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The Debate Over Advertising on Wikipedia 262

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the my-opinion-should-be-obvious dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Some Wikipedians have objected to Virgin Unite's participation in the Wikimedia Foundation's fund drive, calling it adverising. But there's a strong case that Wikipedia should run advertising. The funds raised could support dozens of Firefox-scale free knowledge and free software projects, outspending all but the wealthiest foundations."
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The Debate Over Advertising on Wikipedia

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  • Perhaps this is a good thing - if it generates enough revenue to fund many small open info sharing projects.
    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:32AM (#17443770) Homepage
      The means might be sacrificing the purported objectivity of Wikipedia.

      I'm not saying this will happen, but will Wikipedia cave to the presure of sponsors wanting to keep harmful information from Wikipedia?

      For instance; if Microsoft became a sponsor, would the articles about XBox hacking remain intact? I'm sure the media companies wouldn't like advertising on a site that happily explains DeCSS, and just wait until hacks for Blu-ray and HD-DVD are being documented. And the numerous scandals involving companies that still exist today; would they like those articles? Not to mention politicians, who have already proven not to be trusted when it comes to Wikipedia content.

      I'm not saying this will happen, nor that it cannot be defended against. Just to define what "means" may be in this case.
      • Means the end. (Score:2, Informative)

        by EinZweiDrei (955497) *
        If Wikipedia's maintaining corporate objectivity means its ultimate failure or stagnation, I will go down with the ship in a heartbeat.
      • by SpooForBrains (771537) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:37AM (#17444714)
        Once a few big advertising contracts are hammered out, then the funds available to Wikipedia will grow, and so the needs of Wikipedia will grow to fill the available funds. They will lay on more servers, better bandwidth deals, maybe hire some people, and then suddenly Wikipedia is dependent on that cash to continue operating. Thus, the advertisers can start to assert influence, knowing full well what would happen if they pulled the cash. Suddenly you'll see exactly the kind of censorship parent alludes to.
        • by smallpaul (65919)
          It is trivially easy to prevent the corruption of a "few big advertising contracts". Simply do not accept them. Wikipedia could easily mandate that no advertiser can buy more than 3% of the available space. Alternately, wikipedia could take the straightforward route of buying through intermediaries like Google's AdSense and others. The wikimedia people would not ever talk to an advertiser.
        • I will work for Wikipedia for a salary equal to the amount of advertising revenue. If we lose the revenue, you can just fire me, I'll be ok with it. Then the content will be saved!
      • by Total_Wimp (564548) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:02PM (#17445066)
        I was a journalist for about a year quite some time ago. I never personally witnessed an, "if you print something positive, we'll advertise with you," offer. However, I did witness, and participate in conversations in the newsroom where we debated whether a story was important enough to risk angering our advertising clients. I can not recall a single case where we didn't run a story, but the fact that we discussed it always concerned me.

        Since then, very often when I pick up a magazine and read a glowing review of a product, I'll look further in the magazine for an advertisement from the company who sells it. Most often I'll find, at minimum, full page ads and often several of them. In fact, you'll probably notice that horrible reviews are rare in magazines. If you look even harder, you'll notice that the company involved almost never has an advertisement in the same issue.

        But wait, you say, isn't Wikipedia is edited by the readership? Certainly they won't be influenced by the ads? Sadly, this is not true. The reason this is not true is that advertisers are readers as well. If they were putting money into the publication, they'd read that publication on a much more regular basis and they'd have a much larger motivation to influence the articles published. Since it's so easy to have direct influence over Wikipedia, I would find it hard to believe that advertisers would sit on their hands if they saw an opportunity to make their company or products look better.

        TW
        • by smallpaul (65919) <paul.prescod@net> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:51PM (#17446858)
          The vast majority of Internet advertising is done through a broker in tiny increments of pennies per transaction. The advertiser does not know what site the advertisment will go on and the site does not know in advance which advertisments will appear.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dj_virto (625292)
          I used to layout a semi-major golf magazine, and I can confirm that Advertorial is common practise now. It used to not be in the pre-baby boomer days, but every since the 80s ad salespeople have been using their dollars and leverage to take control of magazines and poison the content. The parent is right, look to see who has full page ads, back cover, inside back cover, etc before you read the magazine and the bias will be evident enough.

          I imagine there are some magazines out there above all this. I'd like
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by crazyeddie740 (785275)
        >>The means might be sacrificing the purported objectivity of Wikipedia.

        >>I'm not saying this will happen, but will Wikipedia cave to the presure of sponsors wanting to keep harmful information from Wikipedia?

        Remember that "the Wikipedia" is really a collection of various weirdos who like to spend their free time writing encyclopedia articles for free. That and ideologues of every possible kind. Imagine Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Joe Stalin, Karl Marx, John Lennon, and Gandhi collaborating on
  • Sure, why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Slippery Pete (941650) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:04AM (#17443484)
    It just seems like every web presence has to have some source of income to pay for their hosting and bandwidth. If they aren't very intrusive (GoogleAds), then it shouldn't harm anything.
    • by jackalope (99754)
      I concur with this sentiment. If having real live revenue makes wikipedia better then let them have revenue. There is nothing inherently evil about making money.

