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|From Made for Adsense to Manufactured for Adsense|
MFA hits the mainstream with Demand Media
Read it and weep, oh thee who thinks highly of . . . that stuff now commonly known as "content".
An article in Wired.com [wired.com], entitled "The Answer Factory: Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell" explains, in somewhat painful detail, how a company called "Demand Media" - which operates sites such as EHow.com, is perfecting the mass manufacturing of "content" - reducing . . . err perfecting . . the manufacture of "profitable" content through data mining, algorithmic topic/title selection, and outsourcing a la "Mechanical Turk" - breaking down article writing into components and steps that are distributed to vast masses of workers being paid $15.00 an article and $1.00 for fact checking and $2.50 for editing and $.08 for article title rewriting and . . .
READ THIS ARTICLE if your life/livelihood is in any way tied to Adsense.
The latest production target of this operation is to hit 1,000,000 new "articles" a month.
And guess what? Like Wikipedia what's the chance of a manmoth website like EHow.com ranking for words and phrases . . that appear in their articles?
Brought to you by . . Made profitable by . . Underwritten by . .
Mind boggling. So much a better world than I thought the Web would ever produce. :P
Goog has only ever been against the MFA's that dont make them money..
if they can see profit written big enough
..they'll deal with anyone or anything ..
I wonder how the engineers in Google search are reacting?
that line disturbs me, I'm seeing more of that day after day
Sounds like a good topic for the Content, Writing, and Copyright Forum:
Actually, signor_john, I see the Wired article in "2 worlds colliding" terms, which is why I have posted about the article in 2 forums.
I hate the word/concept "content development". The art and craft of writing, the methodologies of journalism, the heart of storytelling, etc. aren't present or represented in "this stuff", this crud known as "content development".
I would rather see this stuff labeled by its true name - vomit generation - something chunky that is quickly churned and spewed out without much digestion or deliberation.
This, I guess, is the advancement of the MFA concept. Where we once had machines spewing out this crap - auto-generating "content" - we now have the so-called Mechanical Turk spewing it forth.
And Google appears happy to ingest it, monetize it, and, according to the article, is actually encouraging more of it.
Which leads me to ask: Just how bad are the masses of existing human "content creators" that this model - the factory model of content generation - is finding a (willing,happy?) partner in Google?
That's the content side.
On the Adsense side - the other of 2 worlds colliding - we have the specter of content competition by machine and masses armies, tossing their work into websites that likely will exploit . . err . . tune themselves up . . to rank for millions of words and phrases and, by design the most profitable ones to boot.
Content generation powered by data provided by the very search engines that they will seek to rank in and that will also profit from their ranking by virtue of clicks.
Machines talking to machines, sharing data, advising one another about what words to spew forth, then ingesting and ranking those words, . . and making money.
Pity the poor humans in this equation.
Conversation with a child, circa 2025 A.D. "You were once a publisher? What's a publisher? You wrote articles about subjects? Ha! You're kidding, right? Why did you do that . . when machines do it so much faster and better and . . . "
Wake up silly humans.
From a business point of view, I don't mind the profusion of keyword-driven junk sites (both "user-generated content" sites and corporate sites that pay token sums for filler content). Why? Because those junk sites make real editorial content by media professionals even more valuable by comparison.
I've got an editorial "content site," and I earn considerably more today than I did five years ago when algorithm-powered, keyword-driven sites were barely visible on the Web landscape. In my sector, at least, display advertisers are willing to pay premium rates to have their ads on real, professionally-written editorial Web sites. IMHO, the low-margin, high-volume junk sites are more of a threat to each other than to sites that offer in-depth information to highly motivated readers.
To use an analogy, high-volume publishers of low-quality content (such as Demand Media or Examiner.com) are like the thin affiliates that were all the rage a few years ago, and they probably won't have much more staying power in the search engines or the marketplace than the thin affiliates did.
So, the future is mediocrity generated by machines eh?
I'm already seeing this dis/mal/mis information on many forum boards from posters answering questions completely incorrectly.
What next? DIY heart bypass operations?
