Demand Media: A Story of Garbage In, Garbage Out
Earlier this week we aggregated a news item by Variety that reported on the downfall of content farming operation Demand Media. I suppose you shouldn't relish in someone else's failure, but it's hard not to be pleased by the fact that "the internet" is increasingly rewarding creators and publishers of high-quality content.
If you're not familiar, Demand Media is the company behind mass-produced content sites like eHow. As one commenter on the Variety article puts it: "There are home electrical-wiring projects on one Demand site...that will kill you if you follow the instructions."
Demand's content farm business model was basically to mass-produce articles and videos based on the most popular online search queries. Despite the low grade of the content, it earned massive amounts of traffic and sold advertising against that traffic.
I never blamed Demand Media for making a buck. That's what the internet is for, right? But all worthy publishers should be concerned that the good content out there might be swallowed by a tsunami of CONTENT. As Variety reports, "Not long after the company went public in January 2011, its market capitalization soared to more than $2 billion, sending the then-5-year-old firm's value briefly past that of the New York Times Co." If that trend had continued, we would be drowning in bland, benign, misleading content -- or at least more than we currently are.
Luckily, updates to Google's search algorithms have begun to devalue the any-content-will-do approach.
Todd Spangler reports for Variety:
"Google made fundamental changes to its search algorithm to deprioritize results from what it called 'junk' and 'spam' websites. Under Google's new algorithm, code-named Panda, companies that produced lots of content got penalized."
Demand has plummeted to roughly a quarter of its peak value. For shame.
Demand's approach is an insult to the craft of writing, journalism, content creation -- whatever you want to call it. Let's hope that the sophistication with which Google searches find and deliver meaning will be ever increasing.
As for Demand Media: Its headstone will read "Garbage In, Garbage Out."
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Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.