Should We Be Worried About
Fast Food Content?

image of guy looking at a hamburger

Earlier this week on TechCrunch, Michael Arrington wrote an alarmed post about “fast food content that will surely, over time, destroy the mom and pop operations that hand craft their content today.”

Mom and pop operations and hand-crafted content sounds an awful lot like you and me, doesn’t it?

So is this actually something we need to worry about? Is what Arrington calls “the rise of cheap, disposable content on a mass scale, force fed to us by the portals and search engines” going to destroy the businesses we’re building on a foundation of high-quality content?

Arrington is deeply concerned about sites like AOL and Demand Media, which scrape and mash real content into something that’s theoretically legitimate (since it was compiled by a human being rather than a piece of software), but in practice gives no value to the reader.

This “mainstream spam” can be efficiently optimized for search, or thrust onto the unsuspecting eyeballs of AOL users. (Haven’t the poor things suffered enough already?)

Arrington believes there’s no hope against this onslaught of junk content, which is going to overwhelm all of the good stuff.

Clearly, we’re all doomed

Arrington advises content creators (that’s you and me) to:

Figure out an even more disruptive way to win, or die. Or just give up on making money doing what you do. If you write for passion, not dollars, you’ll still have fun. Even if everything you write is immediately ripped off without attribution, and the search engines don’t give you the attention they used to. You may have to continue your hobby in the evening and get a real job, of course. But everyone has to face reality sometimes.

Apart from the whining, the exaggeration, and the hysteria, the problem with Arrington’s argument is it’s based on a number of bad assumptions.

Specifically:

Bad assumption #1: Search engines and mega portals are the only way to get traffic

AOL is feeding their content slop to their “massive” audience (which, in fact, is shrinking at rates that would make Biggest Loser proud). Arrington makes the assumption that those AOL customers won’t come find your non-crap content, because the fast food stuff is the only thing on their radar.

This then leapfrogs to another bad assumption, that the only way anyone sees content is to find it on a mega site like AOL, or via a search engine like Google.

Links from your favorite bloggers count for nothing. Tweets from a friend count for nothing. Facebook pointers count for nothing. Email from your mom counts for nothing. No one ever points a friend to genuinely valuable content and says, “Hey, you should check this out, you would like it.”

The entire direction of social media and content sharing indicates otherwise.

Bad assumption #2: Readers will keep reading crappy content

AOL’s user base is still big enough that I’m sure they’ll get some readers at least skimming their stuff.

But when it comes to content, Darwin rules. If content doesn’t meet the needs of users, it dies. We can’t even force grade-school kids to read what doesn’t engage them. What makes us think that AOL can “force feed” their users anything?

And what makes us believe that even if those users do skim AOL’s lame content, that they’ll never read anything else, or that, when they have a particular need or concern, they won’t go actively looking for something more useful?

Business tip for TechCrunch: when you find yourself afraid of a stumbling dinosaur like AOL, there’s something gravely wrong with your thinking, your business model, or both.

Bad assumption #3: Google would rather serve fast food content than your content

Now I hold no illusions that Google is a benevolent, all-knowing deity that rewards the just and punishes the wicked. But based on observation, it’s pretty clear that Google would rather serve good content than scraped and mashed junk content.

Google wants their searchers to find a good experience on the other side of their search result. If sites like Demand Media, a video producer that slaps together 4,000 videos a day in what amounts to content sweat shops, can deliver content worth watching, they’ll do well.

If they don’t deliver something worth watching, they don’t give Google’s searchers the experience Google wants to deliver. Which means Google becomes less valuable.

Google can’t be “force-fed” any more than readers can. There’s no reason to believe they’ll treat this “hand assembled” spam more kindly than the bot-created kind.

Bad assumption #4: Content means news

Arrington also says that sites like the New York Times are “outright stealing” his content and passing it off as their own. (And he warns you, little mom and pop, that your content’s going to be stolen without attribution as well.)

By “stealing,” Arrington apparently means that when TechCrunch publishes a breaking story, the New York Times often writes a story on the same topic, using their own reporters and neglecting to thank him for his tireless journalistic efforts.

If you’re not TechCrunch, this is not a problem that you need to spend even four seconds thinking about. You already know from hanging out on Twitter and reading blogs that news spreads more quickly than anyone’s ability to control it, and that nobody “owns” a breaking story.

For those of us who create “hand-crafted” content, what we say isn’t nearly as important as how we say it. We rarely break news (although occasionally we become the news.)

If readers want the latest news, they rightly go to a site like TechCrunch, the Times, or, increasingly often, Twitter.

