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Online Content Is Not Worth Very Much

"The Answer Factory: Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell," Wired magazine's recent profile of online content machine Demand Media, dovetails nicely with my last post.

Bob Garfield analyzes online ad valuation from an inventory supply-side economics perspective. Demand pursues their business model from a content supply-side perspective. Both arrive at the same inevitable conclusion: cheap, fast, good enough, and at volume is the only way to earn money from the Internet—and perhaps all digital communication networks.

Demand Media crunches multiple streams of search data through several algorithms that eventually churn out search engine optimized titles that they predict will attract hits—a combination of high traffic but little competition. The result is thousands of mostly how-to articles, listed content, and informational videos that aren't high on style or even valuable content, but fill a voids that their data says the public is increasingly searching for.

Their process is getting so refined that they are ramping up to produce 1 million pieces of content per month, which the article's author Daniel Roth notes is "the equivalent of four English-language Wikipedias a year." Roth later writes:

To appreciate the impact Demand is poised to have on the Web, imagine a classroom where one kid raises his hand after every question and screams out the answer. He may not be smart or even right, but he makes it difficult to hear anybody else.

The result is a factory stamping out moneymaking content.
For the privilege of stamping out the actual content, writers, editors, videographers, and other creatives are paid on a scale to rival minimum wage. The videographer Roth features to begin his article, for example, gets paid $200 total for 10 videos he shoots in one day.

The moral here is that content is, once again, not king. It's barely even a serf. And we see this medium and all it transmits for what it is: cheap and fast. But is it really good enough?


Peter Tobey said...

Congratulations. Your blog has been nominated for our Library Blog Awards. In fact, your blog was suggested more than once. We're in the process of assembling information about all those nominated and will be sending a short questionaire, including the categories of awards and the judges involved. Would you please send me your email address so that I can send you the questionaire? If your email is on your blog, I couldn't locate it.

Thanks in advance,
Peter W Tobey

The.Effing.Librarian said...

did you quit? if so, that sucks.

librarian@play said...

Nope, Effing, I didn't quit. A short hiatus turned into a long one. Life gets in the way, sometimes. I hope to be back soon, though. Thanks for noticing.