Recent reports claim that almost half of all internet users visit at least one website every day that accepts donations or subscriptions. This seems like an impossible feat for an organization to maintain, much less profit from!
That’s why it comes as no surprise that many people have questioned whether or not free online content is a viable source of income.
After all, how can you sustain your spending if nothing is given away?
It is worth noting here that none of these questions take into account the amount of traffic each site receives. An extremely popular site such as Wikipedia will likely spend money to advertise on other sites, which brings in more revenue.
This article will go over some ways that most well-known wikis make their dough and what benefits they enjoy because of this. These strategies are not necessarily secrets, but rather things any entrepreneur could implement into their own business model.
We will also talk about something that many may think is absurd — advertising!
Does using advertisements to generate revenue sound crazy? I would argue that it is not! Read on to learn more about this topic and what types of ads you might see on Wikimedia projects.
As mentioned earlier, one of the main sources of revenue for Wikipedia is advertising. The ads that appear on Wikimedia projects are targeted towards the specific audience of each project. This includes advertisements for mobile apps, merchandise, or new service offerings.
The advertisements you see on Wikipedia will typically fall into two categories – Sponsored Content and Product Ads.
Sponsored content is advertisement that has been paid for by an advertiser. It goes onto the page just like any other article and does not require interactive features or calls-to-action. Its goal is to promote the product or service it advertises.
Product ads are different than sponsored content in that they include calls-to-actions encouraging users to buy the advertised item. These are usually slightly more elaborate than “Read this about ________” and instead tell readers how to purchase the product directly.
Both types of advertisements help generate revenue for Wikipedia as people tend to view them more frequently and longer due to the rich experience Google Ads create. Additionally, companies spend money promoting their products so there is a steady supply of free ad space.
Wikipedia doesn't receive payment from every company that places an advertisement, but it does get compensated through the YouTube monetization program or via Affiliate Programs where it receives a small commission for referrals.
There is also a lot of outreach done by members of the community to place advertisements on pages and in areas with little competition.
Since its launch in 2001, Wikimedia projects have relied heavily on two things for revenue — donations from individuals and organizations that want to contribute to these free online resources or use them as an outlet, and advertising.
Donations come in several forms such as monthly dues, one-time gifts like Amazon gift cards or direct payments via PayPal or credit card.
Advertising is another source of income for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites. These ads are typically placed by advertisers looking to promote their products or services, and displayed either directly next to content or across the top of the site.
The advertisements are paired with sponsored articles or features, which contain statements or claims about the product being advertised. The article may also receive compensation from the advertiser, or it may be independent material produced in connection with the advertisement.
Foundation staff work closely with our media team to ensure quality editorial matter about the ad’s sponsor. There are very specific requirements we ask to include, but no requirement for outright rejection of an advertisement if it isn’t fit our standards.
One of Wikimedia Foundation’s (WMF) main sources of revenue is through the sale of various printed or digital products related to WikiProjects, which are groups that work together to improve an article or articles in some way. These products include hard copies of important documents such as the WMF handbook or up-to-date information about an event like the WMF anniversary, and mobile apps for helping users edit pages while on the go.
The WMF also makes money from software licenses, and there have been calls to increase donations by offering donors direct access to certain content.
These types of sales help to strengthen not only individual projects but the overall mission of free knowledge around the world, and create new opportunities for people who want to contribute to Wikimedia projects.
Another way that Wikipedia makes revenue is through paid editing. This is when individuals or companies pay to edit an article or revise an existing one. Companies often hire editors to improve their image or change facts about them that are unfavorable.
This can be done either directly via PayPal or indirectly by donating to an affiliated charity like The Wikimedia Foundation, which funds Wikipedia.
The number of people who do this is growing rapidly. In fact, there were over 2 million paid edits in 2018! That’s more than double the amount from just five years earlier.
But what is the average cost per edit? It depends how much work needs to be done and how well-known the person is. On average, a small revision will run you around $20-30, but larger projects can go up to $100 or more.
As mentioned before, one of the main ways that Wikimedia projects make money is through advertisements. This includes the website you are reading right now! The advertisements we have depend on what service or product the site you are viewing offers.
Most sites offer an advertisement platform where advertisers can contribute to get their message out across the web. These ads are then shown to people who visit the same page as the advertiser!
By using these services, WMF receives revenue from advertising companies that want to spread a message and gain exposure. All this time, however, you had no idea it was Wikipedia doing all the work!
The person behind this ad is usually an individual user with extra digital currency they earned while editing articles or developing for wikis. By allowing users to advertise their products or services, this additional income stream is very popular. It is not only helpful for the individuals, but also the organization as a whole!
WMF has several employees in different departments that coordinate and oversee this system. They manage all the accounts, design the advertisements, and review traffic to see how successful each campaign was.