ADOTAS – 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?