New Readers/FAQ

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New Readers
Research and findings
  Finding #1: Access
  Finding #2: Awareness
FAQ and all pages

Why Readers?[edit]

The Wikimedia Vision statement imagines "a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge." This project is part of serving "every single person on the planet" who first encounter Wikimedia projects as readers.

We believe that readers are not a single, homogenous group, but a diverse set of people with different habits and technology expectations informed by their cultures, devices, languages, and experiences. We also believe that reading experiences can be improved across Wikimedia sites, new partnerships can help us reach new readers, and better community and communications tools can help us interact and educate new readers. All this begins by better understanding readers.

Why these countries?[edit]

The New Readers project specifically focuses on countries where we hope to improve readership by removing barriers to access. As we move away from the problematic “global south” definition into something more specific to our context, we’re looking at countries where access to the internet is increasing rapidly, while our traffic lags behind. This is different than the segmentation and definition of “emerging communities,” as Asaf Bartov mentioned in the Annual Plan discussion, which is targeting countries with an existing active core of volunteers.

Our criteria for country selection for this initial phase focused on three key elements:

  1. High population
  2. Rapidly increasing internet access rates
  3. Relatively low Wikimedia readership

We also factored in language diversity (preferring local languages over English) and countries that held influence over regions based on size of their economy and culture output (for example, Mexico's role in Latin America).

In a series of two workshops, the joint team collected a long list of 10 countries, that we shortened to two per region based on discussion around the criteria outlined. We chose Mexico as an initial pilot because of relative ease and cost as a first research trip. Following that trip, we picked the largest country per region as our starting point for research in this fiscal year (July 2015 to June 2016).

Why focus on "developing" countries first?[edit]

Findings gathered during research in Mexico.
See also: Reading/Mexico Readers Research and New Readers/Research and stats

The next billion people are coming online worldwide. Mobile Internet penetration will grow from 28% to 45% in "developing countries" from 2014 to 2020 (GSM Report), which is an increase of 700 million potential readers and editors (1.55 billion now; 2.25 billion in 2020) compared to 600 million total today in highly developed countries.

This shows Wikimedia readership ratios as inverted compared to population; with 78% of our page views are from highly developed countries (as defined by the "global north"[1]), a ratio that has been steady for more than a year.

Wikipedia strives for a neutral point of view, which requires representation of a diverse set of viewpoints coming from editors of many different social and cultural backgrounds. Because of the prevalence of "global north" readers and editors across the wikimedia projects, a systemic bias exists in our content.

The Wikimedia Foundation has previously focused on developing the Wikimedia movement in the "global south" mainly through access (through Wikipedia Zero) and editing (through grant making). That said, we have a lot to learn about the different constraints and behaviors for people outside of established readers, living in the context of highly developed infrastructures, particularly when it comes to product development.

Through a better understanding of new readers, we will improve the interface of the Wikimedia projects to help readers access our content. With more engaged readers, we hope that editing will also increase and plan to share what we learn along the way with the Editing Team to help build the non-English wikis.

What is this program's relationship to Wikipedia Zero?[edit]

In choosing countries for this research, we relied on the regional expertise of the team to help select target countries for this effort. The research project was not directly related to Wikipedia Zero, but the findings from that work exposed how important it is for us to continue to address affordability as a barrier to access. We are now working collaboratively to address this barrier including, but not limited to, Wikipedia Zero.

How is the community involved?[edit]

The research project was developed in close consultation with Community Engagement. During research project planning, Chapter leads and other involved local community members are consulted for their input, guidance, and direction. The research team also works with Community in the country, before, during, and following the research field world.

In Mexico for instance, we were introduced by Doc James to Leigh Thelmadatter, Ivan Martinez, and Nancy Gertrudiz who set up a number of very valuable interviews.

Since the research has concluded, we have been working in deep partnership with affiliates and individual community members on the ground in the countries where we are working. Those collaborations are detailed in each of the focus area pages: Awareness, Affordability, and Offline.

How does this work relate to previous Wikimedia efforts?[edit]

The New Readers program builds on deep research and lessons we've learned from years of work throughout the Wikimedia movement.

We want to keep learning, so if we're missing a project or research we should know about, please let us know on the talk page.

Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

The Catalyst Program[edit]

In the FDC feedback to the first draft of the Foundation's Annual Plan for 2017-18, there was a call out that this work is too similar to work that has failed. We think that this was referring to the Catalyst Program. Here are some of the ways we see New Readers as different:

  • Our work is intended primarily to grow readership, where Catalyst believed that increased readership would be a follow-on effect from increasing editing.
  • Our work is grounded in deep research to understand the barriers to readership within each of the focus countries, rather than trying pilots of programs that work in the US and seeing what sticks. This means that we’re addressing problems that are upstream from editing - awareness and access.
  • We work in partnership with communities to build solutions to address the barriers. This varies depending on the project, and you can see our thinking at New Readers/RACI
  • We are not working with consultants or with a dedicated office on the ground, which lead to high administrative overhead that took away from productive collaboration in the Catalyst program. Instead, we are collaborating directly with volunteers to build strategies that suit their context, based on research that we conducted with their influence, that would be out of scope for their work as volunteers.

Other Foundation work[edit]

Volunteer & partners[edit]

Is this just a bunch of people from San Francisco?[edit]

Not at all. Our team includes three leads from Strategic Partnerships who are regional specialists. We have Jorge Vargas, from Colombia, leading our work in Latin America. Jack Rabah, from Jordan, leading efforts in Africa and the Middle East, and Ravi Ayyakkannu, from India, leading our work in Asia. Anne Gomez, and Abbey Ripstra have both lived and worked abroad as well.

We also will partner with at least three local researchers per country, to recruit research participants, communicate in local languages, and capture a proper range of internet user experiences. Finally, as in Mexico, we intend to work closely with Wikimedians in each country to understand local context.

What are some resources that are useful in this work?[edit]

We're compiling useful resources at New Readers/Resources. Please add anything you think is relevant there.

How can I be involved?[edit]

If you have knowledge of past Wikimedia efforts, interesting things we should read, are local to one of these countries, or just want to get involved, please let us know! We can be reached at the project's talk page or

The newreaders@ alias delivers to staff members who are working on this program.

  1. "Global north/south" is a less-than-ideal term that has been used across the WMF in the past to describe developing countries. We are moving away from this term, and only include it here to connect previous work to the New Readers initiative.