It’s when they want useful knowledge, insight, or analysis that they come back to us. Plus, there’s a reason we get you to focus on delivering educational content versus commodity news, right?

We’re valuable precisely because we can cut through the noise and give them only what’s useful and relevant to them.

I’m sure it’s irritating to Arrington not to get a linkback from the Times, but that’s his headache, not ours. He seems to be doing ok without it.

Bad assumption #5: You need millions of eyeballs to make a living

There’s an implicit bad assumption behind all of the explicit bad assumptions in Arrington’s post, which is that the only way you’ll be able to make a living with content is to attract huge amounts of traffic.

In other words, the only possible model is to attract enough attention (via search engines, for your breaking news) to monetize your site with advertising.

But you already know that’s not a business model for the real world.

Let’s say you have a blog that gives business advice to yoga teachers. You’ve paired that with a simple but effective marketing system to sell group coaching, individual consulting, and information products to readers who want to go further with what you’re teaching. You only need to find a few hundred customers a year to make a very nice living.

  • No fast food content generator on earth is going to outrank you for “how to run a yoga studio.”
  • If a cheap, scratch-the-surface video or post does outrank you for that #1 spot, the reader quickly finds out that the fast food content doesn’t meet her needs at all. Click goes the back button, and she’s looking for you again.
  • Your content collects links from like-minded people, because it’s cool and valuable.
  • Other yoga teachers (and herbalists and organic co-ops and past-life regression therapists) will spread the word about you faster than Google ever could.
  • You have no reason to run advertising for anything other than your own products. So you don’t need to pull hundreds of thousands of “eyeballs” to make a decent living. You just need to make a great connection with the right 300 people.

So what should a “whole food” content producer do?

Exactly what you were doing yesterday.

Keep your eyes on your audience, not Chicken Little pundits telling you (again) that you can’t make a living.

Keep following the First Rule of Copyblogger. Keep creating content that rewards the reader for consuming it. Keep cutting through the clutter and noise by being smarter, more relevant, and more interesting.

Fast food content is just the latest incarnation of an old affliction — spam. If it hasn’t killed us yet, this new version isn’t likely to make much of a dent.

For content-based marketing strategies that work in the real world, sign up for the free Copyblogger email newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. It’s packed with the information and advice you need to create real business success, and it’s 100% hysteria-free.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Comments

  1. Right on, Sonia. Bottom line, junk content doesn’t connect and will never be anyone’s favorite or something that’s whispered about from one ear to another. Or moved from one Twitter stream to the next.

    Word of mouth will always be powerful. No technology can erase thousands of years worth of our evolutionary hardwiring. We like to share stuff we like. And the size of an audience is irrelevant to how well you connect with that audience.

    Dave Navarro laid it out rather well in a post from this morning.

    Don’t worry about junk because it’s apples to oranges and can’t hurt you a bit.

    Don’t worry about others hand crafting high quality content that is just as good as yours, they can help you more than they can hurt you.

    Worry about yourself and deliver the best YOU that you possibly can. No junk will ever match it.

  2. I wish you could hear the round of applause I am giving you right now. Great post.

  3. I read the TechCrunch article and thought, “Huh? Are you serious?”

    One wonders about the real motivation behind the story. Smells like fear to me.

    I’ll stick to growing a small, thoughtful, dedicated audience.

    Another great, noise-free article, Sonia, thanks.

  4. These are all very good points and I especially like #1 the most. Search engine traffic is great, but it’s not the only game in town. For some of my blogs search engine referrals account for a smaller percentage of visitors than other sources and I would expect that to be true for many, many others as well.

  5. I heard about Arrington’s comments, and I appreciate and applaud your well thought-out response. People consume fast food because they need to eat, and they like the convenience. People don’t NEED to read blogs. We read blogs because they are interesting, unique and add value to our lives. Plus, they are social and interactive.

    Content sweat shops may make it to the top of the search engines for a while, but they will not retain return readers or a loyal following. People read my blog because they like me, and they enjoy my unique perspective on how and why to achieve extraordinary marriages and family lives. On that front, AOL can’t compete with me.

  6. The junk dealers will be just that, junk dealers. Those content producers who take the time to connect with their audience in a more personal way. Give them what they want and engage with their readers will be the ones who will survive in the end. Mass producing content in an attempt to get rich quick will not work.

    If such means brought you to the ends, we would all be junk dealers. And we are not!

