Advertising on Wikipedia

Note: Current information can be found at en:Wikipedia:Advertisements.

The text below is historical, coming from a period when Nupedia/Wikipedia had a full-time hired editor, Larry Sanger; Larry's salary was the primary operating expense of Wikipedia at that time. Since Larry left in the early days of 2002, expenses are bandwidth and occasional server hardware upgrades. The non-profit Wikimedia Foundation has been incorporated (mid-2003) and is accepting donations to help pay for the next round of server upgrades. --Brion VIBBER 08:01, 22 Sep 2003 (UTC)

There are currently no plans for Advertising on Wikipedia. Instead, I had to let Larry go as an employee. This reduced my costs to maintain wikipedia to a level that I can carry for a long long time to come. To achieve my long term goals for wikipedia (including distribution to everyone on the planet!), funds will likely be required. We'll figure that out in the future, but donations to the nonprofit organization is my preference. Jimbo Wales

Note: My suggestion to wikipedia is create one special tab on every page which contains show ads so if anyone want to help wikipedia they will see ads and wikipedia get profit or ask users for donate bandwidth or ask every user to donate. we love wikipedia because it is a we feel it a charity. Lucysathish

Note: This is a preliminary essay, intended to give you food for thought. Comments are welcome, but at this time, please make your comments to me privately, or if you must be public about it, do it on the wikipedia-l mailing list. Everything discussed here is so preliminary at this point that public debate isn't really warranted. I seek feedback here primarily to refine my own thinking about the issues raised.

Someday, there will be advertising on Wikipedia. Either that, or we will have to find some other way to raise money, but I can't think of any.

This is not coming soon. As of today, November 9, 2001, I would say that this is at least 6 months to (more likely) 1 year away. Why then, and not now? Because despite encouraging growth in traffic, the amount of money that could be made from having sponsorship of Wikipedia is not enough to worry about.

I imagine that there will be some resistance to advertising from adamant anti-capitalists, and from those who think that any association with money is necessarily corrupting. I can't really help that, and I can only state for the record that I think such people are seriously mistaken in many aspects of their world view.

But there may be other resistance to advertising from people with legitimate concerns! And I hope to address those concerns now, long before this becomes an "instant issue".

First, I know from long experience at Bomis (which currently has more than 100 million monthly pageviews throughout our entire network, which makes us a big site, but not exactly Yahoo!), that advertisers don't ever attempt to dictate content. So it strikes me as extremely unlikely that any advertiser will ever care what Wikipedia's content is. Certainly, I have never seen it at Bomis.

Second, despite the fact that such a thing would be extremely unlikely, if an advertiser ever did ask for changes to the content to flatter them, I would simply respond: go to hell. The independence of the community is essential to the longterm success of this project.

Third, advertising should be done in a tasteful way. To me this means at least these things, and a lot more besides: (a) no popup ads, (b) advertising clearly marked as such, so that visitors do not mistake it for content, (c) keyword-based advertising to whatever extent possible, so that the user is presented with _relevant_ advertising, (d) text-link based advertising preferable to banners or other high-bandwidth advertising, to preserve the beautiful simplicity of our interface.

I will add principles to this list as I think of them, or as you suggest them to me and I accept them as valid.

Jimbo Wales

Any odds on a mailing address for "donations" and "charitable funding"? -- Christopher Mahan

I don't mind tasteful advertising (especially if it could somehow relate to the topic on hand). Besides, this is a Wiki-me-bob and anyone can change the contents of any page without too much trouble at all :-)


I believe you are thinking about Google Adsense, which uses the search engine to link ads that pertain to that particular page. It works fantastic, and the ads are great, honest text-only ads. The first ad system that I haven't hated. It hasn't pried my privacy while still hitting the spot.
And if some people think it's intrusive, why not make it optional in the beginning? Those wanting to support Wikipedia could turn ads on? --Lussmu

I think one line of text at the bottom of each article (chosen relevant to the article through some method or other) wouldn't be too invasive. w:User:LittleDan

An interesting way to offer advertising, would be to offer to let people sponser pages. This is done with Highways, (i.e. This section of highway sponsered by such and such). I think many users would like this idea, and would sponser pages they contributed heavily to, and you could offer packages for "advertisers" outside of the project like mentioned above, (using some sort of algorithhm to figure out what pages are relavent) and then offer a price per page type thing. MB

Why don't you sell CD-ROMs or maybe even books with content from wikipedia? Of course they would be free-to-copy, but i think many people would still buy the offline content from you. Correct me if there's somthing in the license that prevents this, i haven't read it.

Not that i mind relevant ads... aravindet

The idea is not new, it has been discussed, and is being dissused. Please look though meta, I cant remember myself where it is. -fonzy

I can see this is probably going to happen, seeing as non-comercial licensed pictures are not allowed any more.

