[Foundation-l] Ads or no ads: another pebble in the pond

Delphine Ménard notafishz at gmail.com
Mon Apr 23 10:14:09 UTC 2007

For the record, I am not against or for ads altogether, I think good
points were raised in the thread and I do believe that we need to be
creative in the way we look for money.

I am catching up, and maybe I just missed it in the previous thread,
but there is one thing I *did not* see in the reactions to David
Gerard's proposal.
There is one thing that I experience every day in the work I do for
the Foundation, or in the work that I see the chapters do.

"No ads" is, today, our best and biggest selling point. Not to the
casual reader maybe, not even to the editors, but to the people who
give (or can and could give) money.

On one hand, I am pretty sure that it is why we are the most
successful online fundraising organisation out there towards
individual donors. But this would probably warrant a poll in the wider
readership to confirm.

On the other hand, and I experience this on a daily basis, to the
companies (small or big) who are willing to work with us, we are some
kind of an alien in this internet world.

- We're not looking for more traffic or exposure as such. We're
looking to make the content available in more and more places, but to
anyone who calls in and says "well, we're proposing you a link on our
portal [1] and it's going cost you nothing but we're bringing traffic
to your website", we answer "well... we don't really need exposure or
traffic. What we need is money to keep the site running. What are
*you* going to give Wikimedia for putting a link on your portal?"
Frankly, this is like coming from the moon to them.
The last I heard from such a potential partner was "this is, to say
the least, highly disconcerting".
Having ads, in my opinion, calls for traffic to make the ads
worthwhile, and makes us  a little bit less free to say such crazy
things to potential partners and makes us fall in the "usual".
For example, that same potential partner said, "ok, I am going to look
at what we can come up with to help you" (developing time, contacts to
the biggest foundations out there, specific projects etc.)

-To those who don't know anything about Wikipedia and its content
being free, the same kind of incredulity arises when we say "well, the
content is free, you don't really need us to get it, but here are the
things you can do to make sure you have access to it and keep the
sites running". And it works.

- To those sponsors out there who know us a little better, and know
that we have no ads, and carry some themselves, we are not a threat or
a competitor, ie. we provide content that they don't have the
means/time/will to produce themselves and they know how important it
is for them to keep Wikipedia running. And frankly, although it might
not come as fast as we would want too, they also are coming up with
tons of excellent ideas to help us go on.  Shared revenues on the ads
*they* are carrying, renewed donations to the Foundation or chapters,

All in all, I believe we have to be very careful about ads anywhere,
at least at this stage, because we would be losing much of what makes
us special and what prompts people to give to us (apart from the fact
that we are offering a service that people love).

In short, we may have no business model as such, but I see one
emerging everyday that goes along the lines of "Make sure that people
out there are convinced that they have to pay to keep Wikipedia
running, because it is special". It might not look like much, but I am
firmly convinced that it can bring tons and help us achieve


[1] and here, be assured that I am *not* talking about the usual
spammers, but big renowned companies who really have something to
offer in terms of exposure and access to our content.
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