      They could easily do something non-intrusive, such as AdWords that correspond to the topic(s) being viewed. There is ample screen real estate on the left hand side for a discrete ad bar.

      But they would need to be careful not to allow ads to creep into what could be considered content, or have advertisers directly choose which page they want to adve
      • I personally find AdWords to be very obtrusive. AdWords commonly hijack your searches on the thinnest possible pretence of relevance. Does anyone remember Buy Steve Irwin dead on eBay" [theregister.co.uk]?

        I'm still concerned by Google's monopoly and its ability to advertise itself above all others. Should Wikipedia be another battalion in Google's world-conquering army?

        If we're talking about free content, what about the risk that Amazon et al use adwords to appear at the top of any page on any piece of classic literature, le

        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          by Andy_R (114137)
          I don't find AdWords obtrusive... well not since I added http://.googlesyndication.com/* [googlesyndication.com] to my adblock list.

          If you don't like adverts, block them! I have no problem with Wikipedia taking ads, frankly, I'd find a blocked ad that I don't see far less intrusive than their constant begging for donations.
        • These services don't carry ads in most of the minority regional languages, instead defaulting to the dominant majority language for the area (Catalan gives way to Spanish, Gaelic gives way to English, Breton gives way to French etc). Blanket application of a system such as AdWords across the site would break the integrity of the Catalan, Gaelic, Breton etc versions of the content.

          It seems like the only problem would be that the AdWords wouldn't trigger the correct ads, which would really only hurt Google.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think you mean Google's AdSense [google.com] technology, which is aimed at web publishers. The AdWords [google.com] you mention are the ads that appear next to the Google search to search results. We should keep in mind that Google's AdSense lists are dynamically generated on the fly for each specific page request (see the source code in a page with AdSense [heavens-above.com]. Google already knows (and stores) all your search queries. Do you really want it to also know all the pages you've been browsing in Wikipedia?

        For me the three main ways

    • While I certainly can't claim making anything on the scale of Wikipedia, I've had various web presences for almost as long as there has been a web, and have never accepted a single cent of ad money. It's really not that hard.
    • by misleb (129952)
      And most of the people who mind would just block the ads anyway. I even block GoogleAds. I don't need to see ANY of it.

      The real issue regarding sponsorship is how it might affect content. It would suck to have certain content removed if a sponsor didn't like it. Or maybe sponsors would get special privilege/priority to edit articles in their favor.

      -matthew
  • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:05AM (#17443490) Homepage
    I see no problem with adverts on Wikipedia so long as its obvious they're advertisments and corporate sponsorship does not affect the content.

    Even very small and unobtrusive adverts would earn them an awful lot of revenue which can really only be a good thing.
    • by Stephan Schulz (948) <schulz@informatik.tu-muenchen.de> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:38AM (#17443860) Homepage
      I see no problem with adverts on Wikipedia so long as its obvious they're advertisments and corporate sponsorship does not affect the content.

      Even very small and unobtrusive adverts would earn them an awful lot of revenue which can really only be a good thing.

      This is a very slippery slope. Once WikiMedia outgrows the generosity of the community, there is no easy way back. If the foundation has hundreds of paid officiers, in the long term their primary interest will not be to make the best possible encyclopedia, but to safe their own jobs. If Wikipedia funds a lot of other projects, there is even more reason for them to keep up the revenue by following the interest of the advertisers as opposed to just creating the best possible free encyclopedia.

      From another point of view, I assume I spend maybe 100 hours per year working on Wikipedia. Even at my salary level (as opposed to my consulting rate), paying for this would be quite a chunk of money. Multiply it by 3 million of editors, and the "huge" advertising revenue suddenly is not that huge anymore. Even losing a small fraction of good editors over advertising would be a net loss.

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:49PM (#17445866) Homepage

        One thing that gives me doubts about advertising on WP is that the free information projects people have suggested using the money for sound pretty goofy. WP already has a history of continuing to throw resources at failed projects, the biggest example being WikiBooks. If you look at the original press releases, they had grandiose plans for WikiBooks: making a college education free to everyone, producing better textbooks than the commercial ones, etc. But the truth is that its only killer app seems to be books about video games. It just never reached critical mass. If they had hundreds of millions of dollars of ad revenue, I can imagine them squandering it on a lot of other projects that won't work.

        Another question worth asking is what's really broken about WP right now, and needs to be fixed? WP is a massive success in many ways, but it does have some problems, and I don't think ads have anything to do with solving those problems. One big problem is that a typical article reaches a certain level of quality, and then stagnates or deteriorates because of random, disorganized edits, and the maximum level of quality is way below the level you see in a print encyclopedia. Another problem is inefficiency: hard-core WP editors have long watch lists, and waste an incredible amount of time checking them, fixing vandalism, getting in flamewars, etc.

        And finally, it seems really clear that there is a huge body of WP users who are against ads. That means that if ads happen, the consequences are pretty predictable: they would fork WP.

    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      google seem to manage the only adverst on the internet that don't bother me, if Wikipedia went that way I see no problem either.