Just who is overseeing the fact checking of this stuff for a Dollar and from where are they getting that supposedly correct information?
Webwork, have you browsed the eHow site? Much of their content is link worthy and people genuinely find it useful. Their ExpertVillage content has authoritative content on it as well. Demand Media content will prosper or not depending on how useful it's perceived to be, just as any other content is. If the content is useless then the masses will come to view the eHow brand as eCrap. It will stand or fall same as any other content site. Can Demand Media do for content what Applebees did for comfort food?
There's nothing inherently wrong with creating on a large scale. Even though the content topics are created by an algorithm, the quality itself will be judged in the same way all other content is judged. News content is mass produced. Should the NYTimes be reviled because they scaled up from the way Benjamin Franklin used to churn it out?
[edited by: martinibuster at 4:16 pm (utc) on Oct. 30, 2009]
|I wonder how the engineers in Google search are reacting? |
Google really really doesn't care on which sites ads and shown. There pockets are filled for each click.
Finding cheap article writers is easy job these days on freelance websites. This is what are many websites made for ad sense doing over internet.
|Google really really doesn't care on which sites ads and shown. There pockets are filled for each click. |
Yes, but Google earns more from some clicks than it does from others. As for the engineers at Google Search, I don't think they spend much time thinking about AdSense revenue. The head honchos probably do, but if they're smart, they know better than to tell somebody like Matt Cutts of the antispam team to favor MFAs and mass-produced $15-an-article sites over content that keeps users coming back to Google Search.
If I were writing articles for £15 each do you know what I would do?
I'd find other stuff on the internet and rewrite it a bit. Really quick to do and there's some good stuff out there that people have spent days writing to use for "reference".
How else could it be done?
This is where Google's focus on geolocation annoys me the most. I spend on average 2-3 DAYS per page. One of these content manufacturing sites rewrote my stuff, and even gave me a credit link "our stuff is based on his stuff". Of course they win in the serps in their location (which serves a wider area than mine according to Google and they are a premium publisher.
AND another thing... I have a few hundred pages helping people through a rather technical subject. Wikipedia can be number 1 in some locations with a single article which isn't all that useful in this case. It's because they are enormous and have attracted links on their helpful articles. And that seems wrong.
Rant hardly begun...
|Webwork, have you browsed the eHow site? |
Of course I have. I'd hate the pass judgment without at least taking a bit of testimony from the accused. ;)
Most of what I viewed had the distinct "off the top of one's head" feel to it. That didn't stop the writer(s) from taking on subjects that are truly the realm of people with experience, expertise, etc. I'm not certain but I don't recall seeing too many by-lines with the author's credentials for speaking to the subject . . or even writing about the subject.
Much (all?) of what I viewed didn't link out to reference materials, authoratative sour material, etc.
Almost all of what I viewed, across a variety of topics, tended to have a certain, what looked to be "approved format".
|News content is mass produced |
There's a reason they NY Times budget is a healthy bit larger, on a per article basis, than this . . fluff.
|I don't mind the profusion of keyword-driven junk sites |
Why don't you qualify that: "So long as my site isn't buried by a proliferation of mega-machine-generated, internally linking, given to ranking like Wikipedia" types of sites.
SJ - You are no longer pitted against the old content-rewriting auto-gen boys and girls. THIS is an entirely different beast that is emerging . . and it appears that the beast will not be alone for long.
Of course, this is all just imaginings and speculation. A company in the content generation business, with a VC investment north of $350 million and a market value estimated at ~$1 billion dollars, probably won't be able to dominate in your sector SJ.
Unless, of course, by virtue of dominant market position "in a certain sector" they are able to leverage that dominance to begin venturing into other sectors . . . say, like hiring a few more upscale writers living in the markets you target . . not paying that much more than $15.00/article . . but maybe having a few local connections that might get them links from local real world authority sites . . .
Let's face it - users (aka readers) know when they visit a quality site with quality content that was specifically written to serve them, and they know when they come to a "fluffy" page written by someone who just wrote the article to earn $15.
