Portrayals of Large Corporations in the English and German Version of Wikipedia – Exploring Similarities and Differences
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High search results for Wikipedia articles in web search engines and the large number of Wikipedia articles about companies contribute to the online encyclopedia’s relevance for communication and reputation management. In this research, we compare Wikipedia articles of 30 US and 30 German corporations in both the English and German version of the online encyclopedia. Using content analysis, the articles’ structure, content and tone are analyzed and compared. Apart from broad similarities in regard to article structure, results reveal some striking differences between the versions. It shows that companies are portrayed more extensively in their domestic than in the foreign version of Wikipedia. This refers to the length of the overall article, the use of photographs as well as the validation of content. Detailed analyses of article content also reveal that companies are covered more extensively on the different reputation dimensions in their domestic than in the foreign version. Apart from the elaborateness of the portrayals, there is also more criticism in the form of a specific criticism section in domestic compared to foreign version articles. A general negative tendency can furthermore be observed particularly for content on workplace environment and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Contrary to the findings on criticism, content on CSR is more negative in the foreign compared to the domestic version of Wikipedia for both US and German corporations. The findings indicate that Wikipedia content is influenced by how the volunteer contributors to Wikipedia perceive and assess a corporation. Implications for communication management are discussed.
Keywordscontent analysis corporate reputation Germany USA Wikipedia
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