For some time there has been a growing number of content farms that are able to produce a lot of content for next to nothing, the benefit of this is that they are able to suck up lots of traffic and serve it with plenty of adverts.
It sounds great, expect so the argument goes this content is relatively low quality and is normally a regurgitated churn that competes in visibility terms with supposedly good content from the old and generally right wing media sources (run with me on this one – I relies that in fact I’m talking about established print media and there are plenty of “good media outlets” that could be called the left wing media – but that wouldn’t suit my blog title!).
Recently a trade group going by the name of the Internet Content Syndication Council (ICSC) has been getting a document out there entitled “Council To Counter Web Content Generators Growing Clout“. Essentially this documents argues that content generators such as Demand Media and Associated Content are threatening journalists jobs – they also go onto argue that many content generators (or content farms as they are known in the SEO community) are reducing the overall quality and benefit of content on the net. It’s worth noting that many of the pundits that are weighing in and complaining about the quality of content being put out by our favourite content farms are in fact journalists themselves who demand considerably higher fees than the freelancers that work for the content generators do.
The word quality sticks in my throat a little bit – because at the end of the day Google isn’t really about quality – when you talk about quality for Google you are talking about PPC – what Google is really all about is relevance. That is the relevance of a search to the content out there, there are measures in the algorithm they determine how searchers use the content and this acts in part as a quality measure although that’s not really the point.
Generally speaking the content that content mills are putting out there is also much more search engine friendly, that means it’s not full of flowery purple phraseology that often goes hand in hand with a journalist who’s writing for a specific target market – which means in many cases the content produced by the content mills is actually much more accessible to the everyman trying to get the info, the point is it’s not about lofty pretensions, it’s about raking quickly and lots.
What are the ICSC proposing?
The ICSC seem to be proposing web standards – some kind of quality guidelines for content on the web. Does that make them the content police?
And who will they producing? Because the thing about the internet is that every second of every minute of everyday people are adding more and more information to the internet, it’s never ending and nor should it be, and it no longer needs the fleet street elite to moderate, shape or control it. It’s at large.
I write a hell of a lot of content for various websites – my content has been ripped off, reused, rewritten so many times it’s just funny, I don’t moan about this it’s the nature of the beast – it’s going to happen all the time and that’s ok – all that matters is getting it out there and making noise. Unfortunately that’s where the content mill sare able to dominate, they can produce a lot for not a lot and traditional media has yet to catch up.
What’s more – who are these new Content Police even going to be rambling on to? Each other. No one else really cares. Most people just want the information that answers their questions and it’s in the content mills interest to make sure that no matter how badly written the Content Police argue it is, the content does.
Who decides the level of quality of content?
This is really a case of the Content Police vs. the general web surfer, because at the end of the day it’s the average web surfer who will determine the quality of a piece of content.
And who are the people writing this content? The people that write this content are often portrayed as being individuals who work freelancer or in back waters of some far off country sweating out content, in fact many of these people are in western countries who have excellent standards of written skills (at least as good as the journalist elite!) and the problem the established journalists really have is that they are being undercut. Deal with it guys this is simply a case of supply and demand.
Quality of Google’s Search Results
In fact Google does consider the quality of it’s search results to be important in some way – they recently published patents that help their search algorithm identify “areas of inadequate search content” – essentially by this they mean that they are going to let people know where there are holes in terms of the content out there so they can write about it. I think of this as the way that Wikipedia put a “Can you expand this article” tag at the top of a short entry.
This will only encourage more content to be produced – Google doesn’t really mind if the content is of quality – what it doesn’t want is for other ways to find the information the searcher is looking for to be found, ultimately this is Google protecting its virtual monopoly by being extra helpful – why else would they have included hot topics in Google Insights?
Will the Content Police Win?
No matter what councils are created in the coming months and years, no matter how rigorous they will only ever be fringe elements. No, the proletariat has well and truly taken over the printing press, publishing unimaginable amounts of content through articles, blogs, microblogs, websites and social media
In reality the fringe elements such as the ICSC are not the content police, the mechanisms implemented by Google to determine the relevancy of content to the searchers searches combined with the decisions of live searchers actually make up the (non-capitalised) content police.