I don’t hate Demand Media or Richard Rosenblatt. I do get a little annoyed when I am searching for stuff on Google and end up seeing results written by people who obviously knew nothing about what they were writing. Demand Media’s properties and affiliates are hardly alone in that regards.
That is not what this blog post is about.
What I find very concerning is that Richard Rosenblatt and others want to change the definition of content farm. This is a common technique used in manipulating public opinion (thanks Edward Bernays!)
So lets set the record straight: not only is Demand Media a content farm, the phrase “content farm” was created specifically to describe Demand Media’s business model.
In a recent interview at paidcontent.org, when asked if Google thinks Demand Media is a content farm Rosenblatt responded: “I think content farms have become such a general term that everyone is just throwing around. 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.”
With a few quick searches on google by date range, I took a look at what the top results on Google had to say about “content farm”:
152,000 2010 – #1 My Summer on the Content Farm (working for demand media) http://www.theawl.com/2010/11/my-summer-on-the-content-farm
70,200 2009 – #1 Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried “I’ve been writing a lot about so-called ‘content farms’ in recent months – companies like Demand Media and Answers.com which create thousands of pieces of content per day and are making a big impact on the Web.”
45,500 2008 – #1 “Farm Stands” — top rankings refer to agriculture and MS tech. We can assume the the phrase “content farm” not only originated in 2009 but it was specifically in reference to Demand Media.
Run the searches yourself. Until Google started to pretend that content farms were something they were not, everyone appeared to be in agreement that Demand Media was a content farm.
What Rosenblatt is describing above is not a content farm at all — it is a scraper site. Scrapers have been around in the blackhat seo world since the 90s. The wikipedia entry for “content farm” was created in July of 2010. As the Google search results show, this is a new term. What did that first Wikipedia entry say a content farm was? “In the context of the World Wide Web, the term content farm refers to a website that generates large amounts of textual ‘content’ by paying third-party contractors.” I agree.
Today what does Wikipedia say content farms are? “In the context of the World Wide Web, a content farm is a company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines. Their main goal is to generate advertising revenue.”
Why is Google so intent on pretending that Demand Media is not a content farm? Why does Matt Cutts pretend that no one thinks that content farming is a problem? Why did a recent Google update bitchslap nearly every major content farm except Demand Media’s?
Demand’s relationship with Google raises a lot of questions. As a publicly traded company Demand may be legally obligated to disclose the nature of this unusually close relationship to its investors.