First, preface: I am not interested in commercializing Wikipedia. I believe in an advertisement-free Wikipedia, Wikinews and Commons. The funding model to support this works, and there is inherent benefit provided that would change this.
I like economic data and thinking about the monetary value of things as it can be used to assist in framing ideas and understanding priorities where other metrics might not. I originally wanted to write this as a Wikinews article, but unfortunately for me, there is no research offering a clear methodological approach for duplicating existing academic research that would allow for a journalism based approach to allowing the relative ranking of English Wikipedia articles based on the value of individual edits. See failed article and failed review at Cristiano Ronaldo tops Neymar and Messi on most valuable Wikipedia edits and Talk:Cristiano Ronaldo tops Neymar and Messi on most valuable Wikipedia edits. I’m just inherently unable to do what is required, so I decided to switch to my blog.
Before going into any depth, let me start by saying the monetary and economic value of Wikipedia is not easily defined. It all depends on how you define it. There is little discussion of this in any practical sense that can allow for monetary weight of edits. Indeed, even as the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) makes a bigger push for definitions of success for chapters, itself, user groups and a thematic organization, the WMF has not provided any research as to the value of edits. Academics haven’t stepped in to fill this void. If marketers are doing it, they aren’t making it public. In fact, I think if they have done, they would probably be hiding it because my suspicion is the perceived economic value of Wikipedia by certain segments keen to monetize it is higher than most astute and knowledgeable marketers would put it at.
What is the monetary value of Wikipedia? Jonathan Band and Jonathan Gerafi (“Wikipedia’s Economic Value” — Infojustice) put the value of all Wikipedia projects at US$6.6 billion, with updating costs of $630 million per year. Siteprice.org, one of several online automated tools that allows you to estimate the value of your site, puts the value of English Wikipedia at $573,552,771. Mywebsiteworth.com puts the value of English Wikipedia at $ 166,666,667. Evaluateanywebsite.com puts the value at $486,139,770. Webuka.com puts the value at US$2 billion. The range is pretty huge with the low end of $166 million and the high end at $6.6 billion.
Wikipedia isn’t a static website. Pages do not get uniform page views, nor do they have uniform editing patterns. Some pages, for their visibility, are inherently worth more. The page titled Climatic Research Unit email controversy has had 7.9 million page views in the past 30 days. Meanwhile, the article about Ruth Glick had 185.
From a general priority viewpoint, while fully acknowledging the project is based on volunteer contributions in terms of time and priorities and while acknowledging systemic bias in traffic patterns, focusing on improving articles with high page views seems to be the best strategy. Again, there is no academic, marketing based or WMF provided formula which suggests what type of edits improve editing content. There is at times an idea that the more editors involved with an article, the higher quality it will be… or at least, the fewer glaring wrong factual errors it will have.
So focusing back on the total edits and suggesting editing priorities in terms of the men’s FIFA World Cup on Wikipedia. In the past 30 days, Brazil, Germany, England, Portugal, Spain ranked as the top 5. In terms of a views, that’s 164878 for Brazil, 151817 for Germany, 133590 for England, 124414 for Portugal, and 122249 for Spain. Lots of views, but not close to Cristiano Ronaldo at 689777, Lionel Messi at 493801 and Neymar at 243890. Heck, close but not quite on par with Manchester United F.C. at 201916 or Real Madrid C.F. at 166304. The numbers for the particular national teams will almost certainly repeatedly speak and gain a certain overall higher average daily plateau during the World Cup itself: this was the pattern at the Olympic Games and to a lesser degree the Rugby World Cup. Wikipedia traffic to these articles won’t be critically important though as a source of information. The mainstream media can and will trump Wikipedia in terms of overall page views for this topic because the mainstream media has an economic incentive to drive traffic to their sites for this topic. It is a big event, with an audience of potentially billions. These sites are updating frequently. If there is a fight for that audience during the World Cup, individual player profiles should probably be prioritized first, their club profiles second, national teams third. Views and use are often seen as indicators of potential success because the goal is to monetize that. Or at least have the potential to monetize that audience.
What’s all this Wikipedia traffic worth? (Which is important to know if we’re trying to figure out the value of Wikipedia edits.) We know it has monetary value because we know others are trying to generate traffic based on the World Cup. We also know that search and social media play a huge role in Wikipedia traffic acquisition. This can be verified looking at those sites that valued Wikipedia. Two sources of publicly measurable data sources for views for these clicks come from Facebook Ads and Google Adwords.
Yesterday and today, I’ve gone to Facebook and Google Adwords and gotten the cost-per-click value associated with keywords for a USA audience to determine what it would cost to buy all these visits. Not 100% realistic in the case of Google Adwords because the search data shows that the volume of searches doesn’t match with the traffic of these articles, but Google AdWords is one of the best methods we have. Using this metric, Cristiano Ronaldo is worth $510,434.98 on Facebook and $9,449.94 on Google AdWords. If we average the two numbers together, Ronaldo traffic to the Ronaldo article is worth $259,942.46. That’s behind only the 2014 FIFA World Cup article at $454,518.76. The most valuable player on my list is Ronaldo. Wayne Rooney is second with $219,113.69. Messi is third at $174,015.47. The first men’s national team that appears on the list $107,493.55. Next comes Germany at $104,457.69, Brazil at $88,811.53 and Belgium at $87,482.26. The top women’s team of the selected teams on the list is the US women at $16,169.37, directly ahead of the Australian men at $16,046.96 , Landon Donavon at $14,736.40, the Ivory Coast men at $13,351.22 and Russia’s men at $11,292.52. The Russian men are the worst valued team in terms of Wikipedia article views value of all 2014 World Cup team.
And this is where we have to make a logical jump. Wikipedia editing is not the same as other website contributions. Many sites pay $15 to $50 for original blog posts. Some of them pay flat rates plus extra based on traffic. Many of these sites are not sport websites, though a few are. It isn’t particularly possible to say “An article about the US men’s national team will pay $50, while an article about fellow group team Germany is worth $25.” And then from there, multiple and divide out and divine an answer for the question of how much value an article has. The metrics just are not available. And again, we don’t have a formula to assign value to individual Wikipedia edits, or to assign monetary value to edits.
So the formula I’ve devised is to take the total number of edits to the article, 10392 for the Ronaldo article as of yesterday, divide that number by the total number of page views to the article in the past 30 days. In Ronaldo’s case that is 689777. For his article, there are 66 views for every edit. Yeah, a number of these edits are probably crap and vandalism. Some probably were very good in terms of adding information and adding extra bytes. Absent any meaningful way to separate these out, we’re forced to use that 66 number. So then we take that number and we multiply it by the average Facebook cost-per-click which is $0.74 and the Google AdWords suggested bid which is $0.01. Facebook value per edit is $48.79 and Google AdWords is $0.90. Average between the two is $24.85. It isn’t perfect, but it reflects the different pricing between Facebook and AdWords.
Using this formula, the most valuable 2014 World Cup team based on a per edit basis is the Belgium team article at $33.44. It has comparatively high Facebook and AdWords value at $0.65 and $0.95. The ratio of edits to views is also high at 42. Switzerland, ranked second amongst all teams with a value of $18.91, has a much lower ratio at 24. Only 2014 FIFA World Cup, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA Ballon d’Or and Lionel Messi have higher ratios than Belgium. Looking at the bottom, there is England national football team, Iran national football team, Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team, France women’s national football team, Mexico national football team, Australia national association football team and Argentina women’s national football team. All have a views to edit ratio of less than 10. This monetary value should have some meaning because neither the views, total edits, nor monetary value actually correlate to article quality. The quality is pretty uniformly poor across all articles in this sample, with the exception of Germany women, where the article is a Featured Article and one or two of the player biographies which are legitimate Bs, which means they are relatively complete and almost fully referenced.
So herein lies the value of a Wikipedia edit. It is independent of article quality. The formula values market preferences for certain keywords more than others, ranging from $0.00 to $2.37 on AdWords and $0.58 to $0.74 on Facebook. Edits are more valuable when there are fewer in relation to the audience because more edits isn’t related to article quality, completeness or up-to-date-ness. This matters because you can understand two measures of external audience interest and the relative value they place on the article’s importance, with article text being supported by edits to it. Ideally, you probably want to be in the middle of the pack like Manchester United F.C., Ecuador national football team, Franck Ribéry, Ivory Coast national football team and United States men’s national soccer team are. They have middle of the range edits to views ratio, no huge skew on the Facebook or AdWords value, Edit totals in the 4 digits. View totals in the 5.
But if you want to know where content creators did relatively less work for relatively large number of page views, where Facebook and AdWords think these topics are worth money, then the complete list of all the articles in the sample is below.
|Article||Value per Wikipedia edit|
|2014 FIFA World Cup||$103.41|
|Belgium national football team||$33.44|
|Switzerland national football team||$18.91|
|FIFA Ballon d’Or||$18.03|
|Cameroon national football team||$17.48|
|Uruguay national football team||$17.41|
|Colombia national football team||$14.89|
|Germany national football team||$14.52|
|Argentina national football team||$12.70|
|Nigeria national football team||$11.11|
|Portugal national football team||$10.99|
|Spain national football team||$10.64|
|Netherlands national football team||$9.66|
|Brazil national football team||$9.23|
|Estádio do Maracanã||$9.19|
|Italy national football team||$9.13|
|Ghana national football team||$9.00|
|Croatia national football team||$8.90|
|France national football team||$8.15|
|Manchester United F.C.||$7.85|
|Ecuador national football team||$7.42|
|Ivory Coast national football team||$6.70|
|United States men’s national soccer team||$6.42|
|Real Madrid C.F.||$6.41|
|Vicente del Bosque||$5.94|
|United States women’s national soccer team||$5.93|
|Honduras national football team||$5.71|
|Costa Rica national football team||$5.56|
|Ballon d’Or (1956–2009)||$5.01|
|Algeria national football team||$4.67|
|South Korea national football team||$4.49|
|Germany women’s national football team||$4.38|
|Australia women’s national association football team||$4.04|
|Russia national football team||$3.99|
|Japan national football team||$3.85|
|Nigeria women’s national football team||$3.38|
|England national football team||$3.33|
|Iran national football team||$3.21|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina national football team||$3.18|
|France national women’s football team||$3.15|
|Mexico national football team||$2.62|
|Australia national association football team||$1.99|
|Argentina women’s national football team||$1.45|
|Semen Padang F.C.||$1.14|