I already hate to use the web when I am having a serious technical query (e.g. PC problems). All I find is questions, questions, questions and fluffy articles surrounded by ads. But no answers. It's really annoying. It does not surprise me though. How else could it be? The ads pay just pennies per thousand impressions, so real humans can not be paid for answering/researching/moderating the discussions.
I see a market niche coming that gets quickly bigger - quality content where people PAY for access. This could even be a "parallel web", where quality-only search engines spider quality-only web-sites. Ultimately, people will be so annoyed by the mediocre content quality of today's web that they will pay to get that quality.
|I see a market niche coming that gets quickly bigger - quality content where people PAY for access. This could even be a "parallel web", where quality-only search engines spider quality-only web-sites. |
I can see that making sense for certain types of sites that users visit frequently (say, news sites), but it's less practical for topics such as:
- A computer-related support issue that comes up rarely ("Help! My computer won't boot!")
- An acute, as opposed to a chronic, health problem (kidney stones rather than kidney disease, an out-of-the-blue knee twinge rather than arthritis)
- A vacation to Elbonia (which may be the only such trip a user takes in his or her lifetime)
|SJ - You are no longer pitted against the old content-rewriting auto-gen boys and girls. THIS is an entirely different beast that is emerging . . and it appears that the beast will not be alone for long. |
IMHO, if you want to succeed against the big guys, the easiest way to do it is by creating the kind of content they can't afford to do. The corporate sites (whether they're traditional publishers or $15-an-article publishers like Demand Media) are forced by economics to use a long-tail, high-volume/low-margin model where articles are short, written quickly, and churned out in prodigious quantities. As a professional writer and subject expert, I can't compete with that, but I CAN compete in the "in-depth content" space, where I have an advantage over publishers who rely on quickie articles produced with cheap labor.
I've never understood why Google ranks most of those faux how-to sites so highly. Many of the articles on those sites could have been written by third graders, and not the A student third graders, either. If Google had any real competition they would have to do something about those sites.
eHow is so confident about their content that they have to nofollow links to external sites within articles!
There are many sites much worse than eHow. Sure, its lite, and the writing is grade school, but last time I looked that was no reason to be banned from the advertising market.
This is just another evolutionary step, a new wrinkle in how we will compete for tomorrow's business share.
IMO, its more about the way the articles and topics are chosen than the articles themselves.
If I'm looking for "how to blah_blah_blah..."
Article A is a long, well researched article, full of information about the subject, but doesn't specifically address my question?
Article B is short, poorly written, but is only written to address my question (& does)?
Which one is more relevant and should rank higher?
Good observations, onepointone. ;)
>>>Which one is more relevant and should rank higher?
All three search engines try to get over that hump by weeding out sites that they identify as sending negative signals and giving points to sites that contain positive signals. You can see this in action FOR SOME QUERIES on search.yahoo.com where for example some two word queries for B2B keywords may return irrelevant .gov and .org results despite the existence of other more relevant sites outside those TLDs.
For other two word queries, let's say for lifestyle related phrases, Yahoo may return a set of results with big brands and the occasional oddball small site. The big brands are trusted because they have so many positive backlinks; the small site may be trusted because it lacks many of the negative signals. It's not good, but it's not bad, know what I mean? Just my opinion, but this goes on at Google, but it's done better than on Yahoo and Bing.
eHow is not well known yet and I don't think they've developed a reputation in the mind of the general public yet. I think ultimately eHow is going to succeed or lose based on the quality of it's content.
|Article A is a long, well researched article, full of information about the subject, but doesn't specifically address my question? |
Article B is short, poorly written, but is only written to address my question (& does)?
But what if Article A is a long, well-researched article that answers your question, and Article B is short, poorly written, with an incomplete answer to your question? That's a more likely scenario, and it's why (for example) a Wikipedia article about X, Y, or Z probably will--and should--outlook a Demand Media or Examiner.com article about that topic.
