Noam Cohen has an article in today’s New York Times about a new Wikipedia initiative to pay $40 per illustration for some number of needed images for the online encyclopedia. (I haven’t checked into the story enough to confirm with the Wikipedia principals though. In the meantime, they’ve got an interesting blog about what they’re up to, fundraising-wise in particular.)
This marks the first time that Wikipedia is paying people for their contributions (although I believe they have a small paid staff working on things full-time).
I, for one, am really happy that they’re experimenting here. I don’t know (and don’t think that anyone does) what will happen, how the broader community of contributors and content consumers will feel about the change, and whether it’ll be significant for them or not.
But I am ecstatic that they’re experimenting with ways to make an already great Wikipedia even better, even when they knew there would be articles with negative overtones that would start to appear.
And I’m hopeful that there will be more of these hybrid experiments, and in particular more of them attempted at the global scale of a project like Wikipedia or Mozilla. We’re in the middle of a bunch of them here, including staffing up around the world, working with commercial partners for distribution, and generating revenue from partnerships. Not your traditional non-profit endeavor, but I think yielding results that are quite positive.
There’s a growing number of these hybrid companies operating on the Web today — we’re trying to smudge some of the distinctions between non-profit and for-profit, between project and company. They’re organizations/companies like Wikipedia, Creative Commons, the Participatory Culture Foundation, kiva.org, and Mozilla. I know there are more out there, and I’m incredibly excited that it’s happening.
One other point: while it can be uncomfortable to show up in the Times, I’m very glad that Noam and others are starting to write about efforts like Wikipedia’s and Mozilla’s. They’re not easy to categorize, really — and we’re just starting to learn how to talk about, let alone measure, the techniques, strategies and efficacy of public benefit mission-oriented organizations who’re using Internet market mechanisms (both for revenue and for the spend side).