Quantcast

Is Quality Really in Jeopardy Because of Content Farms?

Why More Content Farms Could Lead to Increased Quality

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:
[ Business]

So-called content farms draw a lot of criticism for a supposed lack of quality and some consider them a threat to quality on the web in general. We’re talking about entities like Demand Media, Associated Content, the new AOL, etc. (the definition of the term content farm itself is also debated).

I would argue that content quality is not in jeopardy. Hear me out. For one, while these sites may or may not produce a large amount of sub-par content, that’s not to say that they don’t have quality content too. There’s no question that quantity is the driving force behind these sites, but quantity in content producers (AKA: the writers, video producers) also means a wider range of minds contributing. There is good among the bad. It’s a mix.

Content Farms - Quality in Danger? Furthermore, as competition among these content farms heats up (and you can bet that will increase), quality is going go play more of a role in setting one apart from the next. Low-quality content will inspire higher quality competition. If a how-to article on roofing isn’t adequate, someone will want to trump it with a better one. Users will flock to the higher quality pieces when the lower quality ones don’t meet their requirements. If those pieces do meet their requirements, how low quality are they really? Quality is in the eye of the beholder. If the reader/viewer doesn’t like what they see, they’ll look elsewhere.

Richard MacManus spoke with Howcast Chief Product Officer Sanjay Raman. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

Who is the top YouTube provider, measured by views? You guessed it, Demand Media. This is because it produces far more video content per month than Howcast (Demand competes directly with Howcast with its property eHow). While Sanjay Raman didn’t have exact figures, he estimated that Demand Media produces about 10 times more videos every month than Howcast. However he implied that this resulted in lower quality videos.

"Demand Media takes tasks and makes them smaller than they need to be," said Raman.

He also claimed that Howcast’s playbacks per video are higher than Demand Media’s. Howcast averages 44-50,000 playbacks per video, he told me, whereas Demand is around 7,000 per video.

Case in point.

Now, that’s also not to say that all of Demand Media’s content is low quality, though many will be quick to tell you that it is. The company has already made moves this year aimed at increasing quality. See the following articles for a few examples:

- Demand Media Aims to Sort Out eHow Content Confusion

- Demand Media Adds New "Talent & Expert Network" to Content Mix

- MerchantCircle, Demand Media Provide New Local Search Opportunities

DM is still adjusting to a new model that it has become the poster child for. There may be a lot of work to do, and just how much it improves remains to be seen. That said, increased competition in this space is likely to fuel increased quality, and if not, the users will go elsewhere. Bounce rates will increase. Someone else will get the traffic.

Furthermore, search engines will continue to compete to deliver the best results, and people will be more inclined to share higher quality articles. That should provide further motivation.

What do you think? Comment here.

Is Quality Really in Jeopardy Because of Content Farms?
Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • http://www.merlinsltd.com Guest

    The simple answer to that is YES

  • http://taxidermycafe.com Guest

    If a content farm produces the sort of material that people need, then it’s content is just as valuable as a single subject niche covering the same subject matter. However, there is always the question of trust, and what has become more important of late, the issue of content generating programs that spew out articles that seem to rank well in search engines, but have no real world value. It would be nice if Google and Bing could learn to separate and eliminate these. The system should be self leveling, as the article mentions, but it may take years for the field to level in some areas. I see program generated pages ranking well, and video pages with no real content of value ranking well after several months while pages of real instructional value languish on the fourth or fifth page. It is a shame.

  • http://www.site-booster.com/blog/ Rahman Mehraby

    Like link farm, sooner or later, there must be some criteria to distinguish good content from junk. Then, good content will receive higher credit from search engines while others won’t. How’s this possible?

    Maybe only some Article Directories will be given prominence for their content. Maybe only some video directories will be considered having valuable content. May be … I should stop guessing!

    Rahman Mehraby
    Site Booster Blog

  • http://www.simplyclicks.com Simply Clicks

    As I understand it content farms are all essentially driven by Adsense. They are therefore Made For Adsense or MFA websites. If all they do is replace existing MFAs in the search engine results pages it wouldn’t be a problem. But I suspect over time they will actually start to replace websites with a business objective other than advertising. It could make life very difficult in competitive market categories, forcing more websites into paid search.