      To beleive that projects like Wikipedia should not advertise is definatelly nieve, why should there not be extra pots of money for additional projects.

      Mind you, I have a few issues with the way Sourceforge has handled having paid accounts. In spite of what they said, unpaid project hosting suffered. I was unable to access my project on a number of occasions. In that case monetising
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ebuck (585470)
      I could support your position, in a perfect world.

      Advertising in Wikipedia could provide a lot of dollars, and with those dollars comes a few concerns:

      1. What safeguards are there going to be when considering how the content clashes with the interests of the advertisers? Many small newspapers cannot finiancially afford to run articles that conflict with their ad base. So if your biggest advertiser is a jewler, you'd be stupid to run an article about DeBeers backed fighting in Africa.

      2. What safeguards are
      • With regard to one, I wonder whether there is a possible solution. If the Administrators, in general, remained unpaid, and it was only really those at the top who worked in a professional capacity, then NPOV could still be maintained. If a Mod is not paid, he will not be motivated by profit to let through POV on articles about advertisers or their products. The other stuff would still have sway, I suppose, but they would be forced to ban unruly Mods, since they cannot be sacked. The slope would still be the
      • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:28PM (#17445486) Homepage
        The solution to this is simple. Take a page from NPR. I'm in advertising and we recently did some radio scripts for ads on NPR and they have some of the TOUGHEST copy standards out there. They do not allow their ads to have a call to action, which is one of the key parts of any successful ad. There are other strict rules as well. So what you end up with is a very basic, bare bones information ad with little to no spin. At first I was annoyed with them because they made my project more difficult, but I really do appreciate them for approaching advertising in a very correct way for the type of content and audience they have.

        Wikipedia should be fine with ads as long as they draw the line DEEP in the sand and give similar guidelines as NPR and make it crystal clear to potential advertisers that there is nothing that can or will be done to alter entries on their product or company, nor is there anything that can be done to prevent their ad from showing up on a competitors entry or something like a DeBeers ad showing up in an article on blood diamonds. If advertisers are willing to take the gamble and follow those guidelines, then the advertisers can reach a large ripe audience, and the content on Wikipedia shouldn't suffer.

  • by Speare (84249) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:05AM (#17443492) Homepage Journal

    "And if you call in with your pledge of support right now, your money will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the generous contribution of ACME Inc. You will also receive a cuddly ACME logoed teddy bear and an assortment of ACME tea bags. Public broadcasting needs you to pick up that phone, and call in, to keep the airwaves free of the usual commercial breaks that other stations need to use to fund the valuable programming you hear."

  • Too many editors? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sanctimonius hypocrt (235536) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:08AM (#17443524) Homepage Journal
    If Wikipedia ever finds itself with too many editors, this would be a way to get rid of a bunch.
  • Scary Words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deliveranc3 (629997) <`deliverance' `at' `level4.org'> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:09AM (#17443528) Journal
    "The Advertising department thinks we should..."
    "We have an idea to get more hits..."
    Concentrate Wikipedia, you have a long way to go.
  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:09AM (#17443536)
    PBS manages to do pledge drives without completely losing their identity. Granted, they're also running commercials, but certainly less than regular broadcast TV. Could Wikipedia run ads maybe two weeks a quarter, or something similar? The question really is, what would they do with it if they had (theoretically) unlimited funds?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dachannien (617929)
      Exactly. For example, Google sponsors Nova, probably the best non-kids-oriented show on PBS. They get an ad at the top of every show, just after the teaser and Nova title card and before the actual episode starts. The ad isn't garish or obnoxious, and it goes along with the declaration that the show is made possible by viewers like me (presumably the ones with more disposable income than me, though). The rest of the show is solid ad-free content.

      This is exactly what Wikipedia is doing, and as long as th
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Try watching some kids shows on PBS in the mornings. The "sponsored by" messages are as long and as annoying as any other network's ad breaks.
    • The question really is, what would they do with it if they had (theoretically) unlimited funds?

      Good point. If they use the money as has been suggested to support "free knowledge and free software projects" this will, for better or worse, provide an incentive structure in those areas. The exact nature of those incentives will depend on how funds are distributed. It's a potential source of political wrangling, if not corruption.

  • by Toby The Economist (811138) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:13AM (#17443570)
    I'm against.

    Advertising inherently trivialises its surroundings.

    If the Wiki is bare, it stands alone as a mass of knowledge.

    If it is adorned by adverts for books and DVDs and so on, it becomes profane; it loses its sanctity.

    People I think see these words and dismiss them, I suspect because of their somewhat religious association; but they represent human feelings and impressions of the world around them. They represent real states of mind and impressions.
    • by mauddib~ (126018) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:26AM (#17443700) Homepage
      I seriously wished there were more people thinking like you do. Advertisements turns the attitude of the supporters of such a huge database of information away from knowledge and into a money-driven (and short-term investment) ideal. Again, people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Isn't the value of such a body of knowledge enough? Should we not try to pursue science and other fundaments of our society in a more monk-like way? I myself think we should. The fundaments of our society have been built upon ideals like that, it would be a shame to throw it all away.

