When I was working on this story about what it takes to scale a Web 2.0 company, I kept hearing from VCs about Wetpaint. It's a startup in the wiki world, which I don't follow closely. But I got the chance to meet with them in NYC yesterday.
Wetpaint is a Wikipedia service for the masses. Super easy to use, it's designed to make it simple for anyone to create a Wiki on any subject they like, from Pomeranian dogs to Celtic football. The company doesn't look as big as Wikia on Alexa, but Ben Elowitz, the founder said the company, launched in June, has 200,000 sites, is seeing traffic double every two months, and expects to put out audience stats soon.
Wetpaint is part of the user generated content crowd whose revenues come from advertising. Elowitz thinks, and I think it makes sense, that because people spend more time on a wiki and are attached to it, you don't have the same flight of fancy issue that you have with YouTube or a MySpace. So that should mean that the advertising would be worth pretty good money, as long as they can build up an audience.
Wikipedia proves that Wikis have mass appeal, at least to people using the service. The trick would seem to be finding subjects that have as much broad appeal as say, a Wikipedia. I don't think you will. The other option, then is creating a network of wikis, which is the way that Wetpaint and Wikia are going. But then you really have to get the word out to a lot of people, by which I mean, get beyond the Web 2.0 crowd.
And that's Wetpaint's real challenge. You can advertise, sure. But this seems to me to be a word of mouth hurdle, a use it and explain it to other people company. That's possible, but because it's a wiki, it seems to me that it will take time. So no YouTube takeoff. (No one really gets those anyway.)