The New York Times, Demand Media Edition

Danny Sullivan on
  • Categories: Channel: SEO, Content Farms, Features: Analysis
  • Demand Media — widely described as a “content farm” — went public yesterday and quickly racked up a valuation higher than the New York Times. I figured the news might cause some at the New York Times to wonder if they needed to be more Demand Media-like. Would every story be turned into a question? How might that look? So I did a mockup.

    Here’s what I started out with, the real New York Times home page, from just before noon Eastern Time. Click on the image to enlarge it:

    And here’s what I call the “Demandified” version, which you can also click on to enlarge:

    In Seriousness…

    One of the secrets to Demand Media’s success is paying close attention to what people are searching for and then writing articles to serve to order, especially articles it think will generate lots of ad revenue.

    A real New York Times “Demand Media” edition probably wouldn’t have stories about Italy’s government or the Roman Catholic Church’s dispute with a Phoenix hospital. But the stories would probably be slanted toward answering questions, certainly. Indeed, the stories might largely be generated from what people are searching for, rather than what’s happening. Let the queries dictate what news to report!

    The Future Is Already Here

    Of course, that’s not a future I’d like to see. It’s something that gives many people chills, even if it’s already in practice in places like Yahoo News, which closely watches search traffic to determine what to write.

    In reality, a smart news publication would be doing both news coverage and “answers coverage,” repurposing its existing content into the type of high quality answers that people are really seeking.

    Dealing With Backlash

    To me, that’s part of the blacklash that’s currently hitting content farms (which are trying desperately to distance themselves from that name). There’s been an explosion of them, especially Q&A sites, that have suddenly appeared in our search results purporting to offer answers but often not delivering.

    Don’t get me wrong. Some content farms do provide good answers. Demand Media has some issues, but it also has some great content. And the New York Times, of course, owns its own content farm in the form of — which also has both great content and bad content.

    Content farms, good and bad, were part of the discussion yesterday on This Week In Google, which I took part in yesterday. Check it out below, along with some links to related material.

    About The Author

    Danny Sullivan
    Danny Sullivan was a journalist and analyst who covered the digital and search marketing space from 1996 through 2017. He was also a cofounder of Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, MarTech Today and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo and MarTech events. He retired from journalism and Third Door Media in June 2017. You can learn more about him on his personal site & blog He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.