Wikipedia is the world’s 5th largest web company, and has long stayed ad-free and continues to stay ad-free (at least publicly ad-free) in an attempt to be like the old printed encyclopedia everyone used to use.  And they have held up to their mission for a long time, and don’t seem to be stopped anytime soon.  However, is it the right, most logical thing to do?  As Dylan said, times they are a changin’.

In order to pay for the expenses of the 100 employees, 400 servers, and various development costs, Wikipedia runs internal ad campaigns on their pages asking for donations.  During 2010-11, they raised $23.8 million in revenue. Even though these ad campaigns don’t link externally and are purely for raising money to support Wikipedia, the fact of the matter is that they are still ads – which that alone voids their mission to keep the site ad free.  While these internal ads do build somewhat of relationship with Wiki visitors, they distract them just about as much as any other advert on the web.  Wikipedia also wants to remain as a neutral, non-profit website.  In that link, there is a whole list of “Arguments against adverts”.  I think every item on the list could be solved to make it all work out.  As for being a non-profit, what benefit does it provide?  In my opinion, the benefits of public adverts outweigh the negative side effects of it, just think about it.

Wikipedia should allow public advertisers like myself to advertise on there.  I’m not talking about some flashy bright blue 728×90 ad saying I just won $1,000,000, but instead regulated/reviewed adverts by an advertiser that is targeting the viewers interest.  Because afterall, if you’re going to see an advertisement, wouldn’t you rather see one that targets your interests as opposed to some random one?  With Wiki’s mass array of articles, it would be an advertisers holy grail, and both Wikipedia and advertisers would bank on it.  Now, it isn’t all about money, but obviously with more money, Wikipedia could develop quicker, create more advanced technology, and further grow the free service that we all enjoy.  The things that can be done with Wikipedia are limitless, and I think with more money, more innovation would come faster, bigger, and better.

However, there is a big issue to deal with.  Wikipedia content is mainly created by volunteers, not paid employees. If Wikipedia opened up public advertising, their profits would skyrocket, and many of the volunteers may be less willing to write since they know someone is profiting from their work.  To solve this, why not offer a revenue sharing program, where people who write quality content and articles get a percentage of revenue from each article they wrote?  This would be difficult to setup since most articles are written by many people, but there would be a way to make this possible.

Considering the amount of traffic Wikipedia has and the amount similar websites of their size profit (and the fact that Wikipedia already places ads), it totally makes sense to open up their platform to a self-serve ad service.  Would it improve the site even more? I’d hope so.  Would it take away from volunteers knowing that someone is profiting off of their work?  Possibly, depending on how the advertising was setup and how the revenue was divided.  A revenue share program could be developed which rewards users who contribute more.  Not only would this provide an awesome advertising opportunity for advertisers like me, but would also give an incentive for people to contribute content, and would also make the whole experience more rewarding.  I suspect that as soon as tons more revenue comes in, the site would expand vastly and the money could support many new features.  And because there would now be a larger incentive to write content, more people would likely contribute more.

So Wikipedia? What are you waiting for?  Am I missing something?