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?”