In the 11 years since it launched, Wikipedia has changed the world as we know it. Not only has the free, collaboratively edited encyclopedia redefined the meaning of “expert,” it’s also been blamed for everything from diminishing traditional journalism to killing Encyclopedia Britannica. In any case, it’s being taken more seriously than ever: U.S. political candidates are taking a more hands-on approach to their Wiki entries, and the British government turned to the site for research help. Consumers are increasingly turning to Wikipedia, too, as well as to Reddit, Netflix, and Amazon, rather than reviewing record or concert reviews in a newspaper. Perhaps that’s because Wikipedia is so front and center: A new study found that the site appears on Google’s first page 46 percent of the time. And co-founder Jimmy Wales knows how to make news—remember the wave of press that hit in January when he “blacked out” Wikipedia to protest anti-piracy legislation in Congress?
Considering that one of Wikipedia’s founding principles is that no one should profit from it, frugality may be part and parcel of Wales’ M.O. But at least two webpreneurs in Brooklyn, N.Y. missed the memo: They opened shop on a business that drafts Wikipedia pages at $300 a pop.
Marketers, in an age when it’s more important than ever to craft the news, need to learn how to walk an even finer line.