Increasingly it appears that newspapers are outsourcing content — good old fashioned writing — to content farms. Associated Content, just acquired by Yahoo! for about $100 million, has online newspaper deals. And so does rival Demand Media. According to a BNET article appearing last week:
Demand Media has just announced to its freelance writers and editors two new content deals that further its reach into traditional media. The company is about to partner with Hearst Newspapers to produce content for two web sites run by two Hearst papers: the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle . . .
For its normal web pieces, a typical Demand Media rate for an article of a few hundred words is $7.50, with copy editing paying about $3.50 an article, according to many freelancers I’ve communicated with who work for Demand. To make a reasonable amount of money per hour, writers have to research and compose multiple articles an hour, setting a difficult pace.
Content Farms are being used as a kind of back-door SEO strategy but also to perform core writing functions (now) that used to be done by staff writers. The chief attraction is the low cost of these services as well as the volume of content they create.
The writers are (self) exploited. Many of them may be competent and know something about which they’re writing but the system, with its low payments, rewards speed — not quality.
This is lamentable and will tarnish the newspaper brands using services like Demand to turn out the mediocre copy — intended to capture and generate display ad page views. If this is the mindset now and what newspaper publishing has become about then let them crash and burn.
In the end Google will be compelled to deal with content farms — the new spam — and everyone relying upon them will be punished in one way or another. In retrospect these strategies will look penny wise, pound foolish.