Five Reasons Not To Fear Content Farms

The recent surge of so-called content farms has inspired a torrent of commentary from new-media pundits, most of it disapproving. Content farms (also called content factories) are web sites that produce huge numbers of short articles based on keywords popular in search engines. The leading examples are Demand Media, Associated Content, Answers.com, and, most recently, AOL. Some of these sites rely on free user-generated content; others, like Demand Media, pay small sums to content contributors.

Objections to the content farms fall generally into one or more of three categories:

  • They are bad for writers
  • They are bad for readers
  • They are bad for the Internet

It’s not surprising that people who write for a living would be troubled by the pay rates of content farms. Folio:‘s Jason Fell, for instance, noting that he used to get $100 for 300-word reviews, is appalled at the $15 per article averaged by Demand Media writers. He concludes that “online content and its creators have been devalued.” Similarly, Wired’s Daniel Roth sees Demand writers as “the online equivalent of day laborers waiting in front of Home Depot.” How, he asks of the pay, “can anyone survive on that?”

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Liberating—and Monetizing—Your Inner Audience

Whether you’re in content marketing or B2B publishing, one of your main goals is to ensure your message is reaching the right people. While the theory is straightforward, the practice is anything but. You may have a clear vision of your target audience, but in the social-media era, that audience may not be your only audience. To maximize the revenue from your content, you should look beyond your target to what might be called your “inner” audience.

What exactly do I mean by inner audience? It is a group of readers you may not intend to address, but which is implied by your content. But how can content “imply” an audience? Let me explain. In a former life as a grad student in English, one of the critics I admired was Wayne Booth.  (Current English majors: this was a long time ago, so if Booth is no longer cool or I don’t get the details right, be gentle.)

One of Booth’s ideas was that of an “implied reader.” A work of literature, he said, always implies a particular type or types of reader, with certain tastes, expectations, or interests. This reader will often be different from the actual reader, or even from the reader the author was consciously writing for.

It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to apply this idea to your content. You may have a particular type of reader in mind when you write or assign your articles. But your content may well encompass a broader range of readers than you intend.

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What B2B Can Learn from Jeff Jarvis

A Review of What Would Google Do?

What Would Google Do? By Jeff Jarvis. HarperBusiness, 2009.

The world of business-to-business publishing is falling to pieces. Ad pages and revenue are plummeting, staffs are being decimated, and magazines are being shut down or cut back at a dramatic pace. And no, it’s not just the recession, which has merely accelerated a long-term and irreversible trend. So the question for B2B professionals is, What are we to do?

Jeff Jarvis suggests that’s not quite the right way to phrase the question. Rather, we should ask, What would Google do?

Why Google? Because, Jarvis says, there is simply no better example to help us understand “how to survive and prosper in the Internet age.”

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