      Yes, all of this might sound a bit religious, but forget not that religion has had a firm basis in philosophy. Many of the monk scriptures were not rooted in religious affairs at all, but contained basics of knowledge. What we should do now is built up a new fort of knowledge and let that knowledge value itself (instead of revenue dollars from ads).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CmdrGravy (645153)
        I'm glad more people don't think like him. Certainly monks and other such selfless people have contributed alot to science but I would say the vast majority of science has come about through the work of people who are deeply rooted in the real world for the purpose of solving the real world problems they came across.

        The real world includes things like money, advertising and probably many other things you may consider to be corrupting or evil but it is often because of and not in spite of these facets of soc
        • > The real world includes things like money, advertising and probably many other things you may consider to
          > be corrupting or evil but it is often because of and not in spite of these facets of society that progress
          > and learning advance.

          The real world also includes humans and our emotions; and, what's more, the real world as such does not exist - for we only perceive the world through our senses and our feelings.

          > In this case Wikipedia has the opportunity to raise very large amounts of money i
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Blakey Rat (99501)
            The Wikipedia is not merely a collection of web-pages and a server. It is an ethos, a belief, an emotional experience.

            You are right to say in the pure technical sense advertising will make no difference. The web-pages will still be editable, etc.

            But in the human sense, our perception of the Wikipedia - that will change.


            Wow. You usually don't see utter BS of that level on Slashdot. Or, for that matter, the word "ethos" outside of a Starbucks. Congratulations!
            • It may be that you're right, and I'm talking rubbish - in which case, why the insults?

              If I was simply factually wrong, then you could just tell me. But that's not what happened - what happened was you flamed me.

              Your response doesn't actually equate to what I wrote, what actually happened; something else is going on.

              I think the thing is, people get nasty when they *want* something to be wrong, when their feelings, their *beliefs* are involved. I could be wrong, but I think you believe that all this stuff a
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Blakey Rat (99501)
                I'm just amazed at your lack of perspective. Wikipedia is just a database with an interesting editable front-end running on a bunch of servers somewhere. That's all. There's no more reason to have an emotional attachment to Wikipedia than there is to have an emotional attachment to your DNS server, or for that matter, your car. Hell, I even think it's stupid to have an emotional attachment to (for instance) World of Warcraft characters... and they at least look and move like people.

                Why the insults? Well, I
        • by mauddib~ (126018)
          I've believed in that mode of thinking for a long time. But look where we are now: we've got universities who find more revenue in rolling ready-made students into big industries to do the same as they did 30 years ago, instead of raising them same students in thinking for themselves. Everything is ready-made, and our next generation will not even know what 'thinking for thouself' means. If we're not careful, we're destroying our own society from within. With a source such as wikipedia, we have something su
          • by CmdrGravy (645153)
            This is in answer to both the above posts.

            Wikipedia is not new knowledge, its a repository for the knowledge of many people and is an impressive collabarative document but it does have monetary value and it would be a shame if that value is not realised especially when it can be interesting projects or to help Wikpedia its self. I notice at the moment they are asking for donations which they wouldn't have to do if they could leverage their value to advertisers successfully.

            Regarding the other points about e
          • by Kelbear (870538)
            I don't think anybody prefers paid advertising on Wikipedia over free donations. What is being talked about is whether or not Wikipedia should exist at all if free donations fail to meet Wikipedia's growing belt.

            If it doesn't get enough free donations it stops working. Then it should just die? I'd prefer an advertising wikipedia over no wikipedia at all, and would prefer a donation-run wikipedia over an advertising wikipedia.

            As for a multi-national government-subsidized wikipedia, that's not all that differ
        • by Achoi77 (669484)

          I would say the vast majority of science has come about through the work of people who are deeply rooted in the real world for the purpose of solving the real world problems they came across.

          Wikipedia is not designed to solve problems, it's primary goal is to share the knowledge of the world, with the world with NPOV in mind. While there is huge potential for marketability, you run into the very real possibility that by doing so compromises key objective to share knowledge in a neutral fashion, dollars st

        • by epine (68316)
          Whatever it is used for it will represent money being spent on useful projects that would not otherwise take place or have money spent on them.

          Ah yes, in the real world, there is this thing called the money tree, where a dollar earned by Wikipedia can also be spent as if Wikipedia had not earned it, so that every dollar spent by Wikipedia was in effect raked up fresh off the money lawn.

          Money is not an intrinsic good, and not even economists delude themselves into thinking it is. There is no certainty whats
      • Want to see Wikipedia with ads? Go to answers.com. They mirror Wikipedia plus ads.
    • by omeg (907329)
      Yes, THIS! Mod parent up, for he's absolutely correct AND giving an argument that none of the advertisement supporters have ever dared to touch in the debate. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that aims to discuss each notable topic in a neutral way. We've gone through inspiringly great lengths to create millions of articles in many different languages already, constantly using this neutrality as our most important asset. Why is anyone willing to throw that neutrality, that sanctity that has caused this sour
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Achoi77 (669484)

      While I wouldn't put wikipedia in some kind of holy light, if wikipedia decides to take in advertising it soon enters the realm of the the dollar being mightier than the knowledge it is designed to support.

