We’ll Make Great Google Pets

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google_recruiting_small.jpgADOTAS – There are certainly some weird findings in the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer — that “Undercover Boss” show must be a hit because faith in CEOs jumped from 31% to 50% — but it doesn’t surprise me in the least that U.S. consumer trust in the media has fallen from 46% to 27% since 2008.

There’s something rotten in Denmark, all right, and this goes beyond the misinformation factory known as cable news. The Internet is filled with more junk than ever and Google, the once great search tool, is not cutting through the clutter like it once did. In fact, it might be part of the problem. It might be the problem.

Six or seven years ago, “It’s true because I read it on the Internet!” was a punchline. Quickly that joke is changing to “I quickly found something useful in Google’s search results!” More often, people just get headaches trying to wade through all the crap… Or they turn to social outlets for researching.

Demand Media’s highly successful IPO has drawn even more attention to how the content firehose douses the Internet with middling-quality content that feature prominently in Google’s search results. Google may have a huge conflict of interest here as Demand is a major AdSense partner.

An easy way to sidestep all the recent clamor about content farms, WebProNews’ Rich Ord explains, would be to label the offenders and lower their prominence in search results. But in a pretty scathing Business Insider commentary by Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz, he notes, “[I]f Google were to reduce the prominence of sites that use AdSense, its revenues and liquidity in the ad market would take a significant hit.

Hold on, there, mister! Matt Cuts, head of Google’s anti-webspam team, emphasized in a recent blog post that:

  • Google absolutely takes action on sites that violate our quality guidelines regardless of whether they have ads powered by Google;
  • Displaying Google ads does not help a site’s rankings in Google; and
  • Buying Google ads does not increase a site’s rankings in Google’s search results.

However, Ord makes a bigger point: “Google is obviously aware of Demand’s SEO’d content and their Adwords revenue strategy which makes Google’s perceived stance of encouraging bloggers and publishers to write ‘content for users, not their search engine’ a joke.”

But it’s been that way for a while. As an Internet journalist, there’s nothing so rallying as a pep talk that ends, “Write something that gets picked up by Google News!”

It would seem the problem with the polluted Internet may fall more on Google’s shoulders. Google is rewarding Demand for gaming its algorithm with lackluster content, and then it brings Big G a nice chunk of  change in ad revenue.

But most Internet media companies have become slaves to Google’s algorithm — Google is the best source of pageviews around, and more pageviews means more impressions, and… You all know this story. Quality be damned, we’re gonna SEO the hell out of our content and churn out as much of it as possible.

I was hesitant to jump on the Demand-bashing train because I didn’t want to fall in line with the tech bloggerati. I’ve met execs from Demand and Adotas ran a very insightful series on user anonymity in social settings from Jason Jaynes, Demand’s head of marketing, product management and product strategy. No, not all of Demand’s content is bad, but it is all cheap, mass-manufactured based on a equation and produced at the lowest pricepoint possible.

Call me arrogant, but I personally can’t imagine being a writer for Demand (or Associated Content or their ilk) because I don’t think the writers and content producers are properly compensated — at least not to do a good job. Many times they aren’t qualified — good content requires more than just spitting out information you know. Research is involved; thoughts need to be considered and organized, not hammered out.

I’d rather go back to proofreading research reports for investment firms than be a part of that content machine.

Which I may have to do. Google, the content creator’s greatest friend and enemy, has given rise to Demand, whether you consider it a content farm or not. Google continues to nurture its pet. And it seems like more and more Internet media companies are becoming Google’s pets, and they exhibit more of Demand’s traits day by day.

And being Google’s pets, we’ll just crap more all over the Internet. Who can be bothered to pick it up?

3 COMMENTS

  1. The entire point of the Undercover Boss show IS to influence public opinion. That is what the media has always been used for and if that is still a secret to people it is because they either have never questioned it or they are very naive indeed.

    Everything – EVERYTHING – on the free television stations, most movies, most major media – is spin intended to influence what the masses believe.

    When I majored in Journalism in high school back in the ’70s, Journalists were taught that they should write as unbiased observers. Personal opinion only belonged on the Editorial page.

    But in the real world that never really was true because all content is influenced by owners and advertisers.

    Even when advertising was kept separate from what is now passed off as news but IS advertising, we must remember that those businesses is/were advertiser based.

    No magazine, newspaper or television station is going to risk losing their advertisers by publishing what the advertisers would object to and lose that revenue.

    I learned that back when I was involved in the Thoroughbred horse industry. The truth about breeding, buying, and racing horses never appears in any major magazine dedicated to those topics because that industry has spent decades developing a business model that works for the few and their advertising supports those publications. Print the truth and they pull their ad dollars and your mag goes under.

    Each of us must learn to discern the truth instead of believing anything we read or see.

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