The Wiki Model – Next Big Wave?

There is an interesting article this morning at about making money from Wiki. What is a Wiki? It’s kinda like Open Source content building. The best example of a Wiki site is Wikipedia. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written collaboratively by many of its readers. It uses a special type of website, called a wiki, that makes collaboration easy. Lots of people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making thousands of changes an hour, all of which are recorded on article histories and recent changes.

Wikipedia is operated by a nonprofit foundation, and as such has no interest in making profit. That’s really too bad because the site can make millions if they ever decide to put some Google ads on it. Then again, the original concept of Wiki wasn’t a commercial one. However, this has not stopped a new breed of advertising-based Wiki sites from starting up. The article profiles one such money making Wiki.

In 2004, Herrick acquired the how-to guide, which featured articles written by paid freelance writers. Although the business made a profit, he realized that the revenue brought in by selling advertising would not support the extensive site he had in mind. “If the page were about how to get a mortgage, it would work,” he said. “But the idea was to be the how-to guide to everything.”

So in January 2005 he started wikiHow, a how-to guide built on the same open-source software as Wikipedia, which lets anyone write and edit entries in a collaborative system. To his surprise he found that many of the entries generated by Internet users–free–were more informative than those written by freelancers.

The Wiki model seems almost ideal for net entrepreneurs – the barriers of entry are extremely low and the writers work for free! How great is that? wikiHow is just one example of a successful commercial Wiki site (1.1 million visitors in July according to Nielsen/NetRatings). There is ShopWiki, for product reviews, and Wikitravel, for tourism advice, and the list goes on.

It’s highly doubtful that any Wiki will ever become as big as Wikipedia (16th biggest site on the net), but you don’t need that level of traffic to make a very good living at this. The Wiki business model is definitely something every netrepreneurs should keep an eye on.

12 thoughts on “The Wiki Model – Next Big Wave?”

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  2. Marco says:

    Have you got a wiki yourself John? Or planning to make one to supplement your websites?

  3. John Chow says:

    No I don’t have a Wiki and don’t have any plan to make one anytime soon. There is a site call that will allow you to make your own Wiki instantly.

  4. Sharon says:

    John, I’ve seen some new Wiki’s sprout up with API.

    I thought it was really cool.

    I was researching a designer bag, and it got me to some wiki. And it started to list on the sidebar where I can shop and compare.


  5. John Chow says:

    You must be thinking of

    They’re a fellow Canadian site. 🙂

  6. John Chow says: – Any social networking site without a community is worthless. However, just because a site is for profit doesn’t mean it can’t build a community. The community on Digg knows that Digg makes money but they still contribute to it.

    WikiHow is has over 10,000 submitted articles now, and growing daily. They got Google ads on there and the site is making money. Does the community care? A few might but the majority of Wiki contributors don’t really care if a site makes money or not.

    Mark my words. You’re going to see a lot of for profit Wikis’ springing up real soon.

  7. Paul says:

    I definitely agree with you that we will see more wikis, for profit or not, in the future. My point was that to get people to contribute to a wiki, the incentives are different than getting them to contribute to a forum or social networking site. wikiHow suceeded because it was built into an established site, and the content was made free (CC). Wikia worked because it was started by Jimbo Wales, had good funding, and the content was made free (GNU FDL). I think “The barriers of entry are extremely low and the writers work for free!” is misleading.

  8. John Chow says:

    The incentives are pretty much the same. Why does anyone want to be a top poster in a forum or a top digger, or a top contributor in a Wiki? It’s not for money, that’s for sure. And that’s why most users won’t care or mind a for profit Wiki. I doubt Wikipedia would lose any traffic or users if they put a Google ads on there (I believe the main reason they don’t do it is because the creative common license prevents it).

    And then we have the really creative Dot Coms’ who makes advertising part of the Wiki content. For example Scroll down to “Where to buy” A Wiki page about an Xbox 360 should include information on where to buy it, right? 🙂

    Building a Wiki is no different than building any social networking site. You need to get a big enough user base in a short enough time so it can support itself. That’s where marketing comes in. If you just build it, they won’t come. The barriers of entry are extremely low. You can start a Wiki for zero dollars if you want. And the writers of the Wiki do work for free (unless you do a revenue sharing Wiki – that’s an idea!). It’s all in how you market it.

  9. Paul says:

    The difference in incentives I was talking about is that in a forum, chat room, social networking site, digg, blog, or any other kind of community site, one of the main incentives for someone to contribute is immediate feedback. The feedback could be responses in a forum, diggs or comments on digg, comments on a blog, etc.

    These types of sites also allow you to build a reputation, since your name is shown as attached to your content. In a wiki, names are not attached to content. Sure, you can find out who contributed what in a wiki (revision history), but in terms of content being attached to a username, there is much less ownership of contributions on a wiki.

    Wikipedia is under the GNU FDL, which does not prevent them from displaying ads. In fact, I could download the database from their servers, duplicate the content on my own site, and put ads up, as long as I include the right citation. When Wikipedia was small, Jimbo Wales mentioned that adding ads was inevitable. I don’t know what changed his mind, but I would imagine the contributors had something to do with it.

  10. Paul says:

    A little correction on my comment, the feedback on other sites is maybe “fast”, but not immediate.

  11. John Chow says:

    You made some great points Paul. Thank you. As for Wikipedia not running any advertising, I did a little checking. Turns out they do very well with grants and donations.

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