Over at TechCrunch i wrote how Wikipedia should use affiliate links in the US to earn $16m+ annually and remove the specter of insolvency. There have been lots of good comments i wanted to address
1) Why Wikipedia should care about money
Some folks questioned why wikipedia should care about money at all – they’re a non-profit and the annual fundraisers seem to cover their costs. Why? Because by many measures (including shrinking contributor base), Wikipedia is possibly getting weaker, not stronger (see article in Time Magazine). And while money is only part of the equation, it would help them take on even bolder goals.
With a solid financial foundation, Wikipedia could hire more developers and try new models for information creation. Why didn’t Wikipedia create Quora – authoritative information is certainly their mission? Why isn’t Wikipedia experimenting with compensating curators & creators – ie “Community Powered Demand Media.” The community could vote stipends for contributors and other mechanisms which are consistent with Wikipedia’s values. Wikipedia is an AMAZING phenomenon but in technology if you aren’t growing and evolving you’re becoming less relevant. And that’s the situation Wikipedia should avoid.
2) But won’t this make Wikipedia “commercial” and piss off (a) contributors and/or (b) readers
Some people misunderstood affiliate links — they’re not ads which run alongside content, they’re merely links from relevant content. eg Linking to the Twilight book on Amazon from the Twilight wikipedia page. Sure some contributors might get concerned but here’s how you handle that:
i) give any page moderator the ability to disable affiliate links on their page but publish this among the community so full transparency.
ii) help get the contributor community excited about the bigger mission, the opportunities for new projects to help the world, etc
For readers, well most seem to be fine with the idea and others say they’re already tired of seeing Jimmy Wales annual appeal. Creating an annual state of panic among your community for annual fundraising may galvanize people in the moment but is NOT an energy-maximizing strategy in the longterm.
Thanks! keep the feedback coming and i’ll respond more later.