Within a larger Wikipedia Review message thread, a comment was made that Wikia officials say, “Wikimedia and Wikia are completely unconnected. There is no financial, legal, or any other connection between the two…”
That’s like asking the Bush Administration if there is a connection between Big Oil’s influence on the administration and the decision to go to war in Iraq. I’m pretty sure you’ll be told “there’s no financial, legal, or any other connection between the oil industry and the Commander In Chief”.
I’m not even going to get into the staffing “connections”, but you may want to look into the roles of Jimmy Wales, Angela Beesley, Michael E. Davis, and (until he was discovered to be lying about his credentials) Ryan Jordan, vis-a-vis Wikia and the Wikimedia Foundation. Each of these holds (or held) prominent positions in both entities. In the real world, this usually generates some measure of separation to avoid perceived or actual “conflict of interest”, but how well is it actually being done over there? Gil Penchina (CEO of Wikia) was in attendance at Wikimania 2007. Why is that, if he’s “completely unconnected“?
I would say having 9,460 outbound links from Wikipedia to Wikia is most certainly not “completely unconnected” — especially considering that when Jimmy Wales authorized “nofollow”, many of the links to Wikia were exempt from that Google-dampening measure.
I would say Amazon being the sole investor in Wikia’s second round of capital generation, coupled with 27,568 outbound links from Wikipedia to Amazon, not to mention the 119,699 outbound links from Wikipedia to IMDB.com, which is owned by — guess who? — Amazon, is most certainly not “completely unconnected“. Guess what is on virtually every page of IMDB.com? That’s right — glitzy images and links to buy products from Amazon, even in German or French.
Come on, folks — I expect better critical analysis from you. Millions of dollars aren’t being “donated” to Jimmy Wales’ commercial project, without some form of kickback expected or appreciated. The only place where Wales has influence that has the traffic and size to be meaningful to Amazon as a revenue source is Wikipedia (not Wikia). Why is it so important for an “encyclopedia” to include convenient links to stores to buy titles? Is the average Wikipedia user so addle-brained that they need one-click-shopping from their neighborhood encyclopedia, too? Why so many links specifically to Amazon properties, and not “free” sites or “competitor” sites? Sounds to me that Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia emphatically draw the line at paid editing and corporate PR editing, but a little linky-linky, winky-winky — that’s perfectly encouraged.
I want to let everyone in on a secret. I was contacted a few months ago by someone who was exploiting Wikipedia to drive traffic to Amazon products being sold on an Associates basis. He documented to me his 32 external links successfully placed on Wikipedia. Granted, they were for movie and book products that are best-sellers, not obscure titles as are many of the Wikipedia links to Amazon products, but just run with me here for a second. He showed me his past 10 days of Amazon associates revenues — these represent 4% of all the sales made on Amazon after a click-through from one of his links. He had made $27.13 from 32 links in 10 days. That equates to $30.95 per link per year — and that’s just his 4% cut from Amazon! That means Amazon is selling $773.75 worth of merchandise from each of his links, per year.
Let me repeat — Amazon (and IMDB) enjoy nearly 150,000 outbound links from Wikipedia. Even if our secret exploiter’s return on investment is TWENTY TIMES that of the average outbound link, we can still deduce that Amazon is turning revenues of $5.8 million per year from Wikipedia. Assume a 15% profit margin, and we conclude that Amazon is clearing $870,000 annual profit from Wikipedia.
Amazon clears $870,000 per year for having direct connections from Wikipedia, and where is the flap? Why haven’t Steve Rubel or Brian Bergstein or Seth Finkelstein written about this scam? Maybe because readers who believe what Wikia tells them would dismiss it anyway.
Will the Wikipedia Review community please wake up?