  7. Thoughtful article, well done. I agree with much of what you wrote, but that’s no fun, :-) so here’s a bit of debate.

    1) Television. Still the dominate media format. Billions of us all over the world spending a great percentage of our free time for decades watching programs we really don’t like all that much. A triumph of convenience over quality, on a mass scale. Why would the Net be all that different, when the same human beings are involved?

    2) Search engine traffic, Google specifically, may not be the only source of traffic, but how many of our enterprises could survive without it? How many of us can survive WITH it??

    It’s been a pet cause of mine for years to promote the idea of moderated forums. I even wrote my own forum software so I could have it. Every single time I bring the subject up in any forum, I get shouted down by large numbers of folks who can’t imagine any experience other than the “anybody can say anything” model.

    We should probably be quite wary of believing the world wants quality content, just because that’s what we want to make our livings creating.

    BTW, I love this text entry box! :-) It’s neato, as was your article.

  8. We live in a time that full of information explosion.People like quick information just as the way they like fast food.But that’s not all bad.If there are full of carppy content on the internet,the good content will be more competitive.

  9. There is no substitute for quality. There is nothing so magnetic and compelling as content that matters to the consumer and delivers an on-going value proposition. You’re spot-on, Sonia. Nicely said.

  10. I like the differentiation between fast food content and whole food content, disposable content and evergreen content.

    If you write things worth reading, then people will read them. Maybe not at first, but if you consistently create quality, you’ll attract an audience.

    Another point: Sites that produce “fast food content” don’t enjoy the kind of loyalty that the creators of “hand crafted content” enjoy.

    And loyalty counts for a lot on the Internet.

    Ryan

  11. Ah, the Walmart-ization (I made up a word) of the ‘net. You had me nervous at first, but then settled me right back down by the end. So what you’re saying is, to borrow a 70′s phrase, to keep on keepin’ on. I like it.

  12. @Sean- Thanks for that link. Excellent points from Dave.
    @Sonia- So there should be a junk content rehab…Yes, yes, yes… Seriously…like people don’t know good is good, Arrington.

  13. Phil: It isn’t that the entire world will want quality content. Obviously they won’t. But that’s okay. We just want to speak to the audience that’s right for us. Despite the free, ad riddled junk that’s abundant in network TV, people are more than willing to pay for more select programming from channels like Showtime and HBO. Give me the Wire or Dexter over The Biggest Loser any day.

    Search engine traffic is valuable, and I’m not discounting it, but it is never as valuable as a personal recommendation from someone you know, whether that recommendation travels mouth to mouth across a table or stream to stream in Twitter.

    Big or small, it’s highly plugged in audiences; true fans which really matter.

  14. Well said. I read Arrington’s post, and while I see where he is coming from its all about consumer preference. Markets respond to what people want. Sure, there will be junk food content and a lot of people will read it. But if you were a whole food supplier before, your demand probably wasnt coming from junk food consumers. There will always be a market for quality content. Just like McDonald’s doesnt crowd the market space of five star restaurants, if your content is upscale, cheap content wont crowd you out.

  15. Fast food consumption isn’t mandatory like taxes.

    Therefore, I’ll continue ignoring McDonalds as I drive past it each day, settling for a healthy homecooked meal, and I’ll continue ignoring TechCrunch and settling for a daily dose of healthy Copyblogger morsels.

  16. I think Google is working on this whole idea, because they want to give us what we are looking for. Great Content! They are getting better at knowing what is relevant content and giving us good results in our searches.

    As content providers, if we keep giving our users good information, they will keep coming back. Social Media is growing so fast, that they will be big competition to Google and other search engines.

    More people are looking to their friends and peers to find infomation, not google.

  17. Sonia,
    Interesting take. To continue the discussion using the food analogy: There is a problem though that there truly are a lot of people who think fast food actually tastes really good. Junk is consumed and very much enjoyed by many simply because it’s cheap and they’ve never tasted wholesome food before, so they don’t know any better. If you eat junk long enough, your taste buds become accustomed to it and the food that’s really good for you starts to taste bad. That’s what I have a hard time wrapping my mind around…how do you convert the hoards of junk food junkies to see the light and start eating organic whole food? You can use a retail analogy too…Walmart vs. a mom and pop boutique. I guess it just is about how much of the segment you need. Obviously a mom and pop will never do the volume that a Walmart does, but then again, a mom and pop doesn’t need as much either.

  18. It is a huge relief to think that I am looking for a few hundred people instead of a few thousand people!

    To follow through with the fast food/whole food analogy: fast food chains have plenty of customers, but so do lots of quality, smaller restaurants.

    Thanks for another great post. Always though-provoking.

