by Kevin on December 6, 2009
In the world of blogging, most bloggers and their blogs either fit into two categories – those who are successful and those who aren’t. By successful, I really mean that you are able to generate enough “results” from your blog to meet all your goals and you have built a community around your blog, rather than just a site people visit because it ranks well.
Weblogs, inc., a network of 90+ blogs, which was purchased by AOL four years ago, and employees roughly 150 people worldwide, is one of the most popular blog networks by traffic. Some of their more popular blogs like Engadget, TV Squad, and Autoblog alone generate 5.3+ million unique visitors monthly, and this traffic is stunning, no matter what site you are looking at. The sites are popular due to the update rate (most publish multiple articles per hour) and for becoming the leaders in their particular niches.
AOL became famous in the 90s for their Internet service, which was distributed for free through a CD (or floppy disk), and required anyone to purchase the service after the 90-day (or so) trial period had ended. The more copies they could distribute, the more sign-ups they were able to garner. Nearly everyone who received these just threw them out, discarding them because they were regarded as “junk,” especially as the 90s ended.
Look ahead another ten years, and the company has seen some major changes. It is better known as a media company today, rather than an Internet service provider. While it still makes a significant portion of its revenue from this portion of its business, the new CEO wants to create what some call “crap” content. In other words, they will open up publishing to nearly anyone, with relatively few restrictions in terms of who can write and what content is published.
Several sites, such as Associated Content, Examiner, and About.com pay users or use an attribution system to reward users for publishing content. The more popular/”better” the writer, the more they will be paid. Some users on About.com are averaging over $100,000 per year, and this is due to the fact that they are “experts” at their specified topics.
Not everyone has the opportunity to create their own blog and publish regularly. It might not be a financial situation, but more about your background knowledge and the risks you have to take. These people would rather join a network that is already well-rooted and will still be around, even if they stop publishing. It isn’t as professional, at least for some of the networks, but it allows these people to create content freely on topics they enjoy writing about.
- Many of these sites have few requirements to join other than being able to produce content that will drive “clicks” to the site.
- Some reward content creators with compensation, especially if they can drive more traffic to the site.
- These sties are already well-established.
As bloggers, we would all love if everyone was able to do this. Those in the search engine optimization business absolutely hate this.
Problems with Content on Just About Everything
The main goal behind AOL’s new strategy is to increase traffic to its properties any way possible. That will increase revenue for them, as most sites are relatively inexpensive for large companies to run, especially when pay rates are low. I’d assume that it will be extremely similar to Associated Content, as Tim Armstrong, the current CEO of AOL, used to be on the board of AC.
Methods will be used to judge what is growing in popularity on the web, and then AOL (or whoever is in charge of the writers) will tell them to write about it. It is a tactic that is similar to those “automatic” scripts that re-write content from news sites.
According to Google, roughly 1.6 million pages on Associated Content are currently indexed. While some scrutiny over the ranking methods used by AC have come up in the past, for a site this size, there is generally positive feedback from users due to the opportunities it presents.
However, we have to move on from that, and view some of the negatives about a network that specializes in producing thousands of new articles daily.
- Duplicate content. What is going to prevent users from submitting content that hasn’t already been covered, but that just adds a few new details?
- Writing doesn’t have to be “good.” As long as the article is 400+ words (for example) and has a decent level of grammar/spelling used, then it will pass the editors, if there are any.
- These shorter articles often rank better in search engines than the source article or more thought-out posts.
- No background knowledge is required. Writers can research a topic for an hour, then write about it.
An End to the Discussion
Like I said earlier, there are two types of bloggers/writers on the web. Those who are serious about their work and are generating a full-time income and those who are doing it “for fun” and sharing knowledge.
The growth of real-time news and knowledge is increasingly important. AOL may be tapping this market with these changes, as people would rather read an article that’s shorter than one that provides an entire background on a topic.
If individuals aren’t able to get their thoughts out to the world, we should revert to a time where you had to get on TV to be noticed. All the large blogs who have ten or so full-time writers and are complaining about “crap” content should think about what their sites would be like if all those “crappy” writers never visited their site. They wouldn’t be anywhere, as just ten people would be visiting their sites each day.
There will always be content on the web that isn’t at a “high-quality” level like the NYTimes or other companies, but that is only natural. We all have the right to publish what we want, and whether or not people read or absorb it is up to them. If a site publishes ten million articles, you may never even see one of them on Google, simply because there are tens of billions of web pages.
What do you think about “quickly produced” content and how large companies like Associated Content and AOL are promoting it? Should everyone be able to publish content in a manner like this?