  • http://socialmediasystems.com Israeli Rothman

    I could not agree more. As a person who has written for this publication for years, and who reserved social media systems .com and .org for $8.95 each in February of 2007: as the user-generated, user-filtered content base and technology improves, only the best content will rise to the top. Any minute now SEO is dead: long-live content creation and distribution: IE: social media marketing

  • http://socialmediasystems.com Israeli

    But is must still be formatted and distributed properly: I believe that someday soon that will be automatic: but that is not yet the case

  • Guest

    The internet is full of junk articles. Content mills, including Demand Studios, not to mention the thousands of people who post on sites such as Article Alley just to get their name in front of the public and establish

  • Guest

    Though you make many good points here, I

    • Chris Crum

      Interesting analogy. I think that as with news consumption, readers do need to educate themselves on the kind of content they place their trust in. With more options available, however, I feel like it is easier to form a better idea of what is accurate, or at least popular. For example, if I’m looking for a solution on how to repair a hot water heater, I am apt to look to multiple sources for some consistency. I guess that would be more like going to a food court. Maybe a lot of the food served is crap, but you can look around and judge for yourself (and ask others) what they find to be a better alternative.

  • http://www.novaimagem.co.pt NOVAimagem

    It is true what you say in this good article. People will prefer good content. The problem is – and this is not unusual – when you get a lot of garbish before you find something really usufull. How search engines determine what is good content or bad content is the answer.

  • Guest

    Guess what:

    Google now is actually counting the links included in duplicated blog posts (generally paid psts) as being unique links becuase they are on different blogs (diferent urls) but does not sees the duplicated text which includes the link. Something has happend to their duplicate filter. Same happens with same article published on hundred of sites all the links count. Why?

  • http://africatopforum.com africa

    Content is the kind and must be quality. I gree with this.

  • http://www.acmewriting.com Tom

    Chris,
    I normally agree with you and always enjoy your work, but this essay provokes some disagreement. Here’s why:

    I am a full-time commercial writer and editor. As a writer, I am also a researcher. I have put those research skills to work reviewing hundreds of articles from these ‘article-mills.’ You have to understand that much of what you are reading is developed in countries where English is a second language. As a result, you will find frequent word-usage and sentence structure problems. What is even worse are the errors in using common American colloquialisms. It makes the work read as if it is artificial and contrived.

    I have followed this trend for a couple of years and found that the quality continues spiraling downward. Buyers of this kind of work only care about quantity of content and could care less about quality. You can stuff key words into the worst content and make many buyers happy.

    With this in mind, I see no reason why the quality will improve. There is simply no incentive for it to. Those of us who write for a living are beginning to see some small impact on income because of buyers who opt for free content or poorly-written, inexpensive content. There are some content buyers and users who understand the concept of brand and some who just don’t get it.

    For a site to get high revisit rates, the sites’ content must be relevant AND of high quality. We write for the buyers who understand the difference. The content farms and article mills will cater to site owners who just want to stuff content down the collective throats of their visitors without regard to quality or value. Well-written, well-researched content brings value to a site visitor, contrived content does not.

    When you have more competition in this market, it doesn’t mean that the result is more quality. The competition just means that you are churning out more content, not that quality is a necessary component of that content. It will be competition for quantity of content.

    • Chris Crum

      Tom, first off I appreciate the kind words and the thoughtful discussion. I still feel like readers will wade through the poor content to get to the quality content, and inspire more page views for the better stuff. I also think the search engines will get better at delivering the better stuff. Google has already placed some emphasis on this. And people will share the the quality content more. The way I see it is that the more content that floods the web from a growing number of competing content farms, the more quality is going to be important in attracting eyeballs and pageviews. They’re going to have to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it playing out. Granted, it won’t be so black and white. Quality could rise to the top in some areas while still suffering in others.

  • http://www.origamidelight.com Nicolas Prudhon

    People who have something really good to post usually do it on their website/blog, not submit it to a content farm…

    First, the content farm themselves know that it’s still a number game no matter what people say. Search Engines algorithms do value fresh content, especially if you have a lot of it. Most of the content farms have high “perceived” authority for the SE algorithms on that basis, not based on how well written an article is.

    The business user of the content farm will only produce content to get backlinks, and thus the quality will only be as high as the minimum requirements. It’s not about having people reading and liking your article but just having your article approved there – of course if people like it even better.

    Now, does that mean that you should chunk away quality on your sites? Of course not! I’m a strong advocate on quality content, and it really does help to produce quality content.

    However, one must admit that there’s real frustration to see yourself spending time effort and knowledge to write a master piece content and see it lagging in the search results behind the poor useless quality of some content farm that only rank better than you based on the SE algorithms giving more authority to those farm due to their high volume.

    Sure there are exceptions, but generally speaking, when it comes to SEO, a huge content farm with poor quality will often trump a small site with “real” high quality content.

    I don’t think that content farm help increase quality content simply because it’s not their goal.