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Do Fries Come With That Content?

Juicy Content

Today's special: the new content model

McDonaldization. Starbucksification. WalMartasticizing.

Whatever you want to call it, the mass production of homogenous web content with the single aim of moving units/conversions is the hot-button issue of today.

As enumerated in many blog posts, the gaming of search with cookie-cutter content with little real meaning or utility in order to drive links to commercial sites is on the rise. Despite its “black hat” status, it’s nonetheless been demonstrated to be an effective–if nefarious–SEO technique.

Searchers are inundated with SRPs super-sized with blog posts and aggregators, often with content mined from other sources rather than hand-rolled, whose sole purpose is to deliver eyeballs to other sources.

Respected blogger Michael Arrington recently posted “The End of Hand Crafted Content” on his TechCrunch blog, in which he exposes his fear that cheap, disposable content will bring about the content apocalypse.

Companies like Demand Media push out reams of video and text content every day for prices lower than any sane, rational person would take to actually write content. All this content is purpose-built to deliver search results.

That retailers are lining up to pay for the lowest common denominator is no surprise–you don’t make money writing checks.

Even less shocking is that the perpetrators are often old media and marketing schlubs who only know one way of doing business: craft a message, excrete it out all over the unsuspecting populace, and hope they’ll pay for it. It’s less like blogging than Blobbing.

The screams are almost as loud as those heard around Manhattan when WalMart tried to build a store there. But the fact is that the web is more crowded than it used to be, and the ponytailed, satin baseball jacket-bedecked vultures are moving in on our little corner of the playground. They’re desperately trying to figure out the SEO and social media thing, and even if they don’t know what it means they know there’s money to be made.

Guess what: that’s how it works. It’s the same with any business, and it always has been. One good idea spawns a thousand imitators, and if that one good idea is profitable then the howls of “Me too!” grow exponentially.

Arrington’s advice to content creators? “Figure out an even more disruptive way to win, or die.”

And he’s right: the technology will always move faster than the dinosaurs of the old guard can move despite their best efforts to keep pace. Look at usage trends for MySpace vs. Facebook: MySpace became a punch line in a grand internet joke right about the time it was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Here is where I could also make the argument that social search is going to become a boon for the market. It doesn’t get more homegrown than pulling your friends’ tweets and Faceboook updates into search results.

The lumbering behemoths will always come, and we need to cope and adjust. It’s up to us to keep moving even faster, doing our jobs even better, and coming up with bigger/better/faster/more ideas. (Just ask the kids at Twitter: word is they’re profitable now.) Those plodding footsteps behind us will never recede as long as they smell dollars.

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