The Next Content Farms

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farmvilleADOTAS – This sounds familiar — Demand Media’s biggest problem is that its content is cheap, says Josh Hannah, former co-owner of eHow and current partner at venture capital firm Matrix Partners. eHow is at the core of Demand Media’s web content engine and has legacy good marks in Google’s book.

In a recent interview, Hannah shook his head describing Demand’s factory-esque content-generation process — low quality, high output, low pricepoint — but admitted that with eHow, operational costs were ridiculously high. The company employed more than 100 writers and editors at its peak, but never made more than a million dollars in profit.

However, Hannah says Demand’s goals are short-term only as there’s only so much evergreen content to manufacture (unless you move the process to news like AOL is doing) and Google could kill a great deal of its traffic with a search algorithm change (of course, that would cost Google a fair share of ad revenue as Demand is a major AdSense partner).

Most interestingly, he compares Demand to a company he invest in: WikiHow, a spinoff of eHow owned by eHow veteran Jack Herrick. As the “how-to-manual you can edit,” WikiHow solicits professionals both knowledgable and passionate about to produce in-demand content, not freelancers looking for a quick buck. Then members of the community can edit a la Wikipedia.

It’s similar to the much-buzzed about question-service Quora, except in that case comments are added in a forum-like structure. ad.ly’s Arnie Gullov-Singh suggested the other day that services like this are the next “content farms”  — sites that ask relevant questions and seek out experts that can best answer them.

Such a shift could turn content farm into a positive term. These operations sounds a little like — gasp — journalism.

But skilled journalists interview experts and translate the information gleaned into a condensed form that is both easy and enjoyable to read. The “social question” sites skip that in favor of the raw feed, edited just enough. Still, they promise to fill the Internet with higher-quality content sourced from experts.

Could it be the next big wave of mass-content production?

5 COMMENTS

  1. All this excitement about Demand Media misses the fact that the mother of all content farms is wikipedia, which pays authors nothing. But even worse is the extent to which Google’s index is already spammed with dozens of wiki clones. For many of the searches I do, I wade through two or three screens of returns on the off chance that something has survived this wiki kudzu. The problem is further complicated by Google’s decision that “freshness” counts, so the search returns that are no wiki kudzu are news articles. If I wanted news, I would search news.

  2. Wikipedia is not a content farm. Content farms are those which hire freelancers to rank high in search engines, but offer content of less or no quality at all. Wikipedia is a voluntary, community based site. Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Chris

  3. This content farm nonsense has always amazed me. It’s not journalism, because journalism means you’re organizing as well as advocating a specific industry, place or lifestyle. It seems like it’s just spamming the search engines, and for what? For worthless AdSense traffic?

  4. Content farms are not going away anytime soon, however I do find it sad that many big sites are affected by the google update, in fact this is a radical shift to how SEO will evolve which is a good thing. But I find this something hard to swallow because google did not implement this as a gradual change but a rather sudden one, which gives very little time to react. I think this is a matter of interpretation to quality and the ultimate decision of google which has significantly changed and continue to change the landscape of the web. Google and adsense is rather contradicting as google is taking away the traffic from what they think lesser value sites and adsense is trying to make more money from ads with these adsense publishers. Anyways let’s hope for the best.

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