Information Wants To Be Second-Rate

Thousands of … filmmakers and writers around the country are operating with the same loose standards, racing to produce the 4,000 videos and articles that Demand Media publishes every day. The company’s ambitions are so enormous as to be almost surreal: to predict any question anyone might ask and generate an answer that will show up at the top of Google’s search results. To get there, Demand is using an army of [impoverished filmmakers and writers] to feverishly crank out articles and videos. They shoot slapdash instructional videos with titles like “How To Draw a Greek Helmet” and “Dog Whistle Training Techniques.” They write guides about lunch meat safety and nonprofit administration. They pump out an endless stream of bulleted lists and tutorials about the most esoteric of subjects.

via The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model

12 thoughts on “Information Wants To Be Second-Rate

  1. Apparently “gain the world, lose your soul” sounds like a reasonable proposition to those running Demand. Sad that information should go the way of most manufactured goods, where quality and just plain caring about your produce matters not.

  2. @david it’s interesting that you assume Demand doesn’t care about its quality. How do you know they don’t provide quality control? I actually happen to write for Demand Studios, the site where their content is produced, and they have the better quality control than blogs, probably the same quality control that you’d find on magazine sites.

    I think the biggest misunderstanding about Demand is that it produces content with no regards for the information being produced. The question you have to ask yourself about content when it comes to quality, is what do you value as the mechanism to determine its quality? Is it from where it comes, etc. via a trusted source such as an existing news site, expert blog. Because quality control in those regards has no transparent mechanism to show you that it in deed has been used. I’m willing to bet that most of the worlds information, these days, comes from blogs and friends, via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and there is no quality control mechanism in place there.

    That being said, I can tell you wholeheartedly that Demand has a pretty rigid quality control system in place. The brilliance of Demand is that they predict the trends and create titles based upon those trends so that the information is always new, relevant and fresh. Their quality control starts with screening their writers and content creators. As for writers and filmmakers, they go through a rigorous approval process, done by humans, that I’ve even seen deny professional writers because their resumes weren’t up to par. So say you’ve been approved as a writer and you go to grab your first title to write. You fill out the form to create your brand new piece of content and maybe you assume its going to go straight to print, well it’s not. Its going to go through an editorial team where they’ll mark up your paper with the same red pen your teach used to use in grade school. And if it does finally make it to press with the final revisions and approvals in place, there is no guarantee it will actually make it to a website.

    Think of the old days when newspapers were the only way to get your information unless you were one of the fortunate few to have a radio. Those days filled with a select few individuals deciding what news was important for you and providing you their view and biases of that news. It was a very limited way to obtain your information. Well think of now, Demand Studios is the same vessel as a newspaper organization, except this time its not just a select few, its real people, with real experiences and real abilities to create the content.

  3. People, not information want to be second rate. Misguided
    poorly developed self-expression is the new rule. Everyday I seek to break that rule with what I read, listen to or absorb. It is a battle I engage everyday. Today was a not victory. My grandson is waiting for me to play and have dinner with. Oh how the babble of a child says more than the words of an adult.

  4. I don’t work for Demand, but after reading the article referenced to on Wired (and seeing the results every time I search for something on the web), it looks like the quality control is close to nil. Especially for such a cheap rate.

    Newton- I think it’s great to have pride for the company you work for but I don’t believe they can scrutinize the content as much as you say they do and still put out as much content for as cheap as they do. It’s not your fault though – it is the nature of a completely impersonal service to answer ridiculous questions and take up valuable space on search results pages.

    Crappy answer sites such as these only make sites that specialize in something and do it well all the more valuable.

  5. Hmm, algorithm-based prediction of what people want. Just-good-enough.

    …Which means that those of us poor s.o.b.’s who are looking for something in particular, similar to but not actually like what these zarking algorithms have predicted, will be forced to dig, and dig, and dig through SERPs every time we want actual information. Cf. David’s conclusion.

  6. The more rigid your quality control has to be the worse off the end result will be. The economic advertising ecosystem created by Google leaves little-to-no room for creators to do something wholly unexpected and make a living at it.

    I guess that’s the price of The Future™, and there will always be creators who find a way to make it work and still do compelling work (Amanada Palmer comes to find), but these bottom feeders are the future of our media/cultural core, and I get old man Grim Meat Hook Future shudders when I think abut the kind of society that will produce.

  7. Talented and hardworking writers, who have made a living of their craft for some time, are having their work devalued by the democratic spread of information technology, which has increased their direct competition by lowering barriers of entry to zero.

    Big market media are now able to offer writers zero for their work because there is an abundance of workers at decent quality. Writers and photographers and programmers are seeing their jobs outsourced, in effect, to a much larger pool of available labor.

    This is an adjustment we have to make in order to have a stronger democracy: it’s good that more people have a voice, and therefore power, because of technology. But it will be hard for people to adjust when jobs that used to pay them $500 now offer $50, and many publishers offer nothing more than “exposure”.

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