  19. @Phil, Sean put it very well. I’ll add that for most of us, appealing to the mass market flat out will not work. We don’t have the capital to reach millions of people, we don’t have the infrastructure, and we probably won’t have that gift of being stupid in exactly the right way to appeal to the crowds. :) For most businesses, trying to appeal to a mass market is an awful idea. And as soon as you refine your idea of who you’re talking to and how you serve them, you start to find that the mass stuff isn’t a competitor at all.

    To extend that restaurant analogy, I just went to one of my city’s better restaurants last night, and it was packed. If we triple the number of McDonald’s in my city, this restaurant wouldn’t notice. The markets are entirely different. A proliferation of garbage isn’t important to someone who creates quality stuff.

    @Stacey, yeah, I found myself using Barney Frank’s phrase quite a bit, “On what planet do you currently spend the majority of your time?”

    @Cheryl, EXACTLY: “A mom and pop doesn’t need as much either.” Arrington’s argument comes because he “needs” a mass market audience. His concern for the little guy is touching but misplaced.

  20. Very well done. I so dislike either-or hysteria… it’s almost as if the creators of these posts don’t do the same things most of us do: reading the Weekly World News once in a while for fun, while also reading Seamus Heaney and Richard Rorty; grabbing a Big Mac for lunch, then ordering a nice fettuccini and wine for dinner. Glancing at the Yahoo news page, then clicking over to the NYT or BBC for accuracy. Watching Dirty Jobs AND Antiques Road Show. Real life for real people isn’t always all one note. For those that it always has been, it will continue to be. Not so for the rest of us. And I personally resent the idea that anyone thinks I can be ‘force fed’ anything. Insulting as well as plain stupid wrong.

  21. Sonia,

    This is an excellent post and thank you for that. As someone who has over 15 years of research experience I always say that you have to evaluate the quality of the information. Because someone has a website doesn’t mean the information is legitimate and that they are an authority on the subject matter, all it means is that they have a website.

    In this case it’s a big name, so perhaps people think that if it’s so and so then it must be okay. That’s not necessarily the case. Don’t make major decisions on any information until you verify it.

    I wrote a post on “How to Analyze Information” http://is.gd/5sxXP and another post “Because Everyone is Saying it Doesn’t Make it Right” http://is.gd/5sy2g. There are some guidelines there. I am feeling like I need to update the post.

    We all have to do due diligence and exercise good judgment. In school, our teachers told us to put our thinking caps on, and that’s what we have to do. When you read something, pause and ask yourself if it makes sense, why? why not? Die sit add up? Look for gaps.

    We all have to be vigilant. Thanks again Sonia!

    Avil Beckford @avilbeckford

  22. @Sean – Good points, thanks. You said true fans are what really matters. So what’s a true fan?

    Personally, my favorite show on TV is the Charlie Rose Show. Great interviews, across many interesting intelligent topics. Quality content for sure. I watch Charlie almost every day.

    I don’t pay for the show, it’s free on PBS. And there are no ads. I give nothing back. Yes, I’m an enthusiastic viewer, but am I a true fan?

    This appears to be a thoughtful intelligent blog that merits our attention. How many of us are ready to pay to be here? Are we true fans?

    The challenge from free junk content is real, because it’s training media consumers that _everything_ should be free, no matter how much work went in to it. And that means that lots of us that are willing and able to provide quality content, won’t be able to afford to.

    Ok, this concludes the gloom and doom portion of our program. Apologies, just trying to round things out a bit.

  23. Kathryn Berck = Awesome

  24. Sonia, I wrote about this topic earlier this week (http://j.mp/6ZH5Z3) and am obviously on the same page. I just wanted to say how well-articulated–and clearly inspired– this post is. You’ve given content strategists, in-house editors, and freelance writers great ammo to fight back when managers and clients start slipping over to the dark side.

    Thanks!

  25. Well said, Sonia! There will always be people who actually think “junk” tastes good, but I don’t want that audience anyway.

    My content isn’t written for the mass market, Wal Mart, McDonald’s crowd. I’m not going to sell raw, organic produce from a small local farm to those people–and I don’t have to.

    @Cheryl–you’re probably not, on your own, going to convince fast food junkies to swallow whole food content–but their friends might, and if the “choir” knows and trusts you, they will point their friends in your direction when they’re ready to make a change.

  26. This appears to be a thoughtful intelligent blog that merits our attention. How many of us are ready to pay to be here? Are we true fans?

    Phil, you don’t have to pay to be here. Just buy some of our stuff. ;)

  27. Thanks, Sonia! There’s nothing like a positive post to brighten my day.

    And I’m all on board with the 100% hysteria-free “Slow Food” Content movement!

