there was any concern. If a concern that they won't make enough funds to meet costs is publicized, I'm sure wallets would open up quickly. I agree that if there was no other way, then advertising would be an option, but if other means are possible, why not avoid them? Your initial list (impartiality, experienc
  • by scrambledhelix ( 902472 ) <rtd24&columbia,edu> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:31AM (#22714372)
    to a user looking up a definition for []?
  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by abscissa ( 136568 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:31AM (#22714378)
    Why does Wikipedia need to sell it? They are already a bastion of free "neutral" articles written by POV cronies by corprorate shells. From Republican politicians to large corporations like Wal-Mart, Wikipedia should start invoicing for hosting their "neutral" public relations flyers.
    • by MLCT ( 1148749 )
      They don't. There is a great deal of FUD floating about - it strikes me that everyone who operates in the "real world" - i.e. the "money money money profit profit profit" world are salivating at how much they could make out of wikipedia - they certainly don't have the projects best interests at heart - just their own. Lines from the article state that "only a third of what is needed" was raised - then completely contradict themselves by saying next "For the rest, foundation directors have to hit up outsid
  • by MrMage ( 1240674 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:32AM (#22714390)
    WikipediAds, the advertisements anyone can edit! Who better to make the ads than the customers?
    • WikipediAds, the advertisements anyone can edit!

      Who better to make the ads than the customers?
      This is an interesting idea that has probably been already investigated by many marketing corporations.

  • by Foolicious ( 895952 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:33AM (#22714392)
    I am sure there'll be a nice raging debate about IF they should do it, which is good. But if they do decide to do it, an important argument is then HOW to do it. Online advertising needs to be intrusive enough to be noticed, but not so intrusive that it becomes, well, intrusive. Their implementation will mean a lot.
  • by jrjarrett ( 949308 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:36AM (#22714438)
    Since, according TFA, they just moved offices from FL to San Francisco, and are renting 3000 square feet there. That cannot be cheap. If you're a strapped non-profit, why on earth would you go to one of the most expensive places in the country to run your internet-based business?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Firstly because San Francisco is awesome.

      Secondly because SFPD would be very hesitant about helping anybody raid their offices, there would be protests, the black mask group, etc.
    • I would have to agree. There are much cheaper places to make your HQ.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eharley ( 214725 )
      How do you know it's more expensive for them in SF than in FL? What were their stated reasons for moving?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      3k s.f. isn't that huge, maybe the real problem is the cost of living for those who work there. Isn't San Fransisco pretty big on the Internet? I can see may be some advantages.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by huhwhatduck ( 876137 )
      They explicitly moved to San Francisco to make their work more cost effective. San Francisco has cheaper and much more available international air travel, which is a big issue for the Wikimedia Foundation. And, of course, there are the resources of the general community. It's much easier to be connected to the Valley when you're in it.
    • by downix ( 84795 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @10:12AM (#22715588) Homepage
      Actually, as I currently live in FL and am looking to the west coast for relocating, guess what, it actually *is* cheaper to live in the San Francisco area than in Florida. While the initial rent is a bit higher (about 3-5%) the taxes to operate are far lower, and the infastructure cost to the individual business is dramatically less.
  • by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:38AM (#22714456)
    I'll just say this, I'd rather have an ad-supported wikipedia than no wikipedia at all.

    If the video feature costs more than donations can support, I'm ok with no videos on wikpedia. Perhaps another seperate wikisite can have video with advertisements, while wikipedia itself could maintain its adfree status.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tuoqui ( 1091447 )
      Why have video on Wikipedia in the first place? I dont go on there to watch videos thats what Youtube is for!
  • by egghat ( 73643 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:39AM (#22714466) Homepage
    OK, a broken business model that based on begging for money every 6 months or so.

    Go for advertising. Buy out books to the public domain, give back some money to wikepedia authors (e.g. give money to proven authors for writing additional articles), ... Gazillions good ideas come to mind. Buy out books to the public domain.

    But no money means no money for good ideas. And Wikipedia will stay vulnerable to attacks from someone with money (think Google Knol).

    Yes yes, money changes people. Articles may get flawed to get more money. If you think, Wikipedia must stay independent, make it independent. Create a Wikipedia-Ad-foundation, that tries to get as much money as possible, but give them absolutly no control over Wikipedia-The-Content-Organisation. Both orgs should be absolutly independent.

    And so you'd have a lot of money *and* complete seperation of concerns.

    And there are *so* many unbelievably good ways to spend money.
    • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:33AM (#22715074) Homepage
      Wikipedia's not a "business" by any stretch of the imagination.

