From Readers to Contributors

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In our recently concluded Annual Plan, we identified increasing the number of active contributors as one of our strategic priorities. As of September 2011, there are 79,890 active Wikipedia contributors (active is defined as those making five or more edits in a month), while we want to increase active editors to approximately 95,000 on all Wikimedia projects in June 2012.
a. Only 6% of our readers have ever made an edit to Wikipedia
b. Most readers are happy to just read, many cite lack of expertise
c. Avid Wikipedia readers, readers with heavy online activity, Twitter users, men, younger readers and online contributors are strong candidates for editors

a. Only 6% of our readers have ever made an edit to Wikipedia

Only 6% of Wikipedia readers indicate that they have ever edited Wikipedia content. (It should be noted that the survey was an online survey based on a household survey panel, i.e respondents had signed to participate in online surveys, and these numbers might be slightly higher as a result.) In the US, 31% of readers stated that they had edited Wikipedia at least once, and readers in Germany (12%) and the UK (9%) reported slightly higher numbers. According to our earlier findings about 80% of our editors are from the Global North. In most other countries, a very small number of respondents as percent of total sample say that they had edited Wikipedia. About 19% of our readers across the entire sample weren’t aware that they could edit Wikipedia. Awareness is especially low in Egypt (32%) and South Africa (27%).

B3. Have you EVER edited Wikipedia (for instance, fixed a mistake or changed spelling)? (Base: 4000)

b. Most readers are happy to just read, many cite lack of expertise  

The most prominent reason for not editing was readers feeling happy with simply reading the articles. Of those who don’t edit, a strong majority feels that they don’t have enough expertise to contribute to Wikipedia. Very few pointed out that technology was a barrier to editing: 3% said the edit interface wasn’t user friendly, 6% said that they weren’t comfortable with technology. In addition, 6% pointed out that they didn’t edit because they believed that their edits will be removed.

B5. Why don’t you edit Wikipedia? (Base: 3461)

c. Avid Wikipedia readers, readers with heavy online activity, Twitter users, men, younger readers and online contributors are strong candidates for editors

The findings from the April 2011 Editor Survey suggest there is a general agreement among the community that Wikimedia Foundation should focus on improving technology infrastructure and developing new features that make editing easier. We were interested in learning if there were any identifying characteristics amongst our current readers that might make them more likely to edit Wikipedia.
We performed logistic regression to compare people who had made at least one edit to those who had never made an edit. The characteristics we considered were: Frequency of reading Wikipedia (avid/casual), Online activity (heavy/light), Gender, Education, Online contributions, Use of social networking websites (like Facebook, Twitter) and age. Facebook usage and Education did not have significant effects on our readers’ interest in editing. Our findings were:

  1. Avid Readers (those who read Wikipedia 4 or more times monthly) are 2.4 times more likely to edit Wikipedia compared to casual readers (1-3 times monthly). October 2011 comScore data suggests that the average reader visits Wikipedia approximately 4.9 times a month.
  2. Readers with heavy Online activity are 3.1 times more likely to edit Wikipedia compared to those with lighter activity online. These readers use the following websites more frequently: micro-blogging websites like Twitter, news websites like BBC, news aggregators like Huffington Post, newspapers like the New York Times, social networking websites like Facebook, professional and individual blogs.
  3. Twitter users are 1.7 times more likely to edit Wikipedia compared to non-Twitter users.
  4. Men are 1.6 times more likely to edit Wikipedia compared to women.
  5. Younger readers are more likely to edit Wikipedia compared to older readers. With every increase by one year in age, the probability of editing Wikipedia decreases by 0.99 times (about 1 percent).
  6. Online contributors (readers who contribute comments or other information to blogs etc.) are 1.2 times more likely to edit Wikipedia.

What does this mean for attracting new editors? At the foundation we have often spoken about adjacent spaces as fertile ground for recruiting new editors. Based on this analysis, for example, there is a case for channeling our efforts to increase the number of women editors among women who are avid readers of Wikipedia, are extremely active on Twitter and blog or contribute to blogs.  Similarly, another adjacent space is younger men who are heavy online users and avid readers of Wikipedia.
Mani Pande, Head of Global Development Research
Ayush Khanna, Data Analyst, Global Development
We recently conducted an online survey of Wikipedia readers, limited to 250 participants each in 16 countries. This is the sixth in a series of blog posts summarizing our findings. If you are interested, you can find out more about the methodology of the survey here.

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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[…] only one person who had contributed an edit of any kind. In 2011, Wikimedia estimated that only 6% of readers ever edit articles, and even this low figure is probably an overestimate, given that those who responded to the poll […]