If you are going have ads, you should warn your contributers for a reasonable period of time before showing ads on I have a GPL licensed project on, that I contributed to their site before they started advertising. To say the least I am pissed off that sourceforge have Microsoft banner ads plastered all over my project's page. I contributed my software partly to stop software companies like Microsoft. (thank God for Adblock and userContent.css)

If inevitable you should make the ads optional, and defaulted to off and offer user the option of turning them on.

Making Wikipedia profitable

I like the tip jar idea, something like paypal for donations over $5 and bitpass for anything less. I like the idea of bit pass. people could say, hey, I found this article usefull, heres a quarter or something. Little by little this kinda stuff could add up.

another option could be google's adsense?? they are reputable sensible, they keep tabs on their ads, which are targetted, plain text and yasyeful... i wouldn't mind.


Take a look at this - my idea for ads on wikipedia.

wikipADia, the widely distributed advertising-supported wikipedia-mirror network that we pay you to join, and hack on.


To donate, go to: foundation:Fundraising

It is very important that ideas like the GFDL and Wikipedia keep their non commercial track imo. Wikipedia can make alot of money as long as people believe in it. They will believe in it if it is something worth believing in. If it is something worth believing in then they will want to be associated with it and will support it. But real life, real bills.

My suggestion... Allow one line per page at the bottom for a sponsor name of a person or business but no advertisement of product or service. This person donated this amount. Like a GNU program has its coding supporters, the commercial supporters deserve mention in the same way for their good deed :)

I like your idea of article sponsors. But I'm probably in the minority.--Maveric149
First, when we have the page "List of Donators" on up and running (something like i think), then every person or also company can donate and the name of the company can be shown with a comment. And they can maybe also select for what they want to donate (MediaWiki, Wikipedia, Server, ...).
I think, combining this with Wikipedia-pages does not work for some reasons:
  • what does it mean "I donated for this page", to what purpose, what for? Why this page?
  • If it is something like advertising (this page sponsored by XYZ), we will loose people who don't want advertising on Wikipedia and I dont think it is worth losing donators to get companies sponsoring Wikipedia...
  • Do we need more money at the moment? Is the actual donation not enough for now? Why get into trouble if we don't need to?
  • Yes we do, because wikipedia is slow.
  • Imagine IBM sponsoring the Article about IBM. What would you think how NPOV this Article will be? We would lose credibility...
Just my thoughts :-) Fantasy 09:50, 4 Dec 2003 (UTC)
We could deny requests to donate to fields of conflicting interest - i.e. IBM couldn't contribute to computer-related pages. Of course this would reduce their interest in donating at all... --The silentist 17:29, 5 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Estimate of Revenue from Text Advertising

I've noted that Google Adsense is touted as a potential supplier of relatively non-invasive ads. I run a science website which is free to use etc. which takes their ads, which in turn pay for a dedicated server. I've estimated that Wikipedia would be able to generate nearly 1 million ad "impressions" per day, with a small 120x120 pixel box with a click through rate of 0.2-0.4% at a value per click of on average 20-30c, this would generate income of $750/day (range $400-$1200), or about $250k/year.
Personally, my view is that to run Wikipedia as a non-profit, while expanding at the current rate - taking the Adsense solution is the least painful route. Users could have the option to click a tick box to turn the ads off if they don't want to support wikipedia.
So long as Wikipedia continues to be registered non-profit, I don't think most users will have a problem with contributing knowledge. Besides, with $250k coming in you could shell out on some gargantuan kit. Proviso: income for adsense can fluctuate wildly (5-fold) as market conditions make online ads worth less or more.


I feel your click through rate estimate is far too little. I have many websites running googleads and I have found my 3 year old tera dump copy of Wikipedia far brings in the most. Looking through this months records I so far have a 2.9 percent CTR, but with an average of 14 cents a click.
Indeed there is serious money to be made here. However if Jimbo turns this into a business I sure hope he compensates those of us who have donated under the impression that this will remain a non-profit and non-advertisement media. 07:53, 13 November 2005 (UTC)[reply]

Option to suppress adverts to paid subscribers

Why not create a specific type of wiki link that tells it is a paid advertisement. Then at the same time, create subscribers that are paid donors (Like in Slashdot). Give paying subscribers option to supress paid advertisements. Tell the advertisers that paid subscribers may opt out from receiving their messages. Fair play, who pays makes the rules. User:Yaz 13:25, 10 Nov 2005 (UTC)

Would text only ads clearly separated from main content REALLY be the biggest threat to wikipedia integrity or the worst turn off to users or contributors? What about missing, inaccurate, hacked or out of date content?? A little paid help would go a long way towards better accuracy and relevance. 07:21, 13 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

See also