Wikimedia’s Strategy Memo

Wikimedia’s strategy memo is interesting for what it has and for what it’s missing.

Wikimedia Strategic Planning
Wikimedia Strategic Planning

Key Concerns:

  • Editing community has flattened out.
  • Have been very successful in the “Global North” but it will be much harder to grow in the “Global South.”
  • Technological and financial infrastructure have not kept pace with growth in readership.

They will:

  • Invest in their infrastructure: technological, organizational, and financial
  • Reduce friction for new contributors
  • Remain “free of commercialism”

They won’t:

  • Go to China.
  • Invest in developing content partnerships
  • Invest in direct editorial interventions to increase quality, e.g. paying people for developing content or policies.

Most of their strategy sounds good. They need to build the infrastructure that can handle their site’s activity. They need to make changes to their culture and to their site to encourage new contributors. They should stay out of China. And their mission and vision requires that they expand to parts of the world that need them more, but where progress will be much harder to achieve.

The biggest problem IMO is their plan to increase spending without developing a viable revenue model. The only parts of the strategy document that discuss finances discuss the money that they’ll spend and the income possibilities that they reject.

They discuss their revenue possibilities in a separate document and you can read the notes from their financing task meeting. Ideas include seeking government funding, selling user data, premium subscriptions, more aggressive fundraising, pursuing an endowment, and displaying advertising. The only mention their strategy memo makes of these ideas is to reject some of them. The ones that aren’t rejected may be either unrealistic or worse than the ones that were rejected.

I think Wikipedia does a lot of good. But I think the same of Microsoft and Google. And those companies’ revenues have been (or will be, I expect) used to contribute billions of dollars in taxes and charity. I wish Wikimedia luck in figuring out how to cover their expenses, and I hope their moral compass doesn’t lead them to try to finance through taxpayer money in order to live up to their values of “free of commercialism.”