      What I'm really afraid of is when advertising dollars begin to dictate the direction of wikipedia. And that is very very very very not cool.

      • > While I wouldn't put wikipedia in some kind of holy light

        Hmm. This I feel is kinda what I mean about people looking at the words "profane" and "sanctity" and so on as being religious. These words exist outside and independently of religion.

        The issue is the nature and character of an entity.

        If a man builds a web-site and pays for it himself, or through donations from others supporting his cause, it's quite noble; it's his effort, it's about what he cares about, it has meaning, a message - it has sanct
    • Toby,

      It's not enough for you to just be a critic and then sit back. If not advertising, then how would you provide the funds to keep wikipedia running. It's not cheap to provide the systems and datacenter fees to run one of the most highly trafficed www website in the world.

      You also have another option. You could start a rival wiki that has whatever stance towards advertising that you prefer. What is stopping you?
      • > It's not enough for you to just be a critic and then sit back. If not advertising, then how would you
        > provide the funds to keep wikipedia running.

        Well you know they're most of the way through I think it's a 1.5 million USD fund raising drive right now, and it's going really well; it's at about 900k USD after a week or two.

        I think in fact that fund-raising like this, voluntary contributions, are the right way to provide funds.

        You see, it's not just about how effectively you can get hold of dollars.

        I
    • Advertising inherently trivialises its surroundings.

      Bill Hicks was right. Eventually they will use pictures of naked women in ecstasy to sell coke. Hell, Yves Saint-Laurent already did it to sell perfume. It's just a more obvious example of how advertising cheapens even the most intimate human actions in a frantic effort to grasp our attentions.

      Are we expected to endure assault on our senses from the marketing legions while trying to actually learn something? Are we suppoed to be insulted by banner after ba

  • Sounds good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Digital Vomit (891734) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:14AM (#17443576) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like a good idea. Just have a small, text link called "view associated advertisements" on the lower-right corner of every page in Wikipedia that leads to a page with the ads. That way, people who want to see the ads can easily view them and the people who don't want to see the ads just have to ignore a small, out-of-the-way text link. It's win-win!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      But... who wants to see ads?

      Even if I was browsing an article for something I was interested in (say, a literary topic), I'd much rather hit up Amazon or whoever my trusted bookseller is, than click a random ad.
    • by Achoi77 (669484)

      you could start entering the real of marketers tailoring the wiki article to suit consumer driven needs. For example: let's say Coke and Pepsi have ads on the article regarding soft drinks [wikipedia.org]. Slowly, over time you see certain aspects of the article keep getting deleted, noticably

      'Studies showing a correlation between soft drinks and obesity'

      'Soft drinks linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes'

      While these articles can never be completely removed, it's a total PITA for volunteers to be looking after vandal

  • great idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:14AM (#17443580) Homepage
    But there's a strong case that Wikipedia should run advertising. The funds raised could support dozens of Firefox-scale free knowledge and free software projects, outspending all but the wealthiest foundations.

    That's a great idea. Because according to wikipedia, the number of free knowledge and free software projects has tripled in the last six months.
  • It's a Trap! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:17AM (#17443596)
    What happens when big funding starts to demand what can and can't be placed into articles? "We're sorry, Wikipedia, but I'm going to need you to remove this, that and the other fact from the article because it might turn away our potential customers."
    • by strider44 (650833)
      Can't they do that now? Sure, the edit wouldn't last very long but they can still do it.
    • That's the philosophy of Judo. Before you can knock something over, you must support it. Once Wikipedia is dependent on any source of funding, then that source has control over Wikipedia.

      To counter this, Wiki could build in rules that disallow any one source to spend more than N dollars where N is a percent of the operating budget. (something like .1%) Then, no one source can take it's ball and bat and go home, stopping the ball game.

      Of course, someone looking to exert control over the Wiki would
    • Can Wikipedia be totally removed from trademark violation, copyright violation, etc. by NEVER becoming a corporate shill?

      If Wikipedia can keep knowledge as it's only goal can't we find corporate attacks against it as inherently immoral.

      Wikipedia is already catching flakk for the silly political maneuverings occuring there, and, while solutions are being proposed those solutions (republicans:reprehensible actions, democrats:scandals) might not be applicable for corporate entities.

      Currently any company
  • by Odiumjunkie (926074) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:17AM (#17443602) Journal
    This advert is CLEARLY not NPOV. Can we get a citation on the shampoo making hair "glossy and full of bounce"? 84.28.125.19

    WTF I USE IT AND IT MAKES MY HAIR GLOSSY 61.101.19.42

    Hey no original research you nub 69.120.51.20

    Do we having anything on "glossy and full of bounce" as opposed to just glossy? 84.28.125.19

    OK HAVE REWRITTEN ARTICLE TO CLEAN UP, NOW "SHINY AND NATURALLY SOFT", NOT "GLOSSY AND FULL OF BOUNCE" 61.101.19.42

    nominated for deletion, 01/02/07, not noteworthy enough 83.102.48.18
  • If Wikipedia starts carrying advertising, then I, for one, will probably block it. I doubt I'm the only person thinking this, and for this I think it a factor worth considering.

