May 27, 2008

Trader: Wikia "commercialize the hell out" of Wikipedia success for Jimmy Wales

"The Jimmy Wales Experience" was just published in a financial press organ called "Trader Monthly Magazine". I find these sorts of articles very interesting, since they have a perspective vastly different from the Kool-Aid doled out for the consumption of the rubes. And note if I said the exact same things as appear here, I'd probably get intensely personally attacked as a negative person. The article requires site registration, so I'll share the best parts. Like this gem:

In 2004, he launched another Web site, this one called Wikia Inc. (See "Wikipedia 2.0.") The company, Wales readily admits, is his effort to take the success -- and, indeed, the underlying philosophy -- of Wikipedia, and commercialize the hell out of it. "Look, I'm not against making money," he says.

[But remember folks, it's all about sharing. It's about the community.]

He decided that there was no reason he couldn't become the Internet's Michael Dell. In his spare time, he experimented with a handful of Web ventures, like a kid in a young entrepreneurs' club. He started something called Loop Lunch, a site where office workers in downtown Chicago could order food online from local eateries. It flopped.

In 1998, at the height of the dot-com gold rush, Wales resolved to go for broke. He quit the firm, took his savings and left for California to take part in the boom.

[But he's always been about bringing knowledge to the people.]

Wales, meanwhile, has gone on to fame, if not exactly the enormous fortune one typically associates with Internet moguls. But it's not as if he's opposed to rectifying that situation. Early in Wikipedia's life, Wales and his partners considered selling ads on the encyclopedia's pages. The site was showing signs of explosive growth, and they certainly could have used the extra money. Though ultimately they nixed the proposal (Internet ad rates had fallen off anyway, of course), they didn't exactly do so for idealistic reasons. "We've never said, 'Absolutely not, we don't want to sell ads,'" Wales says, explaining that the decision had more to do with preserving the Wikipedia brand.

And with the advent of his for-profit venture, Wikia Inc., it appears Wales is finally ready to monetize.

[They said it, not me!]

"Wikipedia 2.0.":

The company's business plan maintains that the bulk of its revenue will be generated by...drumroll, please...advertising.

"The monetizing is pretty straightforward," Wales says. "We don't have any clever, innovative ideas around that."

But even after three years of operation, the site has refrained from selling ad space, content to build critical mass before it goes full-tilt with its sales effort. For now, it's about brand building.

Wales's ambitions for Wikia don't stop with online community-building. At the end of 2007, his company launched an alpha version of Wikia Search, with which Wales aims to do battle with Google. ... Instead of search results produced solely by computer programs, the Wikia engine will use its wiki-based communities -- and the actual human beings who participate in them -- to refine its results. The hope is that these people -- the open market -- will edit out the spam and other extraneous junk, producing a series of links that Wales believes will be more relevant to people than what Google generates.

[Saying "the open market" sounds so much better than "the unpaid masses" (at least Mahalo pays the piece-workers something). But isn't it fun to buy Jimmy Wales a jet?]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikia-search , wikipedia | on May 27, 2008 04:21 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I've done a Wikia search for 'Wikipedia' and the there is a 'Mini Article' on Wikipedia at the top of the page, above the search results, but the top search result is the German edition, and the much larger English edition is not even in the first 50 results. And the German edition is *also* the 14th result...

Give me algorithms any day... :)

Posted by: Anon at May 28, 2008 03:08 AM

Seth wrote:
> The article requires site registration,
> so I'll share the best parts...

After your basking in the Google verdict, that took some real chutzpah.

Posted by: Chris Grayson - GigantiCo at May 29, 2008 12:55 AM

Chris: Huh? What Google verdict, and what basking?

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at May 29, 2008 02:52 AM