  28. @Phil – A true fan is someone who will respond to your call of action, enjoy your product, then evangelize it for you. A true fan is plugged in enough to who you are and what you are doing to be invested in your success.

    As far as Copyblogger, if they turned the blog into a paid model, then yes, I believe there would be a small percentage of the audience more than willing to pay for the content. There would also be many who wouldn’t. But that’s okay. As it is, many of us already do. Copyblogger offers exceptional content, for free, Monday through Friday. Every once in a while, they offer something that is perhaps a little extra exceptional, this time at a price. As long as that product or service is applicable to them, then the true fan will respond. Teaching Sells, Thesis, Partnering Profits, Lateral Action, Freelance X Factor, Remarkable Marketing Blueprint – these are income streams supported by the true fans.

    Perhaps you are not a true fan of Copyblogger, but I guarantee there are things that you are willing to pay for in your life that others are not. That’s what makes each of us different. Life is a cycle, round and round we go. Newspapers worried that radio would put them out of business. Movie studios worried the same thing about TV. Yet people still paid for newspapers and movies. As Sonia said, the McDonalds could triple and the steak house would still be packed. My favorite restaurant does is hurt by the Taco Bell right across the street.

    No apologies necessary, and no doom and gloom taken. Questions are good. : )

  29. FANTASTIC piece Sonia, and each point is spot on.

    He’s assuming that both people and Google are stupid. Sure, each have their issues, but we’ve never been a society to allow crap to win out over quality.

  30. Hey Sonia, this is definitely a very well researched and thought about post, to say the least.

    But I do think like the devil’s advocate at times… Your first point itself says about Google traffic. Its true that famous blogs (like copyblogger) have their own share of dedicated readers (like me ;) ) but the truth is this that for other bloggers and specifically website owners a very very good amount of traffic comes from Google. Isn’t it?

    Ya I will agree maximum to your concluding point of having a million eyeballs, one can develop his own tribe and milk its consumers time and again if she is good at what she does. And getting million page hits is not just the revenue model finally.

    All we can do is, not just isolate ourselves in the Art of Great Content Writing what we require is a bit of Science too. If one is looking for any success in blogging timely content, SEO, brand building all are important. We need to have dedication of an Art movie but marketing like a commercial flick.

    Regds
    Chanda

  31. @Chanda–
    I realize I’m a very new blogger, but Google Analytics shows me that very little of my traffic comes from Google.

    It comes from social networking. Not just Facebook and Twitter, but a whole bunch of smaller, niche, Ning networks that the fast food writers don’t have time for.

  32. A very sincere, impassioned post. Let the melee begin…

  33. @Brian – Apologies, sorry to report, I’m the typical website visitor, I don’t even know what “your stuff” is. I click in, I zoom around in a frenzied random manner, and I click out. You’re already giving me everything I want for free, good content, and a way to make a little noise.

    Oops, uh oh, I may be more engaged by what I’m writing, than by what the author of the blog is writing. Honestly, he said redfaced, I’m actually not yet entirely clear who the author of the blog is, because of power scrolling disease.

    Please understand, I truly do share your interest in this topic, and thus am trying to be brutally honest in observing the market and my own behavior.

    Keep an eye out for my credit card, that will be the sign I’m a true fan. Who knows, it could happen! :-)

  34. I hope Arrington gets your message Sonia. Bravo.
    Btw, this issue is a hot topic too at ReadWriteWeb.

  35. @Phil, no worries. If you’re a “true fan” (that’s a term from Kevin Kelly, if one of us didn’t clarify that above), you’ll be motivated to stick around and dive into our stuff more deeply, and probably buy some paid material down the line. But if not, that’s 100% cool too.

    In addition to Copyblogger I also have a much smaller blog. It has a few thousand readers. I’ve captured the most engaged readers with a simple marketing system like I describe in the post. Enough of those readers subscribe to a membership product that I have that I can make a really nice, comfortable living with it.

    Most of my readers don’t go on to become customers–that’s totally fine and good. They can take the content at whatever level works for them. Like the business coach for yoga teachers, I just need a few hundred who want to go further.

    I’m glad you’re asking these questions! Thanks.

  36. All anyone has to do is look at one or two articles or videos from “Expert Village” or similar content sites. It’s a mile wide and an inch deep, poorly written, poorly edited, and confusing. If that’s what they’re talking about.. no way will that make a dent in real expert content.
    -Moo

  37. Bad Assumption #5: You need millions of eyeballs to make a living.

    Right on. 200 people that will spend $25 bucks when you say so is WAAAAAAAAY more valuable than 2500 twitter followers that will retweet your fart jokes.

