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Love them or hate them, content farms are a reality on today's web. Thanks to the strength of the search economy, savvy upstart publishers realized that there was money to be made mass-producing search engine-friendly content on the cheap.
But content farming's success may have been its downfall. As the SERPs filled up with articles of dubious value, search engines have fought back. Some went so far as to ban well-known content farms from their indexes.
Banning large, prominent sites is, for obvious reasons, a challenging proposition for Google. But it too has fought back hard against content farms using ts algorithm.
While the verdict is out as to whether it's changes are improving search quality on the world's largest search engine, it appears that some content farmers are adjusting their businesses.
As consumers, techies and the media trade some of their infatuation with Google for the latest crop of super-hot web upstarts like Facebook, the world's most dominant search engine is finding that more and more people are pointing out its flaws.
The quality of Google's SERPs have increasingly come under question, with some complaining that Google isn't doing enough to weed out web spam and low-quality content that ranks well but doesn't offer consumers much value. I am one of those who have been highly critical of Google's capabilities in these areas.
Make no doubt about it: AOL CEO Tim Armstrong had his work cut out the moment he became the leader of one of the most storied names in technology in the past two decades.
The former head of ad sales for Google is tasked with nothing less than to revitalize a brand that in many ways represents what the internet once was, and perhaps represents little of what most of us think it will be. Increasingly, Armstrong's task looks impossible to carry out successfully.
There can be little doubt that there's a market for content produced by so-called content farms. And that this is having an impact on the market for online content in general.
But are content farms sprouting profits that match the popularity of their business model? Perhaps not.
USA Today, like the majority of dailies in the United States, has a problem. Last year, its circulation suffered a significant drop, and it's now the number two daily after being surpassed by the Wall Street Journal.
So what's USA Today to do? Obviously, it needs to change. And a small change is coming in the form of a deal the newspaper has struck with Demand Media to provide 'Travel Tips by Demand Media' on USAToday.com.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has a big goal for his newly-independent company: revitalize AOL by turning it into a bona fide content company.
A big part of his plan is Seed.com, AOL's recently-launched content platform. Seed.com essentially employs the same model as Demand Media, which relies on freelance writers and editors to create SEO-friendly content on a mass scale.
Talk to many displaced old media types and hear an earful about blogs: they lack standards, don't deliver quality content and they pay their writers far less than what they're worth.
But as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, it looks like bloggers may have a go at crying rivers. Thanks to the rise of companies like Demand Media, which specialize what some argue is large-scale 'content farming', bloggers are now leveling some of the same charges that have been leveled at them.