But for how long?
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, is not a fan of advertising, which could be a potential source of revenue for the online, crowd-sourced encyclopedia. Wikipedia is run as a foundation, and to date has not accepted advertising. In a recent appeal to users, Mr. Wales was able to raise $6.2 million from 125,000 contributors. That averages out to just under $50 per contributor. And I would suspect that the vast number of contributions was way under that amount, balanced out by a smaller group of especially generous heavy hitters.
Okay, I’m no enemy of advertising. And in this blog I write about social media and its potential for marketers. Still, I find it very inspiring that users of Wikipedia have stepped up to the plate in terms of funding. I’m not aware of many examples in which the consumers of online content have demonstrated they are actually ready to pay for it. It’s a testament to the value of Wikipedia for its users and for its “citizen” editors, who I suspect also contributed. (Imagine that — paying the organization I work for instead of the organization paying me for the work I do.)
Could this be a viable financial model for certain online content providers? Perhaps this grass roots type of funding can indeed work. Especially when the organization stands for a set of values that its public also holds, and the appeal for support comes from a real person who embodies the organization — be it Jimmy Wales in the case of Wikipedia, or Barack Obama in the case of the U.S. democratic presidential campaign. The question is if this could actually by an ongoing way to fund online content providers. Can the funding model charities use work for online content?