  38. It won’t be long before the search engines stop serving up sites like eHow (from Demand Media), whose psuedo medical articles such as, “How to Treat MRSA Skin Infection at Home” pose a serious hazard to the public’s well being. I expect eHow to get the “Squidoo Slap” in the next round of Google updates. Squidoo Lens writers–even good ones–are complaining that they can’t even get their articles indexed in search engines now, because Squidoo allowed too much garbage to be published on their site. The law of supply and demand will take care of the problem, as always.

  39. Good analysis of Arrington’s bad assumptions. Perhaps “fast food content” will hurt him. I’m not sure; I never read Techcrunch. OK, maybe I read it once.

    I’m obviously not his target market. Likewise, AOL “fast food content” consumers are not my target market. I’m not worried.

  40. Apologies, sorry to report, I’m the typical website visitor, I don’t even know what “your stuff” is.

    No worries man. At least 17,000 people know what we sell, and have actually bought some of it.

    You’re welcome any time, credit card or not. ;)

  41. Thanks Sonia, for putting the truth out there and not scaring me away from dropping my blog a week after I just spend countless hours on the design.

    I did not even know AOL still existed.

  42. @Sonia Thanks for restoring my faith in not needing to compete with the big news makers!

  43. I had a chuckle reading this article. I mean, TechCrunch is known for being little more than rehashed, fluffed up press releases, not for its investigative reporting.

    Good content will always triumph over tripe… and the owners of the search engines know that too.

    I see history repeating itself. Another specious case of luddites wanting us to fear the vandals at the gates.

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

  44. @Genuine Chris (laughing), just so.

    @Tanner, How anyone can take AOL seriously as, well, anything is beyond me. They do still have big numbers, but they’re shedding users at a shocking rate. And even if they were brilliant, small guys don’t use the same business model as big guys.

    @Kim, I agree, and Squidoo is a good example. Although I still do well on Squidoo with many of my lenses.

  45. Great post. I’m new to Copyblogger and really enjoy your stuff. You really hit the nail on the head in your closing comment about quality. There will never be a substitute. Keep rewarding the consumer and you cannot lose!

    thanks for the great content!

  46. It’s 7:00 am here in New South Wales, Australia, and reading ‘Should we be worried . . .”?’ was a great way to start my day.

    In my little niche – promoting the multiple benefits of sensitive design with native plants – it’s an encouraging thought that “You just need to make a great connection with the right 300 people.” That should be easy.

    BTW Sonia, I’m juggling several jobs, and still in the process of updating my ancient website to Web 2.0, so haven’t yet completed the Remarkable Marketing worksheet. Hope that doesn’t earn me a markdown.

  47. @Gordon, all is forgiven. :) It’s pretty hard to get a markdown in RMB!

  48. Amazing post Sonia, if I may call you that :D. I’ve seen this over and over again in another industry. People always overreact and will do so forever it seems. We’re all going to lose our monies and eat cardboard boxes.

    Nice to read a post that makes sense once in a blue moon ;)

  49. Arrington misunderstands Demand Media’s model. They assign content tasks to creators based on web searches that don’t yield much content. These are super niches. People are looking for this content, but it’s too small for anyone to fill the demand.

    The companies who advertise against the sites in Demand Media’s portfolio are direct marketers who are squeezing pennies out of these nickel niches.

    Who does this really threaten?

    That’s like Tiffany & Co. feeling threatened by Walmart.

  50. Bad Assumption #6: AOL and Demand Media are full of crap content.

    The truth is there’s a mix of good and bad. I learned how to fix the heating element on my oven through this so-called “crappy content.” It saved me hundreds of dollars by doing it myself.

    Several content producers have found a way to create good content and make a good living. Many have a background in journalism or have solid writing experience.

  51. Nathania, thanks for that–it’s good to hear from someone who’s seen the content and can speak objectively about it.

  52. The last time I checked, people still preferred to read quality real content from real human high quality writers.

    Have you checked the ranking of CopyBlogger.com lately? Are any of the “fast food” content sites beating it on Alexa, Compete or Quantcast.

    Didn’t think so. Won’t happen.

    But then again, I can’t believe humans prefer McDonalds over real food.

    The Copy Oracle says… who knows? Humans are funny animals.

  53. Keep our food special and there are no junk food will beat it.

  54. Definitely spam may overcrowd the web, but it will not ever become popular. There has already been mass production of useless content on the internet on basically everything but blogs.

