The Growing Importance of Wikipedia Metadata

Measuring anything and everything has become a huge part of trend analysis over the last five years. The steady increase in computer processing power and cultural acceptance of measuring all our activities has exploded and resulted in data that measures behavior in an entirely new way. Naturally, interpreting this data has also become a topic of discussion and exploration, particularly related to social media and the endless data it produces. The epitome of this can be understood by dissecting how the music website, Billboard, determines its Social 50 rank- a list “powered by data tracked by music analytics company Next Big Sound [which] ranks the most popular artists on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Wikipedia and Tumblr. The chart's methodology blends weekly additions of friends/fans/followers along with artist page views and engagement.”

If page views have intrinsic value as data, why not manipulate content on Wikipedia pages to increase web traffic and subsequently influence the ranking of pop culture figures?


Analyzing Wikipedia specifically, it becomes apparent that a fundamental shift in the importance of data on Wikipedia is happening. For the past 10 years, it has been widely understood that Wikipedia page content had been growing in importance and trust, but unlike many other social media sites, Wikipedia analytics weren’t generally being used as important indicators of social or cultural trends. Identifying trends was being delegated to traditional social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., which was determined by the content of people’s conversations. The way in which Billboard uses Wikipedia page views as key indicators of cultural trends is telling about the legitimacy of Wikipedia as a source for knowledge- if there is a consistent relationship between Wikipedia page views and popularity about pop culture figures, then it follows that the website must be an authoritative source on those pop figures. As that legitimacy is realized, so is the potential to influence Wikipedia’s powerful position. There has always been an opportunity to change content on individual pages via vandalism, but now even the metadata has value in being manipulated. Particularly with how Billboard creates a positive feedback loop by using Wikipedia pages views to rank its Social 50 lists, which drives traffic directly back to Wikipedia, which again, influences the rankings on their list and so on.


If page views have intrinsic value as data, why not manipulate content on Wikipedia pages to increase web traffic and subsequently influence the ranking of pop culture figures? Outlandish statements and vandalism go up, and so do pageviews. This system invites page vandalism and can be generalized to other types of web-traffic-generated lists as this type of data grows in importance.


After announcing his performance via social media, Timberlake re-enters the chart at No. 34.

Recently announced Super Bowl LII halftime show performer Justin Timberlakereturns to Billboard’s Social 50 chart, re-entering at No. 34 on the Nov. 11-dated ranking after announcing his performance via social media on Oct. 22.

The Social 50 is powered by data tracked by music analytics company Next Big Sound and ranks the most popular artists on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Wikipedia and Tumblr. The chart's methodology blends weekly additions of friends/fans/followers along with artist page views and engagement. The chart’s latest tracking week ended Oct. 26, and BTS is No. 1 for a 46th week.

I DO have the time. Half the time...#PepsiHalftime #SBLII @Pepsi @NFL@JimmyFallon @FallonTonight pic.twitter.com/4Z4Dz29l3X

— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) October 23, 2017

Timberlake made the announcement through his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, revealing the long-rumored news via a skit with Jimmy Fallon. Timberlake rose 616 percent in overall social mentions in the tracking week ending Oct. 26, with 58,000 total Twitter mentions, according to Next Big Sound.

Meanwhile, Janet Jackson -- who shared the halftime stage with Timberlake in 2004 -- concurrently rises 79 percent in total mentions across her monitored social platforms, though doesn’t reach the 50-position chart. Many social media users discussed the fallout from Timberlake and Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl in 2004, and the possibility of her appearing at the 2018 halftime show.

At No. 11, Drake re-enters the chart with a bevy of Instagram posts celebrating his 31st birthday on Oct. 24. The star-studded Los Angeles party, the guestlist of which included Jamie Foxx, Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee, G-Eazy and many more, helped his Instagram reactions count soar 152 percent, topping off at 12.9 million overall.

Lastly, the chart’s highest debut belongs to Epik High, who bows at No. 22. The South Korea-based hip-hop trio, which formed in 2001, returned Oct. 23 with We’ve Done Something Wonderful, its ninth full-length album and first in three years. In addition to a 423 percent jump in Wikipedia views, the group also snagged 55,000 Twitter mentions surrounding its return.

Thea Fries