Happy Birthday Wikipedia, Advertising Free For Another Year

Gerard Tollefsen - January 20, 2011

I discovered Wikipedia in 2004 and have used the site extensively to research everything from pop culture and ancient history to current events.  While I do recall there being some controversy over accuracy issues in the site’s early days, Wikipedia has been accepted by a majority of people as a reliable source of information.  As the site has grown in size, both in terms of visitors it attracts and the number of pages it creates, the website continues to be that free online resource I remember back in the day.

As Wikipedia reaches its 10th birthday, I can’t help but wonder how much longer it will continue to be ad free.  If visitors use the site like I do (and yes, I know I should never assume everyone uses the internet like “I” do), the potential for brand messaging alone is huge.  I rarely spend less than 10 minutes on the site once I decide to use it as a reference.  Almost every (if not all) the articles are interlinked to other pages and I often find myself clicking on those links as well (after I initially look up what I came for in the first place).  After reviewing some of the statistics that the Pew Internet & American Life Project has collected, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Wikipedia.aspx, I see that I am not alone in my Wikipedia usage.

Among some of the highlights from Pew’s findings (that advertisers would be attracted to):

  • The percentage of all American adults who use Wikipedia to look for information has increased from 25% in February 2007 to 42% in May 2010. This translates to 53% of adult internet users.
  • Education level continues to be the strongest predictor of Wikipedia use. The collaborative encyclopedia is most popular among internet users with at least a college degree, 69% of whom use the site.
  • Wikipedia is generally more popular among those with annual household incomes of at least $50,000, as well as with young adults: 62% of internet users under the age of 30 using the service, compared with only 33% of internet users age 65 and older.
  • In the scope of general online activities, using Wikipedia is more popular than sending instant messages (done by 47% of internet users) or rating a product, service, or person (32%).

For another year at least, my colleagues and I in the online marketing industry will have to settle for using Wikipedia for personal use only.  But nothing stays the same forever, this is particularly true for technology and anything related to the internet.  As a regular internet user, I can appreciate the advertising free version Wikipedia has maintained for 10 long digital years.  The online marketer in me…would love an opportunity to market for my clients on Wikipedia.  I wonder how much it would cost to run a banner campaign on the homepage of Wikipedia?  I would anticipate a very large monthly minimum spend and a minimum campaign length in order to be considered.  I would also expect some of the largest companies in the world lining up to advertise on the site.  We may never know these figures or we may know by next year!  I am not predicting Wikipedia will ever change their model, but if they do, the site usage and demographics alone will attract major advertising dollars.  In that respect, I do predict those dollars to be greater than the 16 million Wikipedia raised this year to meet their goal of another ad free year.

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