    Since Google is the most popular search engine, most people won’t even see it, just like spam is usually deleted or not read.

    It’s obvious that this wouldn’t work anyways since no one promotes it, and the people who spend the most time on the internet (us) find sites a lot more from links than search engines.

    The total time of average people is probably more, though, and since they’re computer illiterate, it could be a problem for them. Then again, they won’t be here much anyways, so it’s not that bad.

  55. Honestly, isn’t that the who point of SEO? Content that has better linkage, hits, and shares is what is given back to the consumer. I think that, in the end, the user will prevail. Communities have a powerful say in what content they get, and what they don’t like. If the content sucks it will eventually fizzle out. I think Arrington was overreacting.

  56. Thanks for yet another insightful post, Sonia. Your stuff is always remarkable. :)

  57. that’s a good post. Sometime we are afraid about it especially the readers. “because the fast food stuff is the only thing on their radar”.

  58. You absolutely killed it Sonia! I came across Arrington’s post the other day and something didn’t seem particularly right about it. The point blank bottom line is that content can be in any form and when it’s genuinely valuable and others see it who believe it’s valuable, it will get shared in some way and they will leave comments.

    With the easy access to retweet buttons or facebook share buttons, and even one click images to share it on your favorite social bookmarking site, people are going to share it. And yeah, you don’t need millions of eyeballs to make a living when your content is shared across platforms and you only have a small handful of people sharing it and connected to you on your blog.

  59. Apparently you are right that good content will be rewarded because we have only had our site up for three weeks and we are making money on a daily basis. Not much, perhaps, but we believe it will build. We are making friends and promoting ourselves, which is much more important than getting rich in a day.

    Thank you for this post, it was very insightful.

  60. Brilliant rebuttal to the sky-is-falling philosophy. I advise writers to simply ignore junk-food content. It is already fading. And one day someone will come up with a search portal that screens it all out…and then where will Demand and Suite101 be?

    Those of us who’ve simply ignored the content sweatshops and continued pitching corporations and good-paying publications are doing great. 2009 was my highest-earning year ever, and I expect to top it in ’10 as the economy turns. Don’t buy into the negativity!

    For more on your topic, see: 7 Reasons Why I Won’t Write a $15 Blog
    http://caroltice.com/blog/27

    Carol Tice
    http://www.caroltice.com
    http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites

  61. @Brian Clark: Imho, you’re on the right track when you said, “At least 17,000 people know what we sell, and have actually bought some of it.” The number 17,000 may make the point of this article better than all the words here put together.

    Case studies of real people, with real numbers, would be a great follow up to this article, and probably a sellable product as well. How many of your 17,000 customers, and many more readers, might be willing to come forward and tell their success _and_ failure stories?

    Communication, trust, persuasion, that’s what all the great writing here is all about as best I can tell. But, as much as all of us here enjoy the wonder of words, on a Net flooded with Net biz buzz, maybe numbers are the better tool?

    How many people are willing and able to tell their quality content success stories? The first thing I’d do upon buying this book would be to flip to the table of contents and count the number of stories.

    How much money are they making? For one person $50/month is a big success, for another $5000/month is a big disappointment. Only numbers can sort it out for readers.

    What would other readers want to see in such a case study book? Perhaps another article could ask that question.

  62. I’ve seen this kind of content on blogs where people think posting often will bring them more exposure/traffic and then they post half-baked subjects and ideas that are just another fish in the pond. I’ve seen blogs that post once in 2 weeks and every post is gold mine waiting to be used.

  63. Always write content like its for someone special like your Mother or a close friend. Its hard to write junk when it comes from the heart.

  64. > Keep cutting through the clutter and noise by being smarter, more relevant, and more interesting.

    Beautiful rule, and it deserves to be in neon lights, but I’m glad you just left it as text and didn’t make it an animated gif.

  65. i agree with ryan.
    “If you write things worth reading, then people will read them.”

  66. Small businesses and solopreneurs should never “fear” any large bureaucracy like AOL creating content to compete with them if they’ve developed the right niche. Companies like AOL don’t have the ability to change on a dime and address the day to day, or even week to week needs o a changing audience because of their size. for this reason, your content will always be better geared to answer any specific individual problem that theirs can’t compete with.

    AOL isn’t going to break in any new terms for industries or release any new news that you can’t get to your audience first. Even so, they’re still aggregating, which means that there has to be something valuable to aggregate in the first place, and that’s you! the speed of need is increasing every day, and by the time they grab your content to create their mash-up, you’ll have been there long enough to establish your credibility.

