Wikipedia’s Content Favors Newer Subjects

“I personally love Wikipedia,” said graduate student Deepina Kapila, “But I take it with a grain of salt.”

While the debate over the accuracy of online user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia’s continues, Cindy Royal, an assistant professor at Texas State University, alongside graduate student Deepina Kapila, analyzed the site from a fresh angle.  The pair presented their research at the International Symposium on Online Journalism on the completeness of Wikipedia’s content in a panel Saturday afternoon.

Royal and Kapila delved into the monstrous task of analyzing completeness by using software to get the word count on various subject pages and sorting them by recency, importance, population and wealth.

The research showed that more recent subjects have longer and therefore more complete articles than older subjects.  Countries with higher populations tended to have longer articles, as did Fortune 1000 companies with higher revenue.

Popularity of the subjects also played a key role.  More popular encyclopedia terms also had more coverage on the site, a trend that’s reflected in internet content in general.

Royal acknowledged that their research might change if views on Wikipedia’s open-source nature yields efforts to restrict who can and can not add to the site.

“As you put more controls on it, it’s going to change the nature of discourse on the site, so our research will change,” Royal said.

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia, the online-user built encyclopedia has built a name for itself in the online information sphere.  With 38 million visitors per month, the site has become the third most popular news web site in the U.S., surpassing MSNBC, CNN, and Yahoo news.

ISOJ 2007: New Journalistic Forms and New Journalists, from Knight Center on Vimeo.