ADOTAS – “If you haven’t heard already, Demand Media has been in the news a lot lately,” the email with the infographic read. Demand Media? Never heard of them before — definitely haven’t written bitchy post after bitchy post about their content generation machine. That was some other Gavin.
Though there’s no new information featured in this graphic from OnlineMBA.com (attached at the bottom), the design layout really emphasizes the assembly line nature of Demand’s content farming business. It’s nauseating to me, but I imagine Henry Ford would nod his head in approval. Who would have guessed that online content was mass production’s last great frontier?
It’s very interesting that OnlineMBA decided to compare Demand’s outlets so much with The New York Times, which has been the benchmark for high-quality journalistic content for as long as anyone can remember (though I think its content value has suffered greatly in the last 10 years in particular). This is kind of an unfair comparison considering that most of Demand Media’s output doesn’t have a shred of journalistic value, though it’s definitely not as evergreen as the company would like to sell it.
But the juxtaposition of the two, especially with the imminent arrival of NYTimes’ paywall, made me contemplate an Internet ecosystem with two tiers of online content — mass-produced, SEO-flavored junk food of the Demand Media variety that was free, and actual quality content that you’d have to subscribe to consume.
Arguably, this system already exists — though the paid content tends to be in-depth research and similarly valuable components. But what if the free side was so gummed up with low-cost trash — and no search engine could sort it out — that users were forced to subscribe to certain resources to acquire a shred of quality? (Quite the subjective notion in itself — one person’s quality is another one’s crap.) Then sites with subscription models could charge higher CPMs for display and rich media ads because their audience would be deemed more valuable.
It’s a system that would favor larger publishers and somehow magnify the struggle for the small and midsized guys, already squeezed by the buddy-buddy relationship between Google and content farms.