The day had to come when content farms realized there are only so many articles they could churn out about how long to let paint dry or how to get a bump out of a sweater before they – and everybody else – had had enough.
For Demand Media, that day came last week.
According to Business Insider, the Santa Monica, Calif., company sent an email to freelance contributors informing them that for the foreseeable future, the controversial publisher of eHow.com and other traffic-driven content sites is scaling back on quick hit “how-to” other assignments. Instead, the company told contributors, it will focus on “more targeted categories and other forms of content such as slide shows, video series and feature articles.”
Did Google contribute to the change when it switched to a new search engine algorithm code named Panda? Yes and no. Panda sniffs out and passes over material that content farms churn out by the thousands and tens of thousands a day. When Google first launched Panda last spring, eHow wasn’t affected. That changed with a later update, according to WebProNews, prompting Demand Media officials to launch a clean-up effort. Later, during an August call with analysts who follow the stock, Demand Media officials said they’d removed 300,000 eHow articles.
News of Demand Media’s decision to cut down on what it’s assigning spread quickly through the freelance community. I saw notices of the Business Insider story within hours of its posting on two different writer message boards.
Demand Media Chief Revenue Officer Joanne Bradford attempted to put a positive spin on the development, saying the company remains “one of the largest pools of writing assignments available in the world,” in an official statement to Business Insider. “We don’t feel like it’s that dramatic of a change because it’s not like every assignment was being taken. It’s all about quality for us.”
But reaction from current and former Demand Media writers was mixed. “I feel bad for people who have nothing to fall back on now, but are you serious?” one writer who’s worked for Demand Media posted in a message on one of those writer message boards. “Who didn’t know this party was going to end, especially once Panda hit?”
Another writer, apparnetly one who still works for Demand, wrote in a comment on the Business Insider piece: “Earlier in the year, (Demand) ramped up its production to record-high levels and hired on lots of new writers. They are still advertising, too, LOL. I’ve seen available assignments as high as tens of thousands for a long time, just in the general title pool, but never in the four-digits until this summer. Now it’s in the low three-digits area, which means the titles are all but gone from there. Some are still coming in, but not many. This IS a huge change…”
What do you think: if you work for Demand Media, how is this affecting your paycheck? If you write for other content sites, are you concerned they’ll follow suit?