Wikipedia's Dirty Secret
Entrepreneur|July/August 2017

Want a Wikipedia page for yourself or your business? An underground network of editors will make you one—for a price. 

Jennifer Miller

Three years after launching an online magazine for young entrepreneurs called Founder, Nathan Chan decided it needed a Wikipedia page. “Any legitimate brand has one,” he says. “All our competitors have pages.” There were just two problems. Wikipedia strongly discourages people from creating their own pages. And the site’s five-million-plus articles are largely created by 200,000-some volunteer editors, and it’s unlikely one of them would suddenly take an interest in a small startup and build a page themselves.

This spring, Chan posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew of an editor he could hire to create a Wikipedia page. Someone replied with a referral: an experienced editor who builds pages for a fee. Chan got in touch and agreed to pay $1,300 for pages about both himself and his company.

For all its flaws as a crowd sourced encyclopaedia, there is a widespread belief that Wikipedia conveys credibility: If you or your business is on there, you seem legit. This has fueled a booming, underground world of Wikipedia editors for hire—people who, often secretly, use their expertise and good standing in the Wikipedia community to build pages for attention starved startups and other paying clients. Services can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Multiple such editors interviewed for this story say they’re inundated with business.

Buyer beware, though: Everything about this service is steeped in uncertainty, starting with whether a Wikipedia page is worth the money. “I see the value from an SEO standpoint,” says Elaine Young, a professor of digital and social media marketing at the Robert P. Stiller School of Business at Champlain College in Vermont. “For an entrepreneur, one of the biggest challenges is getting found, and Wikipedia often comes up first in searches. It provides a starting point for information.”

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