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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Content Farms, Sucking Our Lifeforce

Content farms are high production sites for content. Check out this brief rundown. Content farms provide the disappointing muck you find at the end of many a search. They illustrate how the information revolution can go astray.

People perform Internet searches exactly 27 bajillion times a day. Canny entrepreneurs have discovered that providing likely content for those searches, and tacking ads to that content, will create revenue. The more page views, the more revenue. It is a business model, and it works. Whee haw!

A  fearsome amount of content must be created to satisfy those 27 bajillion daily searches. Production has been honed with algorithms to determine what topics and data people seek. At the scale of content farms like Direct Media, whatever effort expended to check data and maintain decent levels of grammar simply cannot match necessity. Slapdash is the byword.

So what else is new? This is Web 2.0. Deal with it. One finds oneself thinking that. Alternatives remain, however. One can choose to avoid the crap and stick with good content.

Crafting good content cannot be a mechanical exercise. I stress good here. Good = original. Original means an ad hoc reaction to and presentation of a subject.

Many templates exist for a good blog post. These templates include ideas like asking questions (thereby eliciting reader response), numbered lists (people love them), use of keywords (search engines love them), an 8th grade vocabulary (just 8th graders apparently read blogs), and so forth. These are good ideas, useful to keep in mind. Like with all rules, though, these can be usefully broken at times.

The surprise factor still scores points. I base this assertion on no statistics. I just know that I tire of the same old. I also know that new things, original things, intrigue people. Content farms offer no surprises, and barely any content. Content farms cheat readers with the barest minimum of pay off.

My thesis is that readers will follow you if you take a left turn where the content farm authors always take a right. Surprise—in subject, in vocabulary, in viewpoint—will carry the day. That is my hope as a writer, and my belief. Originality is still a good thing.

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