I suspect that "information rot" is going to prove the real bugaboo for sites that run millions of short articles as filler content. Let's say that John Doe has written a 400-word article for Demand Media on how to get to Widgetville from Widgetville International Airport. In 2010, the Widgetville Transit Authority puts in a light rail line to replace the existing bus. How long will it be until John Doe's article is updated? Will it ever be updated? Or will it sit on the Web forever, like Web sites that still talk about Italian lire and French francs?
|I suspect that "information rot" is going to prove the real bugaboo for sites that run millions of short articles as filler content. |
Read the article. One of DM's "variables/targets" is subjects/articles with "long term value" . cough . cough evergreen content.
I wonder where, or from whom, DM may have gleaned some insight into the added value of evergreen content? :P
I actually came across one of these articles today. I was searching for information about how to use the most impenetrable photo software ever invented.
The title of the article was a lot more attractive than the content.
It's already a swine to find info for this particular program as everyone with an internet connection seems to post junk articles about it. The very well written article in the number 1 spot turned out to be very useful after a bit of additional background searching.
Interesting discussion. Very eloquently expressed, too. That's one reason I like this forum.
I look at things a bit differently, though. The Internet is changing the world. It's expanding to include, not just the webmasters, not just the scholars, not just the marketers, but, well, everybody. *Everybody.* So the quality of what goes onto the Web will be fluctuating wildly for a long time...decades, as people swarm into Internet City in pulses. And then, when we're all here, things will settle down.
Even now, it's not so bad. My sense is the ratio of quality to quantity on the Web remains about the same as before, when you average in the fluctuations. Yes, there is a lot of crap out on the Internet--produced equally by the likes of Demand Media and by Your Average Joe (largely because Your Average Joe IS Demand Media. The Internet is an incestuous family. I write for Demand on a write-for-hire basis and as an independent eHower, and for other venues and for myself). And what the qualified experts produce isn't, much of the time, any better.
Not to misquote too badly, but...90 percent of the Web is crap, and 90 percent of the stuff in print is, too. It started with the printing press (with the existence of the middleman necessitated by the nature of its production to filter out the bad, but when pulp paper came along--why filter? Try it all and let the market decide!), and then when paper wasn't so plentiful, but electricity was, with the Internet (not so much of a middleman, just let everyone in and statistics will take care of quality control over time).
Most professional writers have not made it onto the Internet. Most engineers have not made it onto the Internet. Most qualified anything have not made it onto the Internet. They won't until the print media dissolves past a certain threshold and (no offense intended) the baby boomers are gone, because as a generation (exceptions notwithstanding), the boomers hold powerfully tight to the notion that traditional media is the home of quality and the fount of success.
Unfortunately, the boomers are also the best educated and (except for their parents) the most experienced, so their knowledge might go with them. Ideally, the economic crisis and their threatened retirement will prompt them to get their expert tushes online before their voices are lost...but I don't know if it will happen.
Demand Media, by the way, is increasing its emphasis on quality sourcing. It's very aware of the fine line between spam and content and trying to push itself firmly onto the straight-and-narrow side. It has many flaws. It's also got some things right.
The low pay? It's not a reflection of the writer's/editor's/title proofer's qualifications. Many of the hired writers now are professionals. It's due to the different pay structures on the Internet. No jobs to hustle. No waiting months to be paid for a $3,000 article. The time you save in hustling for jobs and researching markets is spent writing $15 articles and ending up with a reliable paycheck twice weekly. It's almost reminiscent of the times our grandparents wandered onto a job site, got hired, then were paid for an hour's work the hour after it was worked. New pay structure.
I see the point about the frustration in doing a search for "How to Bind Your Own Miniature Book in Vinyl" and coming to an article that just doesn't acknowledge the difference between vinyl and leather. But haven't you ever desperately needed to know at what temperature to roast a turkey, and your cookbook is buried under fifty pounds of paper, and your kid is running wild, and it's easier to type in something and use Demand Media-type articles as ready reference? Or haven't you ever wanted a quick-glimpse look at a subject? Instead of asking your neighbor, who may or may not be a real authority, you ask the Internet.
We're in a new age of innovation. Because of that, nobody even knows anymore what constitutes an authority. Is it Susie Homemaker who's never taken o-chem to save her life but knows what to do for her kid's cold? She's got knowledge I want, more often than I want my doctor's, even if she's an awkward writer.