    Personally, I would prefer to see Wikipedia trimmed down in size to a level where it CAN still be supported by donations, ideally by raising the notability criteria. This would have the beneficial effect of reducing the amount of unattended never-to-be-filled stubs and increasing the level of user coverage on more central topics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by imsabbel (611519)
      The only real way to "trim down" the requirements of wikipedia would be by cutting pageviews.

      So why dont you just set a good example by stopping to use it?
  • Some Wikipedians have objected to Virgin Unite's participation in the Wikimedia Foundation's fund drive, calling it adverising.

    Thats the thing with Wikipedia, no matter what you do, some Wikipedians are going to disagree with it.
  • Wikiproject No Ads (Score:5, Informative)

    by jkloosterman (1017270) <yemenim@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:23AM (#17443662)
    The debate about ads on Wikipedia has gone on for quite such time. (The first major dispute involved a deal with answers.com) As a result of this, many Wikipedia contributers have formed a Wikiproject (a semi-organized group of Wikipedia editors) against them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikiproject _no_ads [wikipedia.org] To summarize this page, these editors think:

    1. Wikipedia's philosophy is non-commercial
    2. Ads put at risk Wikipedia's principle of Neutral Point of View (NPOV)
    3. The information that constitutes Wikipedia is wealth for the community

    There are fully three Wikipedians that state their support for advertising. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Wikipedians_ who_think_that_the_Wikimedia_Foundation_should_use _advertising [wikipedia.org]
    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:04AM (#17444274) Homepage
      The real problem with advertising on Wikipedia is that a nontrivial number of people would be extremely upset and stop editing it. What sort of people? Top contributors, editors, administrators. The Wikimedia foundation is wise to realize that despite the potential of earning tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from advertising, the sort of input they obtain from their volunteers is worth more than that.

      At one point, the Spanish-language Wikipedia suffered a max exodus over what essentially boiled down to "the rumour of coming advertising" (poor translation in the dialog may have been a factor as well). It set that wiki's development back quite a ways.

  • by Captain Perspicuous (899892) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:26AM (#17443690)
    - Running ads makes you dependent. Once wikipedia writes something bad against an advertiser, this company might threaten to pull its ads, therefore putting editors in a dilemma: support the project or support the truth?
    - Ads ad new privacy-problems (somebody else tracks what you have visited)
    - Ads fight for your eyeballs. Beeing a distraction-free zone is a big plus for wikipedia, because it made it so enjoyable for the authors.
    - Some ads try to dupe people into thinking they are seeing error-messages etc. Others blink and distract. Many many ads try to manipulate you. We should not give in to this.
    - Hosting costs have come down a lot. The project can very much sustain itself by just relying on fund drives.

    Just my opinion on it.
    • You guys are so short-term oriented. Wikipedia is raising 1.5m to support themselves, hosting, etc. Let's assume that running the foundation with a decent endowment would cost $300k/year to run (administration, legal compliance, etc.), and the $1.5m they are raising now becomes an annualized cost (I'm sure it's not). If you assume that costs go up with inflation (which is a fault assumption, hosting costs and hardware costs come down), and we have $1.8m in annualized costs, you roughly need to raise 33x
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:28AM (#17443716) Homepage
    The very fact that this idea is being discussed leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    In Wikipedia's early days there was a good deal of discussion about this very point, with some conspiracy-minded contributors fearing that Jimbo Wales would talk freedom, neutrality, and noncommercialism at the start and change the rules later in the game.

    There are a number of precedents for this sort of bad-faith maneuver, one of the most notorious being CDDB, which happily accepted contributions of CD track names from thousands of volunteers who believed they were contributing to an open-source project; sneakily changed their software so that it add "stealth" copyright notices giving the rights to the information to the organization; then took it private and sold people's generous volunteer work and lined their own pockets with the money.

    One of Wikipedia's cornerstones is the "neutral point of view" policy. This policy is a fragile and precious thing. Innumerable people are constantly leaning on it and chipping away at it in an effort to use Wikipedia for promotion. The only reason why NPOV works is that the core of Wikipedians truly accept that WIkipedia really is neutral, and are willing to enforce the policy.

    If Wikipedia ever accepts paid advertising, I believe it will destabilize the fragile balance. Advertisements will most likely be targeted to appear on the same pages as relevant article. Many WIkipedia articles about commercial products contain substantial amounts of both praise and criticism. In its nature, this material is frequently in a somewhat dynamic state of flux, with competing editors wordsmithing things back and forth; at its best, a stable state is reached in which the editors on one side of an issue grudgingly acknowledge that the wording of the material on the other side is acceptable to them.

    What happens when an advertiser notices that the related article contains material that has a different spin from its marketing communications? I think the delicate house of cards comes tumbling down, that's what. I don't see how anyone can ever build a "Chinese wall" between advertising and editorial when any advertiser can be an editor.

    And once it becomes generally accepted that Wikipedia is no longer neutral, WIkipedia is dead. That will unleash a flood of self-promoting crap which old-time WIkipedians will be unable to hold back.

