Content farms have come under more criticism for their lower quality articles that are tailored to what people are searching for and produced by low-paid freelancers, as they continue to produce vast amounts of content and dominate online search results with their advanced use of SEO.
Scott Rosenburg, cofounder of Salon, lamented the appearance of an Associated Content article as the top recommendation following one of his Google searches. Looking to find out more about the resignation of Dr Laura Schlessinger from her radio show over a racial slur, he entered 'dr. laura n-word' into Google. The Associated Content story came up first in the Google News results, followed by one from the Washington Post and then one from Media Matters for America, a blog.
Rosenburg was "amazed" to find it there because he had assumed that Google would have started to filter out non-quality content and therefore checked the article to establish whether or not it was worthy of its position. He was unimpressed, writing that it showed "no care beyond an effortful -- and, I guess, successful -- determination to catch Google's eye by repeating the phrase "Dr. Laura n-word" as many times as possible."
Rosenburg believes that this reflects extremely poorly on Google, adding that Bing also showed two Associated Content pieces in its top stories. He wonders whether this demonstrates a step back for automated content selection, "Google tells me that this drivel is the most relevant result, I can't help thinking, the game's up." How far can algorithms really distinguish relevance and quality?
Much work produced by content farms does not seem to pose a great threat to news organisations' articles as it is largely 'how-to'-based. Daily Finance's Jeff Bercovici searched Demand Media's eHow.com for 'the dumbest how-to content" and found plenty, including such gems as "how to understand Ukrainian women" and "how to belch." This is clearly not directly competing with news content. However, when it does, as demonstrated by Rosenburg's search, it is cause for concern, both for news publishers who may be losing readers, and for the extent of the public's knowledge of current events.
Evidently, content farms cannot and should not be stopped from producing large volumes of content and it arguably makes a lot of sense to provide Internet users with articles on topics which they are searching for. And not all the content is bad: some is written by experienced, conscientious journalists. Traditional news organisations should focus on improving their own SEO (though not at the expense of the content) and if it is to retain its position as a top news aggregator, maybe Google's algorithm should become more discerning?
Source: Open Salon