World of Wiki: Potential Advertising Goldmine

"What's something we've wiki-ed recently?", I asked my colleague sitting next to me.

"Well, I just wiki-ed 'coriander', don't ask me why", she said with a grimace.


We're all familiar with Wikipedia, the Internet's biggest free encyclopedia. It's an ubiquitous online phenom, so much so that the term 'wiki-ed' has become part of our vernacular.

Its concept of online collaboration with the masses has fueled the growth of 7 million articles in more than 200 languages on the online encyclopedia. This past July, Wikipedia attracted over 51 million visitors to its site. And according to its own site statistics, it's on track to attract at least 684 million visitors by the end of 2008.

According to founder Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia is all about creativity and collaboration. But the bottom line, really is the bottom line -- how do you ensure a commercially viable business model.

"It's one of the interesting puzzles because we really want to have this burgeoning participatory culture, free culture, but we have to find a way to make it viable and sustainable in the long run", Wales said in an interview with CNBC.

And he adds that Wikipedia is finding solutions to monetize its services. "One of the interesting things that we are seeing is a real explosion of creativity from lots of different people from lots of things and advertising seems like a reasonable way to support this stuff so, so far so good," Wales adds. (Click on the video to see the full Jimmy Wales interview)

He gives the example of Wiki's World of Warcraft community. Yes, WOW, the role playing online game (RPG) with some 8 million customers. "It's just a huge phenomenon. By our estimate, about 4 million people a month visit the World of Warcraft on Wiki. The community comes to us, they write about the game, they talk about the game, they document everything -- it's a really really in depth content," Wales says.

And that's all very obscure for all of us who don't play the games. It's hard to imagine how gamers managed to write 70,000 pages about this one video game. But for that community it's an incredibly valuable resource that they use.

"For advertisers this is a really targeted demographic ... you know exactly who they are, you know they are gamers and they spend time, a lot of time playing online multiplayer games. If you want to reach a certain demographic this is a great place to do it -- if you don't, then don't waste your money and so that actually works really well for advertisers," Wales goes on.