Demand Media Goes on the Defensive About Content Quality

Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt mentioned in the company's earnings call the other day that Dema...
Demand Media Goes on the Defensive About Content Quality
Written by Chris Crum
  • Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt mentioned in the company’s earnings call the other day that Demand Media was ready to set out and rigorously start defending its content, as it falls victim to a great deal of criticism over quality. 

    As I noted then, the criticism is often geared more towards Google for surfacing the less quality content over more authoritative competing content. Demand’s biggest critics generally acknowledge that not all of its millions of articles are of poor quality, but the complaints are rampant, indicating that much of it the content is clearly lacking. 

    That doesn’t mean it can’t get better in the future, and it doesn’t mean that Google won’t take steps to improve its results. But as of now, it is an issue. 

    Rosenblatt was interviewed by PaidContent in what would appear to be the first of  many examples of the now-public company’s defense strategy. "We applaud Google removing duplicate content … removing shallow, low quality content because it clogs the search results," he said. Both we and Google are 100 percent focused on making the consumer happy. It’s the right thing to do and it’s good for our business."

    So nice that people are now understanding that we give the consumer what they want and they want sometime seemingly arcane things. Tx uless than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

    "I think content farms have become such a general term that everyone is just throwing around," he also said. "You know content farms could be automatic, non-human content that scrapes other people’s articles like ours, steals them, and publishes them. So, I mean, I don’t know what they define content farms as. We don’t see ourselves as one."

    Actually, "shallow, low quality content" pretty much covers it, based on recent blog posts from Google. Also, the recent algorithm change was more geared toward the spammy sites Rosenblatt is talking about, and was not the same thing as Google’s efforts in the content farm department, as Matt Cutts finally made clear. The recently launched Chrome extension for site removal was apparently the first of projects to come on that front. 

    Rosenblatt told PaidContent that if Google has a problem with somebody (citing JCPenney as an example), "they specifically say it. If they have a problem, they come out and talk about it."

    Actually, Google usually doesn’t like to talk about specific sites. In fact, with the newly exposed case, a spokesperson for Google even made this clear to the Wall Street Journal. Allow me to quote from Amir Efrati’s report on that:

    Google wouldn’t discuss details of the incident, citing a policy against discussing specific websites. A Google spokesman said its goal "is to deliver the most relevant information possible." He added that "attempts to game Google’s ranking go on 24 hours a day, every single day."

    Rosenblatt said that he doesn’t know how Demand Media would be considered a content farm if Wikipedia is not. For starters, Wikipedia articles aren’t churned out to fill "demand" for search results. They’re constantly edited, and they’re not supported by Google ads. To be fair, it’s a debatable topic – he’s not the first to put Wikipedia in this category, but to many, there’s a pretty distinct difference. Mike Moran wrote an interesting checklist on what makes a site a content farm that’s worth looking at. Also, see our interview with wikiHow founder Jack Herrick (who used to run eHow, before selling to Demand Media) on what makes the wiki approach different. 

    Rosenblatt reiterated a point made in the earnings call, indicating that Demand Media is becoming less dependent on Google. That’s probably good for them and for Google users, because Google could very well knock Demand’s search results down a peg before it’s all said and done. There’s still that big old elephant in the room that is AdSense, however. Less Demand articles ranking in Google results means less revenue for Google. Google has said repeatedly that sites are not treated any differently if they have AdSense ads, but that’s a lot of money, considering the sheer amount of content Demand has out there. 

    As mentioned in the earnings call, Demand Media is looking at implementing some kind of "curation layer" to its content. Rosenblatt opened up a little bit more about this, saying that it will be a way of "using (something like) Facebook" as a way to give feedback on how helpful articles are. They would then, supposedly fix up the stuff that wasn’t getting good feedback.

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