    Elijah

  67. This one is really a very good lesson for new bloggers.

    When I was new to blogging I leared from this blog about different blogging strategies.

    New bloggers have to learn everything that is required to be successful.

  68. This was an awesome post since it addresses a current issue that’s not written about often.

    Sadly, any blog with unique content WILL be scraped. There’s only so much policing one can do since any time spent to prevent it would probably be better used to promote.

  69. Thanks Sonia! As always, you set the records straight! I know Arrington has become a bit of a “poster boy” of “traditional/corporate turned successful blogger” but he’s still taking a “traditional” approach of producing mass amounts of content, sprinkling it with advertising, and trying to drive massive traffic to turn some dough. Basically… he’s a NYTimes.com, a CNN.com, or any other “traditional” news site! So what’s he complaining about?! OK, just my rant. On to your post.

    It really is a great article helping those of us who are still working this whole “blogging” thing out understand how the web (and the users of the web) work when it comes to consuming content. Thanks for clearing it up!

  70. This also goes along with the same threat that the article sites are warning us about. Apparently 2010 will be the year that all of the big guys flood the market with millions of articles, but again, as Sonia said in so many words, people will only read crap for so long, and just about everyone can see through content that has been outsourced. Mom and pops unite!

  71. Joshua — you might want to sign my petition, “I Won’t Write $15 Blogs” http://caroltice.com/petition

    I’m organizing to begin a public awareness campaign about sweatshop rates, in hopes of pressuring some of the more high-profile sites that use this content to pay better rates.

    I’m with you…we should unite to educate others about fair rates. And quality is going to rock in ’10…companies are finding that out fast, so I see more good-paying work ahead.

    Carol Tice
    http://www.caroltice.com
    http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites

  72. I think you will be only worried if you “think” you have nothing of relevance to give your readers. Years ago, a friend told me she tries to write words that stood up on the page.

    It took me a minute to realize what she meant. Great writing is timeless and no search engine or junk content mashup is going to replace the truly talented , strategic and enterprising writer.

    My favorite line in this post

    “You have no reason to run advertising for anything other than your own products. So you don’t need to pull hundreds of thousands of “eyeballs” to make a decent living. You just need to make a great connection with the right 300 people.”

    I need 5000/7500 folks to buy my books or 2500/3500 folks to attend my workshops to generate $200,000 in income. With crazy healthy margins. I do not know about you, but that is a great living to me. 2500-7500 out of MILLIONS online…..

  73. Carol: I seriously appreciate what you’re doing. You are, dead wrong. IF someone is offering compensation of $15/post, a good writer will refuse.

    Figure out a way to make writers better. Don’t demand more for fungible content than it’s worth.

    A trade association is not the answer, it deprives writers of choice.

  74. #2 and #3 is what got me!!! Enough said there!

    I’d just like to remind people, that search engines are already having a hard time displaying relevant content that ISN’T made by spammy-automated-BS-sites.

    In fact, I know FAR too many close friends of mine that HATE browsing the internet because they can never find what they are looking for!

  75. @Carol, Petitioners are akin to beggars, whereas your “petition” sounds more like a manifesto to me.

    May I suggest you call it a manifesto, as an assertion that you and your co-signatories, not cheapskate hirers, are in charge.

  76. Sonia, I’m relieved to see the consensus that quality content matters. I had blogged on the same topic last week, in response to several articles that take the other side of the debate. My position aligns with yours–quality must prevail, or else there is nothing to search for in the first place.

    http://www.contentfactor.com/blog/2009/12/whither-web-content.html

  77. I’m always amazed when someone has found me on Google’s page 11, yet I often have to go through several pages myself before I find a real website with the real information I’m looking for. How does the crap get to the top of page 1 is a mystery to me, but it does.

  78. No wonder copyblogger is such a high authority blog. Contents such as this will keep readers coming (and begging) for more stuff like this post.

  79. I think “content is king” is quite overrated – there is too much content! You just need content that connects with your audience.

  80. I write a daily “green living” blog for one of my clients and have found that searches like “organic products” or “green products” are best conducted on Twitter. Short tail keyword phrases are way too spammed with dreck from the content mills. And it is dreck. Even professional writers can only give themselves so much time to write a piece for those rates, leading to poor research and ill thought-out premises.

    Readers will out bad content. This was a great post and the most intelligent and well thought-out on the subject so far; everyone else seems intent on sucking Arrington’s (admittedly large) epeen.

  81. Hey Sonia,

    This article is amazing!!! I Have to words to say you thank you.
    I am also impressed by this Blog that offer a lot of free marketing strategies.

    Thanks

    Rubel