      NPR and PBS have also shown that this "begging for money" business model can indeed work successfully. If anything, Wikipedia should turn to them for inspiration and fundraising advice.
      • I'm happy they struck this deal with Google. I'm happy that they drown in money and I'm happy they give me the best browser, support open source and have saved the world from the Microsoft monopoly spreading to the web.

        Yes, you could claim that Firefox isn't about money, but about freedom, open source and standards support. But I'm sure that money has helped them to achieve this goal and as far as I am concerned money hasn't stopped or corrupted them.

        bye egghat
  • Wikipedians say that advertising will compromise their impartiality. But while I appreciate their efforts to keep the content to an NPOV (neutral point of view), they do seem to be missing the point.

    The obvious way to monetise Wikipedia is to use Google AdSense or a similar technology. In the case of AdSense, Google chooses that ads and not the editor, so in effect the ads are kept at arms length. And if, having read the encyclopedia article, a visitor chooses to click on an ad, then at least they should

  • NO! NO! Dear God NO!!!

    If it does start selling ads, there needs to be a replacement. And I don't mean Uncyclopedia.
  • I don't see why they shouldn't. But so long as clear unambiguous rules govern how ads are place in the pages and how they interact with content. Importantly, I'd get some accountant type to sort out a trust or something and have revenue classified as charitable donations. In other words, keep the revenue distinct from wikipedia and use the trust to support salaries, running costs, etc., as a form of donation. IMNA accountant, might be obvious, but some sort of separation, board of trustees, etc., would
  • Most of us can pretty readily block out ads, provided they are like the ones at slashdot. There is alot of sidebar space for ads, maybe at the bottom of the page. I don't know what revenue rates are for ads, but when there is a page viewed for every American - per day, assuming 1/10th cent per page, which is probably low, the ad revenue works out to be $109 million. I think less obtrusive ads might just do the trick. 1/200th of a cent would give them over the $5 million they need. Therefore it seems that t
    • Yeah, but human nature's a bitch... why stop at just covering their budget? Jimmy needs a new pair of shoes...
  • It's a scary time. Especially if all of Jason Calacanis' predictions made on this week's This Week In Tech [] regarding Wikipedia become true. :(
  • How about google ads in the corner clearly marked and unintrusive? Or even just a list of "sponsored links" at the bottom of each page after "external links".

    There are many ways Wikipedia can add advertising without adding banners or having any of the advertising interfere with the content.

    And being able to successfully generate revenue would mean a better Wikipedia if the people who run it wish to invest in improving what they have.

    The main problem though is the advertisers editing content. This is already
  • Well ..... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:43AM (#22714510)
    Yeah, if they want.

    I'm already highly aggressive with blocking all advertising and user-tracking anyway, so it won't affect me personally. One of these days, I even plan to start reselling ADSL with a transparent proxy configured my own special way, so other people can also enjoy the same advertisement-free Internet experience (and I can make a few quid as a secondary consideration).
    • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:50AM (#22714584)
      > I even plan to start reselling ADSL with a transparent proxy configured my own special way, so other people can also enjoy the same
      > advertisement-free Internet experience (and I can make a few quid as a secondary consideration).

      I take it you won't be advertising your service?
    • Re:Well ..... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Constantine XVI ( 880691 ) <> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:51AM (#22714592)

      One of these days, I even plan to start reselling ADSL with a transparent proxy configured my own special way, so other people can also enjoy the same advertisement-free Internet experience (and I can make a few quid as a secondary consideration).
      Sure, as long as you don't call it the Internet. What makes the Internet so special is that the providers (the good ones, anyway) censor/filter NOTHING, and the filtering is left up to the end-user. IMHO, the second you begin denying your customers specific content/services (be it ads or BitTorrent), I no longer consider you a proper ISP, and neither should the law.

      And besides, if you can filter all those ads, we don't think you would have a problem filtering out child porn either, right?
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:46AM (#22714540) Homepage Journal
    Not banners.

    Something that adds to the value of the site would be good - paid-for "related" links to commercial sites.

    Data recovery - link to services. Bridge construction - links to firms building these. Encryption - encryption software. Every single pharmaceutical - online pharmacy. Every single book or movie - or other such. So if you're willing to pay for what you've just learned about, you know where to go to buy it or have it done, or learn more about it.
  • Is it just me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @08:53AM (#22714630) Journal
    Or do the gods behind /. use a different browser to me.

    I'm not really going off-topic: my point is that ads really aren't a problem in these high-bandwidth times - at least they're somewhat targeted and they don't intrude.