Everyone on the Internet is experimenting with the best way to convey information, knowledge, opinion, and expression to others. Everyone's lacking in something--technical skill, writing skill, experience, qualifications, knowledge--needed to convey it. But everyone has some skill. Eventually all those skills will be organized in a way to guarantee the best content. But it's an evolving process and involves trying and discarding new content production models. Which means lots of trash in the meantime, but a surprising amount of gold. (I don't have health insurance. But I'm saved to some degree, because in less than a decade, the medical information available freely on the Web has gone from 75% misinformation to nearly as state-of-the-art as that which my doctor imparts, and occcasionally beyond.)
|The time you save in hustling for jobs and researching markets is spent writing $15 articles and ending up with a reliable paycheck twice weekly. |
What do credible writers actually write for that kind of money, 15 - 30 words?
|IMO, its more about the way the articles and topics are chosen than the articles themselves. |
I think this is what will allow Demand Media, and others like it, to become the Wikipedia of £15 articles. And once they have that reach, they would be in a good position to expand into higher quality sectors.
One thing you can take away is this: be careful what you search for, where you search for it, and how much of your search data you share with third parties. Or you many find someone has beaten you to that unique article on the construction of Elbonian mud huts.
Currently writers get paid $15 per 500-600 words for the standard how-to type article and for a few other formats. Although some topics pay $20, and when I was writing for a particular studio, I got paid $30 per article. And some articles pay $7.50.
For now, Demand Studios (the actual company that produces the content, owned by Demand Media) pays better than most flat-fee platforms. They have their problems, and they should pay more, but they're more reliable than most.
If you hunt out your own clients, you may get paid $20-$50 per content article if you're savvy. But that takes hours of applying, negotiating, and being told you should work for less because the work is "easy."
Elsewhere, most writers will get paid $2-$10 per 400-600 word article and produce work accordingly.
read it and weep..indeed
the voice of where goog is taking everyone ..
however ..I do like brutal honesty ..:)
( even if it's not entirely impartial ..but there are many here who are not entirely impartial ..not to say those who have have vested interests in squashing or diverting dissent from the GOOG and it's friends are our friends ..at many levels of WebmasterWorld ) ..
if no one has said it already ..and even if they have ..welcome to WebmasterWorld Lapizuli ..
we may well not always agree ..( one never knows..what is best for one depends on the individual ) ..but I do so love naked honesty ..somewhat lacking recently hereabouts ..:)
and thank you Jeff for broaching the subject ;))
|Unfortunately, the boomers are also the best educated and (except for their parents) the most experienced, so their knowledge might go with them. Ideally, the economic crisis and their threatened retirement will prompt them to get their expert tushes online before their voices are lost...but I don't know if it will happen. |
I am one of those boomers. I will never say I'm an expert at anything, but I am in my spare time putting pieces of my life online in a few of my sites. It's what I know best. I began doing it back in 2000 with thoughts of doing it earlier. I first got online in 1994.
If, and when I do manage to retire from a real job, it will probably become easier to get more of it online. I have had a ton of interesting experiences to draw from over my 60+ years so far, and those experiences haven't stopped yet.
However, having seen a few pages at eHow and seen how shallow they are, I'm not about to take their route. Perhaps what they have is accurate, but the information there is so lacking in depth that it's almost laughable. When I go seeking information I normally want in depth articles, not something that resembles something a five year old kid could come up with.
|( even if it's not entirely impartial ..but there are many here who are not entirely impartial ..not to say those who have have vested interests in squashing or diverting dissent from the GOOG and it's friends are our friends ..at many levels of WebmasterWorld ) ... |
Long-tail, cheap-content sites date back to the early days of the Web, if not before (remember the old AOL, The Mining Co./About.com, or Suite101.com?).
Believe it or not, there were search engines before Google came along, and publishers were earning money from the Web well before the launch of AdSense in 2003. FWIW, I've been in the online content business since 1995 and in the Web content business since early 1996, when Larry Page and Sergey Brin were still in grad school. I still think of AdSense as a second-generation monetization scheme. :-)
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