Proposal:No Advertising

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  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation



Summary

Wikimedia has got this far without advertising other organisations on our sites, and we should reaffirm no advertising as being a core part of our strategy.

Proposal

Wikimedia and all its projects will not carry advertising for other organisations.

There will be times when Wikimedia itself uses advertising both internally and externally such as when recruiting employees, advertising internal events such as elections, wikimania, and policy debates, and possibly even to raise awareness of a new language version. But Wikimedia and its projects and chapters should eschew advertising as a method of fundraising for itself.

This proposal does not preclude commercial partnerships and arrangements such as the recent deal with a mobile telecom company to enable wikipedia use on their phones. Nor does it preclude chapters producing wiki branded material such as Calenders, Greeting cards, T shirts and similar tat. But it does mean that when you look up a particular car manufacturer on Wikipedia you don't see advertising for their rivals, and when you look up a tourist destination you don't see ads for holiday companies.


Motivation

We should be run in the interests of the current and potential users of our information, not in the interest of commercial organisations.

Our roots lie in the free software movement, commercial funding by advertising is incompatible with this ethos, and serious discussion of advertising risks losing parts of the community as it did when the Spanish community went off to found Encyclopedia Libre.


There are many subjects which we cover that are of a commercial nature, with wikipedia articles on many companies, and their products. A policy of not taking advertising would enable us to maintain everyone's trust in us as a neutral provider of information. If we took advertising, imagine the difficulty of maintaining, and near impossibility of being perceived to maintain neutral point of view when you are taking money from one side in a disputed and contentious area like medicine, investment or Genetically modified food.

Organisations that depend on advertising can become subject to commercial pressure from their advertisers to censor things that might offend the advertiser - even if unrelated to the advertisers products. Freedom from advertising means freedom from such pressure.

Even if, as some have suggested, we only inflict advertising on the less technically literate users who don't have advertising blocking software, there is also the issue of dial up users with slow connection speeds. As well as some poor people in the first world, there are many areas of the world with poor internet connections, including entire countries in the third world. Degrading their wiki experience by using some of their limited bandwidth for advertising would deter some of the users who we are keenest to recruit. A commercial advertising funded organisation would not care that many relatively low income groups would be lost because of this. But for us this should be a major concern.

en:Advertising itself is an encyclopaedic subject with articles as diverse as en:Pyramid scheme, en:Direct Mail, and en:Skywriting. To maintain encyclopaedic neutrality in such a commercially competitive area it is important that we maintain the neutrality inherent in a No Advertising policy.

Key Questions

  • Does this mean that the Wikimedia foundation core budget will have to be constrained and stop growing faster than the project is growing?

Potential Costs

  • Our current neutrality is a precious asset that motivates some of our editors, donors and sites and readers who link to us or click on those links and thereby maintain our google rankings. Therefore it is unclear whether a no advertising policy will be a net cost or net benefit to wikimedia, just as it is unknown whether advertising would do the community more harm than good.

References

Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:No Advertising.

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