Despite the English Wikipedia having 29 million registered users, only 119,453 have been active within the last 30 days, and it’s just 24% of this group that make over 5 edits each month. This is putting strain on the biggest crowd-sourcing project of the 21st Century as almost 30,000 active editing users are attempting to maintain 29 million English articles – let alone cover new topics (explore the stats here).
Wikipedia classes each article on the website according to its importance and quality score, a complete list of the quality scores can be found here. To date 53% of the articles on Wikipedia have been rated as stub class meaning “an article deemed too short to provide encyclopaedic coverage of a subject”. As studies have shown Wikipedia pages appear in 99% of Google results, this presents a reputation issue for companies wanting to provide internet users with accurate information about their operations, especially as even non-registered Wikipedia users are able to make public changes to pages.
When agencies and in-house teams worked with Wikipedia to form the ‘Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms’ in 2014 and sign the agreement that included to not make direct changes to the encyclopaedia due to conflict of interest, perhaps Wikipedia was in a better place? Perhaps Wikipedia editors were more likely to make factual changes on behalf of public relations practitioners?
Practical experience of working with Wikipedia editors and advising clients has shown me a potential lack of activity from once influential users on the website. With over 5.5 million articles on the English Wikipedia, there is simply not enough crowd-sourcing activity from maybe 30,000 people alone to ensure information on the website is kept up-to-date. The knock-on effect for the internet in general could be catastrophic, as Google and Facebook frequently pull the free information from Wikipedia to generate information around search results.
Wikipedia’s current situation presents both a risk and an opportunity for the public relations industry. Practitioners are being pushed into making direct factual changes to pages where they have conflict of interest, as the two-year-old signed agreement becomes difficult to follow in practice. Of course, the foundations of Wikipedia are also beginning to crumble as over half the information on the encyclopaedia isn’t seemed detailed enough to provide coverage of a subject.
The current situation Wikipedia is in requires an honest and upfront discussion with administrators on the website. As long as current active editors remains flat and the number of articles increase, the long-term content sustainability of Wikipedia is in question. Even though from a financial point of view, Wikipedia appears in the black.
If you’re trying to work with Wikipedia but are finding it difficult to find an active editor who can provide support then ensure you follow Wikipedia policies and guidelines before making changes and don’t be afraid to use ‘Wikipedia: Ignore all rules’: