Wikipedia and the (Continuing) Power of Print
Having grown up in a family for whom the encyclopedia was the handy all-round reference for things unknown, I still find it exciting to be able to help edit one—“even” an online encyclopedia, “even” Wikipedia.
Wikipedia of course is everything that’s best and some of what’s worst about the internet—its very accessibility, its open-source nature making it a little too available to all. This is reflected by the overwhelming number of pop culture references and fleeting phenomena found there—-do we really need an encyclopedia entry for every movie, book, or song ever made?--and the occasional squabbles and inaccuracies in areas that should be matters of established fact.
But Wikipedia does have its standards, and editors are closely peer-monitored and expected to abide by them. Your entry will be undermined if it’s marred by editors’ notes indicating that it isn’t up to Wikipedia standards; and unless the guidelines are followed closely, that is very likely to happen.
I became a Wikipedia editor to post an entry for Exceptional Women in Publishing, and since then I’ve specialized in entries for trade organizations. There’s a bit of a trick to it, but it’s not a hard one to master—you just have to make sure that your language is neutral, objective. I learned this when I got my fingers slapped for posting: “EWIP strives to…” I quickly changed it to “EWIP’s goal is to…” and everything was hunky dory.
It was only very recently, discussing a possible Wikipedia posting for Distripress, that the full irony of one aspect of the online encyclopedia’s standards became clear to me. Wikipedia requires citations and references to support each posting. The irony here is that, while online citations are accepted, print citations are preferred.
That’s right. The sources that this online encyclopedia sees as most valid are sources with an offline origin—print sources.
I recently spent time with a digital-only publisher who had developed a good following thanks to the high quality of his online publication. He was getting ready to launch a print version. Online can only take you so far, he told me. People wanted to have a print copy to carry around, to pass from hand to hand, to keep for months or years.
I thought that worth a call out to those publishers discouraged with the declining prestige of print. Print still has prestige even—perhaps especially—with the online community. Let’s remember that as we plan for 2013 and beyond.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.