    It will also piss off everyone who, like me, has made voluntary monetary contributions to Wikimedia almost every time they've launched one of their frequent pledge drives, in the belief, which will have been shown to be naïve, that Wikipedia was promised to be noncommercial.

    Wikipedia can survive a reputation for occasional inaccuracy and for "fancruft." But if it is ever seen that Wikipedia articles are a practical avenue for promotion and advertising, or that they reflect the interests of advertisors, all Jimbo's horses and all Jimbo's men will never be able to put WIkipedia together again.

    And all the old-time Wikipedians will say "We told you this was going to happen." And they'll be right.

    • by swillden (191260) *

      What happens when an advertiser notices that the related article contains material that has a different spin from its marketing communications? I think the delicate house of cards comes tumbling down, that's what. I don't see how anyone can ever build a "Chinese wall" between advertising and editorial when any advertiser can be an editor.

      Which is different from the status quo how?

      I don't see any problem with WP accepting advertising. I think it's perfectly feasible to tell prospective advertising customers that their dollars only give them permission to place a small advertisement on the page, do not give them any permission to alter the content of the page and, further, that if they are ever suspected of altering the page, their advertisement will be removed. If it can be proved that they altered the page, their money will not be ref

      • by epine (68316)
        Why do we wish to conduct this experiment? The money can't be raised by better alternatives? Has that been demonstrated? Will the sum of money exceed the invisible cost of the many Wikipedia participants worrying about the outcome? How do you propose to measure this? What about the effort invested in combatting the general perception sure to ensue from this that Wikipedia is all about the revenue stream? Or all the energy wasted arguing about the money raised should later be spent (surely that never c
    • Perhaps this is answered in a different post somewhere..
      As far as I know, all the text of wikipedia is available under some free documentation license. If wikipedia were to start offering advertising or something, what would stop people from simply forking it? Make a site which aims for the current set of ideals, with the current body of documentation?
  • by UnixSphere (820423) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:29AM (#17443738)
    I'd bet Amazon or some other online bookstore would really love it if all the books and artists pages were linked to them so you can buy the books and/or music. I use it like that sometimes anyway, reading an article, see sources list, find the ISBN of the book, and head over to a book website like alibris or amazon. This could generate revenue for wikipedia. I just would hate if they had 'recommended' books or whatever as an advertisement, just simply link ISBN numbers to amazon or another website willing to pay wikipedia to be their sole source. Sort of how like Google pays Mozilla if we use the built-in search box, but google doesnt advertise it, it's just there for your convienience. Obviously not everything on wikipedia is a product or goods, but for the articles that are talking about products/good/books, wikipedia should try to create a business deal with them, a link to amazon if they have the product available. Probably need some new code but its not hard to implement.
    • I'd bet Amazon or some other online bookstore would really love it if all the books and artists pages were linked to them so you can buy the books and/or music.

      No! Bad dog! Sit!

      Wikipedia is open. Monopoly is closed. Wikipedia cannot unhypocritically give someone a practical monopoly. I personally like my local bookshops and would not want an "open" project to end up "closing" my shops. Same goes for music. Also, wouldn't it create a conflict of interests regarding out-of-copyright works.

      All in all, suc

  • Non-issue (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shirizaki (994008)
    If I'm reading an article about the peleponesiam war, I sure would like some other books that are about the war or related articles. There's no reason to fear adverts....just yet. Maybe it'll work like amazon's recommendations: based on what you searched it will show relevant ads. If it notices you searching for medical related terms about breast feeding, it might show books related to the social impact of breast feeding in public, the nutritional benefits, and other materials.
    • Wikipedia already has a way to make links to books by their ISBN number. This supports their policy of requiring refeences.
  • You do realize that if there are advertisements on Wikipedia, it will be no different than those sites that are copying Wikipedia? By this I mean all those sites that ripped info from Wikipedia, you can see it in a Google search.

    Asking for money isn't the same as selling advertising space.

    There is probably a third option that we don't realize yet.
    • By this I mean all those sites that ripped info from Wikipedia, you can see it in a Google search.

      Those sites are allowed to exist under the terms of Wikipedia's licensing. They willingly give out their database to anyone who wants to pay for the media.
  • There's enough companies that profit from Wikimedia's existence. Think 6006. They have tons of money, and should donate. I donate enough time to *trying* to help the sorry shape of many of their articles (yes, they have many bad ones). I'm not going to spend any more time to do that is some company is benefiting from overt advertisements.
  • There are a good number of entries on Wikipedia that were written by the company in question, where the text reads like a corporate press release. The same is true for a number of entries about various products. I actually watch the dust-up over politicians re-writing their biographies with amusement, since corporations have been doing the same thing for far longer and to better effect.

    The problem with an "Encyclopedia" that anyone can edit, frankly, is that anyone will. That means every coporate shill and
  • by BluhDeBluh (805090) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:03AM (#17444264)
    From what I'm aware, Google pay FireFox for linking to their search engine. Why don't Google (or one of their rivals) contribute some cash to Wikipedia in order for it to become the semi-official replacement for the god-awful Wikipedia search engine? They'd get Adwords stuff, positive publicity and they wouldn't lose much cash at all.