    The problem is, though, that they do. Sometimes the ads on /. are the banner ones, and they're fine, but sometimes they are those nasty square ones that block off half the story summary and require multiple reloads to get rid of.

    I have no problem with ads - but they should be tested to see if they work on the 'most-popular' (depending on point of view) browser. Otherwise, don't be bitchin' at me cos I flashblock your ass.
  • What about sponsers? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:03AM (#22714732)
    What wikipedia should do is try to hit up the private sector for some rich sponsors looking to make donations to a tax-free charity.

    Maybe a single link on the front page to link to the top 1000 donations of all time and top 1000 donations in the last 12 months will be a nice compromise.
    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      What wikipedia should do is try to hit up the private sector for some rich sponsors looking to make donations to a tax-free charity.

      Maybe a single link on the front page to link to the top 1000 donations of all time and top 1000 donations in the last 12 months will be a nice compromise.

      A nice idea, except that if the sponsor gets something in return (eg a mention on the front page), then I don't think it counts as a donation anymore, it's a paid advertisement.

      But even if you discount the tax-free side of th

  • by dbmasters ( 796248 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:10AM (#22714796) Homepage
    It would be nothing to maintain and with contextually sensitive ads they would vbe related to the pages they appear on (in theory) it would be useful and profitable.
  • Just keep making the DONATE button BIGGER AND BIGGER until you raise enough money! Make it worse than PBS.

    But seriously, those of you say money corrupts, they already have quite a bit of money going through with contributions.

    They could certainly make the ads opt in. Pages and/or Users.

  • by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:11AM (#22714812)
    Given the independence of the editors (the volunteers) from the publishers (Wikimedia Foundation Inc.), I'm not too concerned about the content. Of course that independence only lasts until Wikimedia insists on seats on the Arbitration Committee or other editorial authority.

    But they need a mechanism -- beyond 'trust us' -- to keep an eye on the money. That much money is just too tempting, not only for plain embezzlement but also for things like loans and investments for personal or friends' businesses, unreasonable expenses, etc.

    Who controls the money? To whom are they responsible? Ultimately, the responsible party is the Wikimedia Foundation Board []. While I don't believe fame and talent are highly correlated, and have no doubts about the board members, it would inspire more confidence if someone was putting a broader reputation on the line for Wikipedia. I want some on the board who have something serious to lose if things go wrong, like Mitch Kapor, Joi Ito, and others on the Mozilla Foundation board []. In fact, I wonder why don't have people like already. Certainly it's prominent enough to attract them.

    Finally, what mechanisms do similar organizations use to manage windfalls of cash?
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:14AM (#22714840) Homepage Journal
    No, advertising would inevitably bias the content. Not just bias the editors, but also introduce a bias into those articles in which ads relate to the content. And no, they can't filter out ads that relate to the content, because that would introduce a biased editorial hand into deciding "what's related". And besides, brands have all kinds of biases that aren't necessarily evident (what does "coca-cola" mean to people whose grandparents were slaves on coca-cola plantations?), or maybe just unknown to the person setting the "relation exclusion" filter.

    No, the whole point of Wikipedia is that the content of every article is totally controlled by the crowd that's editing it. Implying the editorial voice of Wikipedia endorses those products in the ads will introduce distrust of the Wikipedia editorial voice when people don't like the advertised products (or just the ad itself, or just advertising). Or introduce unwarranted trust in those people who feel more comfortable when they're embedded in a sea of familiar logos, even if they content of the article should look suspicious.

    Wikipedia should just raise money in other ways that don't muddy the line between editor and publisher, just like newspapers are believed to do properly (but don't, because they embed ads).

    The foundation can sell paper volumes, or magazine subscriptions about the state of Wikipedia - which could contain ads.

    It could charge schools whose campuses register above some high threshold of use. Those schools are reselling the content as education, either for school tax fees or private tuitions. They can afford to pay a fee for the resale of the content, and they're too much sitting ducks to try evasive actions (like IP spoofing) that can be caught.

    It could sell T-shirts and other schwag.

    It could charge its most active contributors small subscription fees. Charging those people who do the most work on the content might be counterintuitive: aren't they already giving more than others, in work if not in money? But those people are clearly getting a lot more use out of Wikipedia than the average person, and are probably addicted. They're the least likely to stop being part of the community if they have to pay, while scaring the others away will kill Wikipedia. And they're the ones most likely to care about the argument "but if you don't pay a little, Wikipedia will die", because they've got so much invested in it already. If the fee is like $10 a year for people who post over 100 edits in "recent edits" [], that's $50,000. If it's $5 for those posting over 10 or 20 recent edits anytime in a year, that's probably several hundred thousand dollars. Those people aren't going to give up their habit. If they offer them a mandatory $5 for their name on a "page of fame", or sell them a $5 T-Shirt for $20 with their name and count on it, they could make $millions.

