Could Wiki Rob Traffic from Ad-Supported Info Sites?

wikipedia.pngPiper Jaffray’s “User Revolution” report, just out today and covered here on ClickZ, mentions a slew of companies to watch in the next few years. Among them are Yahoo, News Corp., Facebook, Brightcove, Yelp, aQuantive, ValueClick, Digg, Netflix — and — Wikipedia?

That one struck me as the odd site out when first perusing the list. The report focuses on online advertising, and essentially predicts how advertisers and publishers will need to navigate the (here comes that cliché we all know and love) evolving media landscape. So, why is Wikipedia on the list? I realize there’s an obvious social media connection, but where’s the advertising connection?

I asked Piper analyst Safa Rashtchy. Wikipedia, he answered, “will potentially draw traffic away from other sites….It’s akin to being in the middle of a mall and putting a library in there.” Well, I’m not sure if the analogy is entirely appropriate, but I do love that image. The thing is, when people are online, they’re not always in commerce mode, which is the main objective at the mall. Plus, though some people who stumble upon Wikipedia while searching online do actually stick around to read it, I can’t picture your average mall shopaholic spending much time in the library. That is, unless it has a Starbucks inside.

Anyway, it’s a really interesting concept. Rashtchy specifically mentioned About.com in his explanation. If people are seeking out information and find it on Wikipedia rather than the ad-supported info site, About.com “might be hurt.”

About is very well optimized for search, but Wikipedia is, too. He may be on to something. However, I can’t help but create my own analogy and compare About to, say, CNN, and Wiki to NPR or PBS. Offline the commercial channels always win. Honestly, I’m not so sure things will be the same online, but Wikipedia (or as the Brits here in our Incisive Media office say, “Wikerpedier”) just might be a special case….

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