Just some thoughts from a post by Jason Calacanis about the good Wikipedia could do for the world if it donated ad revenue money, and then Fred Wilson’s response pointing out in the comments of Jason’s post that people hate ads, and Jason himself.
1. I agree with Jason that Wikipedia could indeed do lots of good for the world if it had ads and donated that money to worthy causes. However, I think that Wikipedia already does an incredible amount of good for the world, and that it would be a travesty if it lost credibility from taking advertising and associating itself with a large company in the way Jason suggests. I’m not sure if it really would make a huge difference or not, but if people thought Wikipedia’s information was slanted in any way to benefit advertisers it would be less effective as a service.
2. In regards to people hating ads, very few people really like or enjoy advertising. Sure, we all find relevant ads now and then, but I’d say on the whole users don’t like them. But, as someone who has been publishing on the web for over 10 years, and working closely with other publishers for many of those years, I can tell you that without advertising on the web, it would be a much different place. A worse place. Advertising provides a revenue stream that allows publishers to stay alive as a business. It allows them to have fast servers, to hire writers, to buy better cameras, and do all the things to their websites that make it a better experience for you and I to visit them. If those publishers weren’t making money from ads, many of them would stop running their sites, which would be a great loss. The other option would be that content would not be free. I’m sure some people would prefer to pay a few dollars a month so sites they enjoy if they never had to see ads, but many other people wouldn’t. Personally I’d rather see ads then be forced to pay for the content. Heck, in the magazine or TV world, we pay for it AND we get ads. So, I don’t see ads as an evil at all, they are a necessary revenue stream that helps web publishers improve their sites, keep them running, and keep them generally free to anyone and everyone.
3. Regarding people hating Jason Calacanis, there’s a subset of people who will hate anyone rich and successful, and even more so if they also speak their mind as openly as Jason does. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks, and that polarizes people. But for as many people as he pisses off, he probably gains twice that in readers or people who start to follow what he’s saying and doing. I don’t think his latest Wikipedia post is selfish in any way, I believe that he thinks Wikipedia could use that money to change the world, and he’s just offering up AOL’s help if that would help make it happen. It’s an interesting idea, but one I don’t see Wikipedia doing anytime soon.