    Wikipedia is a community. One with varying degrees, whose members get all kinds of benefit from it. There are plenty of ways to monetize the benefits, especially for those getting the most, and those with little alternative to quit it.
  • We have deleted the article about Burger King for not being noteworthy. Brought to you by Carl's Jr.
  • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:27AM (#22715012) Journal
    The idea of Wikipedia - a freely available online encyclopedia that anyone can edit - I believe is better if it is impartial and independent. It becomes encumbered, compromised, by advertising incentives. There is added value in advertisement free - vis-à-vis Consumer Reports.

    The question is: Why is Wikipedia so expensive to maintain? If it is bandwidth and servers, is the HTTP client/server model the answer? Is there an efficient model to share Wikipedia entries peer to peer? Or perhaps share costs between Universities or other institutions that act in the public interest?

    Additionally, if Wikipedia does go to a peer to peer model, can it integrate projects like FreeNet to ensure that the information remains free and accessible.

    If you think the complaints about edits, arbitrariness, capriciousness and bias with Wikipedia are bad now, wait until it commercializes. In my (limited) experience, this will change the paradigm of its management. Wikipedia will cease to be a gift to humanity. It will be owned.

  • but more to the point...

    I'm starting to read articles on a severe upcoming advertising crunch during the recession. So it will be like they sold themselves out and then the switzer only paid $5 bucks.
  • by Russ Nelson ( 33911 ) <> on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @09:36AM (#22715110) Homepage
    Yes, Wikipedia should sell advertising, to cover its costs. After all, the many people who take a copy of wikipedia and republish it with advertisements are making money -- why shouldn't wikipedia itself?
  • I'll be fine with unobtrusive advertising that doesn't disrupt the flow of my Wikipedia experience and doesn't cause the page to load slower than it loads now (from linking to 15 other advertising sites). I understand that nothing is free in this world, and I'd rather see advertisements than send money. Why not turn it into a for profit entity... maybe it'll create a better experience?
  • Get over the neutrality and nobility memes and run it like anything else.
    Infrastructure costs money and people are obviously more willing to part with their knowledge than their bucks.
  • What happens when the advertiser decided to edit pages their ads show up on for the purpose of endorsing their own service as a reported consumer.
  • 1. They quit talking about accepting advertising every other week. I'm not a huge fan of donating to an organization which keeps saying they are going to make my donation unnecessary and silly.

    2. They quit deleting articles because they aren't encyclopedic enough. The value that wikipedia provides is largely based on being able to provide a lot of information on things that don't have enough "encyclopedic value" for a traditional encyclopedia. This isn't just true for the obscure sci-fi stuff. Even deta
  • At the bottom of an article, allow for paid "premium link" spots for related businessess. In keeping with the Wikipedia philosophy, allow advertisers to put their bid requests into the cue, along with how much they'll pay for it, and have the wiki-editors select from the choices. List those spots as paid links, and all is good.
  • Yep, seems fair to me to have a reasonable level of advertising, say some Google text ads (which also means they won't deal with advertisers directly, and can't be accused of favouring advertisers in any manner).

    Well, that's the article answered. What now?
  • I'm just wondering if it'll be within 5 or 10 years that they start doing some form of ads. I'm fairly certain that they'll do it. It's only a matter of time. If they do it like those google ads tons of people might not even notice. Sad isn't it. I'm wondering which would be best for them. A simple banner ad at the top, or in that left nav bar. Well, its not really like I even notice slashdot's ads, so why should I care about wikipedia getting them?

    I just hope that they aren't annoying ads. People around he
  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @10:25AM (#22715780)

    Wikipedia has definitely peaked. The community has become closed off into cliques and the content has become entrenched to the extent new contributers are actively chased off if they suggest any challenge to the status quo. Selling advertising would crush what is left of the community spirit of the project.

    Its a shame, because fundamentally Wikipedia is an OK idea. What is needed is a viable, popular fork. I suppose this is as good as anything for speeding that up.

  • Make it distributed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2008 @11:20AM (#22716894)
    I think the best solution would be to make wikipedia entirely distributed, where anyone can host any kind of edit to any page. Displaying a page becomes a matter of polling neighbor nodes in the network for information. Edits can be signed by various parties for validity, etc. The main cost then becomes a cost of development, there is no hosting cost.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault