Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2017/Sources/Brand awareness, attitudes, and usage - Executive Summary

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Scope & Methodology[edit]

As part of Wikimedia 2030, the Wikimedia movement’s global consultation to define its future direction, the Wikimedia Foundation contracted an online Awareness, Attitudes and Usage survey with internet users aged 13-49 in seven high-awareness countries (defined as countries where the Wikimedia projects are more widely known or used). The research was conducted by Wellspring Insights & Innovation, Inc. This survey complements the research conducted in lower awareness regions by Reboot, an ethnographic research and design firm, as part of Wikimedia 2030 and the New Readers research.

The survey in higher awareness countries was fielded in France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States via an online survey accessible on a PC, laptop or device (tablet, smartphone). A total of 1,150 surveys with internet users (individuals who access the internet via any device type and connection) was completed in each country. All respondents were between 13-49 years old; Generation X (GenX) was defined as 36 to 49 years, Generation Y (GenY) 20 to 35, and Generation Z (GenZ) 13 to 19. The survey used non-probability sampling, therefore we cannot calculate the margin of sampling error. Results and conclusions can represent the target population but are “directional” rather than “projectable.” Observed differences between populations cannot be discussed in terms of “statistical significance,” only in directional terms.

Participants were randomly sourced from multiple online (opt-in) research panels to help minimize bias by including people from all socioeconomic levels, geography and interests. Quotas were established per country in order to balance the sample and provide the most representative sample possible by age cohort, gender, household income and geography. All data has been weighted proportionately.

Objectives[edit]

This survey’s objectives were:

  • To better understand awareness, attitudes, and usage of internet users in these countries to inform the movement’s direction for the next 15 years.
  • To gain insight into how people in high-awareness countries differ or are the same as people in low-awareness countries or regions.
  • To learn about the unique perspectives of younger readers, as they represent our future.

A note on the focus of the survey: Given that Wikipedia is the most widely known and used project, and because of the limited number of questions that should be asked in an online survey, survey questions focused mainly on Wikipedia. If this type of survey research continued, it could include questions related to other Wikimedia projects and the movement more generally.

Research findings[edit]

Awareness of Wikipedia[edit]

When internet users want to find information online, they think of Google first: on average, about nine times more often than Wikipedia (64% mentioned Google and 8% mentioned Wikipedia first). Only in Japan (Yahoo!) and Russia (Yandex) does Google share its top-of-mind position with another site.

While not top-of-mind, overall awareness of Wikipedia is strong. Across the seven countries, close to eight out of ten internet users are aware of Wikipedia when shown the logo. Spain has the highest awareness (89%) and Japan has the lowest (64%).

Wikipedia is among a small group of websites with about 70% or greater awareness across all seven countries. In order, those sites are Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Facebook and Twitter.

Within their country, Internet users also have strong awareness of country-specific sites, such as Mail.RU and Yandex in Russia, Niconico in Japan, and news media sites in France, Spain, the UK and US.

In the United States, awareness of sites such as Reddit (67%), WikiHow (56%), Wikia (35%), Quora (26%), and How Stuff Works (26%) is higher than in other countries and driven by GenZ (13 to 19 years old in our survey) internet users.

Not surprisingly, when asked “when you want to find information online what three websites do you go to most often,” Google (85% on average) is the top answer followed by Wikipedia (45%), YouTube (43%), Yahoo! (19%) and Facebook (17%).

When you want to find information online, what three websites would you say you go to most often? (Question 7a.)
Total FR DE JP RU SP UK US
Google 85% 88% 93% 80% 75% 89% 83% 89%
Wikipedia 45% 59% 55% 29% 29% 61% 45% 48%
YouTube 43% 41% 49% 40% 39% 42% 39% 48%
Yahoo! 21% 12% 9% 58% 1% 16% 12% 25%
Facebook 17% 27% 29% 7% 4% 14% 17% 21%
Yandex 11% 70%
VK 6% 40%
Mail.RU 4% 26%
Twitter 8% 6% 5% 18% 1% 11% 7% 8%
BBC 4% 27%
Reddit 4% 2% 3% 2% 1% 2% 4% 7%
WikiHow 4% 3% 3% 1% 1% 2% 6% 6%
FoxNews 3% 8%
Quora 2% 1% 2% 1% 1% 1% 3% 2%
Rakuten 2% 15%
Wikia 2% 2% 2% 1% 0 1% 3% 2%
El Mundo 1% 12%
El Pais 1% 12%
How Stuff Works? 1% 2% 1% 0 0 1% 2% 1%
Le Monde 1% 10%
New York Times 1% 4%
Daily Mail 1% 5%
The Guardian 1% 5%
Niconico 1% 4%
HuffPost 1% 0 1%

Yandex and VK make it into the top five in Russia, and the BBC makes the top five in the UK; in no other country does a regional or local site appear in the top five.

The most internet users said Wikipedia was one of their top three sites in Spain (61%) and the least in Russia and Japan (29% each).

Yahoo! is strongest in Japan, where 58% said it was one of their top three sites for information, and the US where 25% said the same. In both countries this is driven largely by GenX (36 to 49 years old in our survey) internet users.

By generation, across all countries GenZ is the most likely to include YouTube (55%) in their top three sites. GenX has the highest incidence of including Yahoo! (25%) while GenY (20 to 34 years old in our survey) has the highest incidence of including Facebook (19%).

Six out of ten internet users, on average, first found out about Wikipedia on the internet. Almost two of ten first found out about it at school (highest in the US and France, and lowest in Japan and Russia). This is driven by generational differences; 35% of GenZ internet users say they first heard about it in school, while 73% of GenX internet users say online.

Knowledge of Wikipedia[edit]

While Wikipedia enjoys broad awareness and consideration, when it comes to internet users’ knowledge of Wikipedia, the movement is on less solid ground.

On average, six out of ten know that Wikipedia is a not-for-profit (highest in Spain at 71% and lowest in Japan at 44%). By generation, knowledge of Wikipedia’s non-profit status is highest among GenX internet users (65%) and lowest among GenZ (50%).

On average, just four out of ten know that Wikipedia is funded primarily by reader donations (highest in Spain at 61%, lowest in Russia at 27%). By generation, knowledge of Wikipedia’s primary funding source is highest among GenY internet users (50%) and lowest among GenZ (38%).

About half know that Wikipedia content is primarily created and maintained by volunteers (highest in Spain at 64% and lowest in Japan at 46%). By generation, knowledge of how content is created is highest among GenY (56%) and lowest among GenZ (47%).

Three-quarters know that anyone can edit a Wikipedia article. Among those who know, about 80% have never tried to edit an article, with about 40% of them saying they are concerned they would make mistakes. Among GenZ internet users who know that anyone can edit a Wikipedia article, 31% say they have tried, versus only 15% of GenX.

Finally, about nine out of ten have never made a financial donation to Wikipedia. Interestingly, 17% of GenZ has made a donation, compared to 14% of GenY and 10% of GenX. Most readers (31%) say they just don’t donate to anything, but significant proportions say they either didn’t know that Wikipedia relied on donations (26%) , or they don’t know what their donation would be used for (21%), or they are uncomfortable donating online (20%). Very few at all find the Wikipedia appeal “too intrusive” (6%).

Attitudes toward Wikipedia[edit]

Across all seven countries, internet users that are aware of Wikipedia associate it most strongly with “free knowledge for every person” (8.5 out of 10) and “useful” (8.3 out of 10). They associate Wikipedia least strongly with “neutral, unbiased content” (7.0) and “transparency” (6.9).

There are strong generational differences, with GenZ giving Wikipedia lower association scores on most attributes.

Question 11. On a scale of 0-10, please rate how strongly you associate Wikipedia with each of the following words or phrases, where 0 means you don’t associate Wikipedia with the word or phrase at all and 10 means you associate Wikipedia with the word or phrase very strongly.
Total GenX - 36-49 GenY - 20-35 GenZ - 13-19
Free knowledge for every person 8.5 8.6 8.5 8.4
Useful 8.3 8.4 8.3 8.0
Easy to read 7.7 7.9 7.8 7.0
Free of advertising 7.3 7.4 7.4 6.9
Comprehensive 7.3 7.5 7.3 6.9
High Quality 7.1 7.3 7.1 6.8
Professional 7.0 7.2 7.0 6.7
Neutral, unbiased content 7.0 7.2 6.9 6.6
Transparency 6.9 7.1 7.0 6.2

There is broad agreement between what internet users say is important to them personally, and the attributes they associate Wikipedia with. The words and phrases most important to internet users that are aware of Wikipedia are “useful,” “free knowledge for every person” and “easy to read.” What’s least important is “transparency” and “free of advertising.” Here there is little difference between countries or generations.

Across generations there is also broad agreement that “more trustworthy content” (57%), “higher quality content” (51%) “more neutral content” (44%) and “more visual content” (41%) would enhance their personal experience “a lot.” At the other end, only about one-quarter say “more interaction with other users” would enhance their experience.

GenZ Wikipedia readers are more likely to say that “improved readability” (46% vs. 33% GenX) and “improved site design” (36% vs. 26% GenX) would enhance their personal experience.

Across the seven countries, Wikipedia readers in Russia are most emphatic in saying that “more trustworthy content” (83%), “higher quality content” (76%) “more neutral content” (65%) and “more visual content” (57%) would enhance their personal experience.

Wikipedia usage[edit]

Proportionately, Wikipedia finds its strongest audience in Spain where 91% of internet users 13-49 are aware of it and 89% read it.

Summary table from Questions 6, 7, 7a, 13. Internet Users 2016 population estimates from internetlivestats.com
Total FR DE JP RU SP UK US
Base: Total Respondents (internet users 13-49) 8050 564 644 966 1288 725 1047 2818
Aware of Wikipedia 84.1% 83.7% 86.3% 64.1% 87.4% 91.3% 83.4% 87.3%
Read Wikipedia 81.1% 81.6% 83.5% 61.2% 85.9% 89.0% 80.0% 83.2%
Never Read Wikipedia 3.0% 2.1% 2.8% 2.9% 1.5% 2.2% 3.2% 4.1%
Unaware of Wikipedia 15.9% 16.3% 13.7% 35.9% 12.6% 8.7% 16.6% 12.7%
Total Unaware, Never Read 18.9% 18.4% 16.5% 38.8% 14.1% 10.9% 19.9% 16.8%
Estimated pop. 13-49 unaware/ never read (MM) 137.3 10.3 11.7 44.7 14.4 3.9 12.0 48.2

Comparatively, Wikipedia struggles in Japan, where 36% of internet users 13-49 are unaware of it and therefore unable to read it. In absolute terms, the estimated size of the unaware/non-reading population in Japan is close to size of the same population in the US.

By generation GenZ is most likely to say they “never” read Wikipedia, and overall seven countries GenY has the highest awareness.

Summary table from Questions 6, 7, 7a and 13.
Total GenX - 36-49 GenY - 20-35 GenZ - 13-19
Base: Total Respondents

(internet users 13-49)

8050 3404 3162 1484
Aware of Wikipedia 83% 82% 86% 82%
Read Wikipedia 81% 79% 84% 78%
Never Read Wikipedia 3% 3% 2% 4%
Unaware of Wikipedia 17% 18% 14% 19%
Total Unaware, Never Read 19% 22% 16% 23%

By generation, GenY has the highest weekly readership (71%) and GenZ the lowest (56%).

Question 14.
Total GenX - 36-49 GenY - 20-35 GenZ - 13-19
Base: Read Wikipedia 6494 2684 2664 1146
Less than once a month 8% 9% 7% 10%
Once a month 6% 6% 5% 8%
A few times a month 21% 21% 18% 26%
Weekly (NET) 65% 65% 71% 56%
Once a week 11% 10% 11% 16%
Several times a week 34% 37% 36% 25%
Once a day 9% 8% 11% 8%
Several times a day 11% 10% 13% 7%

By country, 75% of Wikipedia readers in Russia and 73% in Spain read Wikipedia weekly or more. Twenty-four percent of Russian and Spanish readers read daily. The lowest weekly readership is found in Japan and the UK (60% of readers each).

Overall, about half of Wikipedia readers access the site “often” from a desktop or laptop, or a smartphone. GenY and GenZ readers are much more likely to say they access Wikipedia often from a smartphone, and GenZ readers are the most likely to say they often access Wikipedia through a service such as Siri or Alexa (21% of GenZ vs. 10% of GenX).

Readers access Wikipedia “often” by smartphones most in the US (66%), Spain and the UK (62% each). Smartphone access is lowest in Russia (40%) where desktop access still rules (74%).

Regardless of the device they use to access Wikipedia with, GenX and GenY readers are very much “in-the-moment,” reading a Wikipedia article to “immediately look up a topic that came up in conversation,” a topic referenced in the media, or simply to learn more about a topic that is important to them. While GenZ engages in these behaviors too, they are much more likely to be working on a school-related assignment, regardless of the device.

Fifty-percent of GenX and forty-percent of GenY readers say they read Wikipedia primarily to “find more information about a topic you are seeking” vs. just twenty-five percent of GenZ. More than two-thirds of GenZ say they read Wikipedia primarily to help them study. About twenty-percent across generations are reading to “discover new knowledge.”

Most readers (52%) navigate to Wikipedia through regular links that appear in search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo!. About 40% also say they click on the Google Knowledge Panel that appears, while about 30% also type Wikipedia.org into the navigation bar and go straight to the site. Fifteen percent say they use the Wikipedia App.

There are a few differences between the generations regarding navigating to the site; GenZ (16%) is the most likely to have Wikipedia set as their home page (10% GenY and 8% GenX), and to use services such as Siri or Cortana (16%) to access Wikipedia articles (9% GenY and 7% GenX).

By country, however, there are some notable differences. Seventy-two percent in Japan click on regular links vs. 27% the Google Knowledge Panel (most likely owing to Yahoo’s popularity in Japan). The Wikipedia app usage is highest in Spain (20%) and lowest in Japan (9%). Navigation to Wikipedia from social media site is highest in US (21%) and lowest in Russia (8%).

Opportunities for Wikimedia movement[edit]

Based on the results of the survey, our research consultants identified the following opportunities for the Wikimedia movement.

Increasing awareness and understanding of Wikipedia[edit]

  • An understanding of how Wikipedia works, is structured, is funded, and how content is created is particularly low (especially so among GenZ). Wikimedia has an opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of Wikipedia - its mission and how it works - while being mindful that readers are not fully aligned with the movement’s values; they consider utility (useful), readability and ‘free knowledge for every person,’ in order, the most important.
  • Increasing awareness and understanding of Wikipedia - its mission and how it works - can be achieved both through communications and marketing and through site design. Integrating its brand - its mission and how it works - into the product experience is important. Most readers are arriving via search links and/or the Google Knowledge Panel directly onto article pages.
  • Larger proportions of GenZ have edited or donated, yet at the same time are the least knowledgeable of Wikipedia. Increasing awareness and understanding of Wikipedia among GenZ readers may engage them at even higher rates.
  • With increased understanding of its mission and how it works may also come increased trust of the information on Wikipedia and process for knowledge creation. Across countries and generations, what readers say will enhance their personal experience with Wikipedia “a lot” is more trustworthy and higher quality content, and more neutral information. Pull back the curtain on how and why it works to improve trust and improve processes for producing neutral, unbiased content.

Design, content and platform[edit]

  • Improve readability of Wikipedia: guided discovery, content interaction, more visual content, and improved site design.
  • Make Wikipedia easier to edit/interact with. We know GenZ loves to create, curate and share; give them accessible ways to contribute to Wikimedia sites and continue investing in new editor experiences.
  • Consider stronger collaborations with search engines such as Google and visual content creators/providers such as YouTube.
  • Explore partnerships with local content creators as a way to increase local language content and improve quality, trustworthiness, and comprehensiveness.
  • Explore platforms to meet readers where they are, when they need it, and by the device they are using to access it. GenX and GenY are very much “in the moment” and read Wikipedia to look up topics that come up in conversations and in the media. GenZ is reading Wikipedia for school work. Address the issues of mobile-first design and the increasing use of voice assistants and other smart devices.

Opportunities for additional research[edit]

  • Future qualitative and quantitative research with GenZ and GenY internet users could be conducted to better understand the ways they are seeking/creating/curating information, and how they interact with their networks, education, work, technology, etc. Where does Wikipedia fit into their lives now and in the future? How do we keep GenZ interested once they complete their education?
  • Wikipedia could better understand how GenZ is using Wikipedia for school and its potential impact on trustworthiness, etc.
  • Wikimedia has an opportunity to follow-up on the success of Wikipedia in Spain, where it has the highest awareness, knowledge and usage. Are they doing anything differently? On the other end of the spectrum, Japan appears to have the lowest readership. What is keeping large proportions of internet users in Japan unaware of Wikipedia?
  • Overall, about 15% said they access Wikipedia through the app. This does not match with the numbers Wikipedia is seeing. Explore awareness and usage of the app, as well as its user experience.