    No blatant advertising, improve cashflow and company would get more ad revenue. Win/win.
  • I've always thought that unobtrusive advertising that is pertinent to what I need is not a bad thing. Eudora and Opera both used it and as long as it's not IN YOUR FACE I don't mind.

    Google's proves my point. Their ad system works.

    It's when companies get greedy and stupid (like spam) that causes people to get mad

    The only issue is that some may see it as a slippery slope, first google type ads, then pop-unders, then Gifs, etc.
  • by ortholattice (175065) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:20AM (#17444478)
    If ads appear on Wikipedia, you can bet that spamm^H^H^H^Hadvertisers will start making changes to pages, from subtle changes to attract their ads to a page to careful changes in a article's wording to put their ad in more favorable light. This already happens now by astroturfers of various sorts, such as those who add "External Links" that are really commercials, but you can be sure the problem will become far worse. It will become harder to detect and correct as advertisers become more sophisticated in order to protect and nourish their advertising investment, just as spammers continually innovate in getting email through spam blockers or bumping up their Google rating. The volunteer editors will be so overwhelmed with spam that "Articles for deletion" will become a joke, and the better editors - who want to see their labor directed towards producing new and better content, not fighting a losing battle against spam - may just give up in disgust and go on to more productive things in their lives. I wish it weren't so, but on the internet it seems that money attracts scum.
  • by foniksonik (573572) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @11:23AM (#17444520) Homepage Journal
    Rather than putting up ads on the pages like google adwords or worse yet, banners, etc. Provide sponsorship options for companies for certain entries... and be discreet about whom you let sponsor what.

    The form of sponsorship would go something like this... "This entry supported by the good people at " Where the name is a link to a special page that company can create which would highlight their interest in the given topic and allow them to wax poetic about the virtues of the topic and how important it is for all people to understand given topic. More of a PSA than an advertisement.

    The company would get a great PR campaign regarding their involvement in the development, study or support of said topic and the rest of us could find out more about the company. Each topic could have as many PSA ads as companies that are legitimately involved in the topic.

    Wikipedia would get content control of the PSAs to keep out conflicts of interest... ie only truthful PSA info would be allowed though highlighting good deeds and ignoring bad would be acceptable.

  • Not just online, but TV news is often created ny advertisers (think drug companies) and simply rebroadcast by the networks. Ever wonder why they always seem to have a new 'expert' on this or that? Because those people don't work for the network, they work for the sponsor. So in the end, it's not all that different from corporate 'infotainment' masquerading as news.

    Likewise, Wiki can be sponsored by whomever and it will largely go unnoticed. We may not even care. If we start seeing articles about global warm
  • I don't support advertising on wikipedia.

    The wiki is currently not an attractive target for legal action precisely because it could, in the worst case, just disintegrate at any time and be replaced using backup data, perhaps in a different country. Damage would be done, but the attacker wouldn't get a lot for his efforts. If the wiki had
    • lots of money and
    • financial obligations to advertisers that nailed it in place,

    it would

    • have assets worth making an attempt at and
    • lack its most powerful means of def
  • I think Wikipedia should be a shared burden, in terms of cost for overhead such as bandwidth, between universities and other higher educational institutions. It is the very role of government and these higher educational institutions to see that knowledge is dispersed, correlating quite nicely with the objective of Wikipedia.

    Universities have the funding, infrastructure, relative impartiality, purpose and incentive that imbues them not just with the ability, but with the obligation in my opinion, to support
  • If im reading an article about some topic, and have attached to it a link to i.e. an authoritative book around that topic, there is some sinergy there.... both the article and the one putting the ad benefits from it.

    In fact, the wikipedia articles have already links that could count as "ads", links to external sites, some of them commercial, that talk more about that page topic. What if that page have an ad to that site/page in a less plain way?

    Im firmly opposed to generic/bulk ads. But some way to syne

  • I'd be all for it! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jafac (1449) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:24PM (#17445434) Homepage
    But ONLY if the advertisements were subject to the same standards and scrutiny for factualness and neutrality as the articles are.

    Wouldn't you LOVE to see free and open discussion threads for each ad? No way for the advertiser to control the content or threaten to sue? I think that concept could catch on.
  • what next? (Score:2, Insightful)

    When will we stop... before every square inch of readable surface is covered in advertisement?

    Ads are a degenerate form of human discourse in my opinion.

    Would Wikipedia have reached the heights it has if they had advertised from day one? I tend to doubt it. So adding ads now is bait-and-switch. Bad news.

    As for putting my money where my mouth is, I have been donating to Wikipedia since they've accepted donations.

    I would love it if ad-based services like Google were opt-out. I would happily pay to get rid
  • You can't run a commercial business with volunteers in the US. It's illegal. Violates minimum wage laws. AOL ran into this in 1995 [com.com], and had to pay back pay to all their forum moderators. "Labor attorney Victor Van Bourg added that volunteers "are employees of the companies, and they should be paid," he said."

    With Wikipedia, it wouldn't be hard to establish that many editors are doing real work. There are rules, supervision, control, standards, and lists of things to be done. That's work.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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