Wikipedia remains go-to site for online news

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has added about 20 million unique monthly visitors in the past year, making it the top online news and information destination, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

In May, Wikipedia had 46.8 million unique visitors, up 72 percent from June 2006, NetRatings said. Wikipedia also has finished on top of the news and information category every month this year -- ranking ahead of Landmark Communications’ Weather Channel site by an increasing margin -- topping out with a disparity of about 10 million visitors in May.

The site, operated by the nonprofit group Wikimedia Foundation Inc., is user-run with thousands of editors and administrators constantly making edits, starting new pages and correcting mistakes. Although this open-access format often is mentioned as a negative because pages are subject to misinformation and online vandalism, it also is its greatest strength, especially when a major news story breaks and the pages can be updated almost in real-time.

“It’s the seminal collaborative online resource,” said Nielsen BuzzMetrics vice president marketing Max Kalehoff, who has researched the site. “It’s like a living amoeba. It’s constantly growing.”

Recently, though, the collaborative nature of the site placed it at the center of a controversy surrounding the Chris Benoit murder-suicide. The World Wrestling Entertainment star’s page was updated with information -- originating from a user with an IP address registered in Stamford, Conn., the corporate home of the WWE -- regarding his wife Nancy’s death 14 hours before authorities discovered the bodies in the Benoit’s Georgia home June 25.

An anonymous poster, who said he was from Stamford but not affiliated with the WWE, later wrote a Wikinews item where he revealed that he posted the information after “reading rumors and speculation about this matter online.” It turned out to be an “incredible coincidence,” he wrote.

The site also was a hub of information about April’s Virginia Tech shootings, and its page on Apple’s much-hyped iPhone was updated regularly. Kalehoff said that the July 7, 2005, London bombings and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami also were traffic drivers to the site.

Nielsen//NetRatings and BuzzMetrics are owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter