Is Crap the Future of Online Content?

More and more professional editorial is giving way to low-paid freelancers or upaid UGC. David Carr’s piece The Fall and Rise of Media contains the following observation:

That carnage has left behind an island of misfit toys, trains whose cabooses have square wheels and bird fish who are trying to swim in thin air. The skills that once commanded $4 for every shiny word are far less valuable at a time when the supply of both editorial and advertising content more or less doubles every year.

Where do all the burgeoning pixels come from? Everywhere, and cheap at that. An outfit called Demand Media now tests headlines for reader salience and cranks out thousands of articles and videos daily that it pays about $20 apiece for.

While user-generated content and “crowdsourcing” work well for certain kinds of content creation (e.g, online reviews), it’s not equally applicable for all situations and use cases. This is not a new view of course, but experts and professionals have an important role to play in the future of online content. This is where Yahoo! and AOL both hope to excel BTW.

Salon CEO Richard Gingras makes the point that brands matter even more today than in the past:

“I do think that in the content space, as we see the print publications decline, I think brands matter more than ever,” he said. “I think brands with sharp personalities matter more than ever, and I think that presents an opportunity for salon.”

I totally agree with him. Trust and quality, two values that content brands should stand for, will continue to gain in importance in this new world of digital serfs and sloppy UGC.

What do you think? Will people care about experts and editorial quality going forward?

8 Responses to “Is Crap the Future of Online Content?”

  1. Jennifer Crews Says:

    I agree with your main point, although I am continually amazed at the number of typos I see on brand-name websites. I feel like even those media outlets are stressing quantity to the point of foregoing quality, and for what? Just to report the same stuff everyone else is talking about?

    In answer to your question, I spend more time than ever thinking about who I am reading and what is the vested interest of the writer/media outlet because you can’t just default to “It is published so it must be (accurate/good/factual/interesting/etc).” But I am not sure that is mainstream just yet…

  2. Ed Kohler Says:

    One change is that brands are shifting from publications to people. People who like David Carr’s writing would read him whether he’s at the NY Times or Salon.

  3. ian Says:

    the ‘average’ newspaper (USA Today?) is written at a reading level for 6th grade, and the NYT/WSJ maybe at an 11th grade reading level. not so great to begin with, but accepted. i’ve wondered what the role of SEO has been on editorial. is it inconceivable that editors have dumbed down copy in hope of increasing readership via indexing strategies?

  4. Perry Says:

    It sure feels like a new world, and I respect David Carr’s take, and deeply admire Richard’s perspective on journalism.

    Yet, it’s unmistakable that Consumption of content is flaky, fleeting and amorphous. As much as I cheer for Richard to be right, I have yet to see evidence that the next generation will really engage in editorial “trust/quality” versus topical, disposable consumptive media. At least not in traditional ways.

    Ultimately, the brain sure needs more nurturing, and the human condition needs more roots and connectedness. I’m just not (yet?) so sure journalism will be the glue it longs to me.

    The social mantra perhaps is “We’re leading ourselves, collectively, and we don’t need anyone to direct us.” Power to the lemmings!😉

  5. Stever Says:

    take a read what Aaron Wall wrote today about information pollution on the net and the big content producers pushing more and more lower and lower quality crap just to stuff the search engines with more pages and attract more long tail search traffic http://www.seobook.com/2010-year-information-pollution-takes

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