Category Archives: Internet Ethics

Let’s Take A Closer Look At Content Farms

     I wanted to a take a look at the practice, that is largely practiced by online giants such as AOL, and Yahoo.  Content farms are a way for larger corporations to increase traffic to their sites.  An otherwise “bland” practice, this content farming is aimed to generate more and more content of searcheable topics.  Basically, large online conglomerates use this practice to farm-raise content to be entered into the online community in the hopes that certains topic keywords, ideas and content reach an audience that is searching for it.  In the world of content farming, quantity plays the most important, yet detrimental role, over quality. 

     I recently read a blog post by someone who was employed by AOL to participate in content farming for them.  His article and about his employment with AOL, showed the darker side of content farming.  Something that stuck out in my mind the most was about his disgust with the content farming practice in the AOL company, was that he admitted that he was not encouraged to have ethics.  He was told to write many articles a day, sometimes one every twenty minutes about tv shows that he had never seen.   Innaccuracies were present and his “bosses” (the management at AOL) did not care about it.  They wanted bulk cashews, in a 60 million gallon container to grab the attention of anyone in the world that might want cashews.

       Let’s take a look at what this ultimately breaks down to.  Now, we can definitely argue that AOL has been struggling to find its foothold in the online industry ever since giants such as Google, Yahoo and even hotmail have emerged.  We can see their stock falling rapidly, and their undeniable ability to create a “product” or experience of less and less value.  Content farming, and the ideas behind this fast-paced, no-spot-checked material has played an important role in the fall of the AOL empire. 

    Why is this?  Well, like other sites that practice this form of content farming, they lack anything of real substance.  Their business model is aimed to increase traffic to their sites for the sole purpose of selling ad space.  The more clicks, the more valuable their space on their page is to an advertiser.  Sounds like any other publication really.  But here’s the problem.  We are starting to see an undeniable shift in the loss of journalism through this content farming practice. 

     We aren’t reading “news” anymore on sites like AOL.  We are reading what they decide is news and how they decide is by creating more and more content of no real relevancy.  We are seeing a shift from traditional journalism to a gossip-centered, watered down version of the truth.  If sites like AOL are not concerned with accuracy, then where does that leave their audience?  It creates a breeding ground of content that is not aimed to inform their public of anything of value, but simply aimed at directly the audiences eyes to their page.  AOL doesn’t care what you want out of the experience.  And for those that still frequent these types of sites, you aren’t getting much out of it either.

    It is fallacy and it is making the general public confused about what is considered worth their time to read.  It is gathering so much content that they surely will satisfy the algorythym of the search engines.  It is math.  It is simply creating enough content so as to always pop up when something is searched.  It is not out for your best interest, it is there for temptation.  We need to be more conscience of this practice and know that it is exists.  But we must keep this type of content in its place.  We must not let it aim to “inform” us from anything, rather it must be understood the content is simply there to be there for us should we want to search for it.  We can’t trust it.  I think we need to redefine this practice and there are some sites that seemingly have the idea behind being “available” right.

    Conjecture is a site that has aspects of content farming but they bring to the surface a more benefical aspect of this practice.  If the idea is to expose the general public to ideas that they would not otherwise be exposed to, this can work to the reader’s benefit. It almost works like a Pandora algorythym.  You search something, you like it, you  see other content pop up that is relatable to what you like, yet you are also exposed to similar concepts that you didn’t know about previously.  This can be beneficial.  This is the value in the internet.  For the first time in human history, we have a common meeting ground for more information that we have ever had before.  But making sure we consider that not all information is true, accurate or objective is the key.   We can benefit from the internet most when we realize this. 

  In this article, we see again the idea of compromising journalism for content.   The internet is failing to distinguish between blogging, or user content creation, with true journalism.  Journalism, although not subject to restrictions on who can become a journalist, still owes its audience a certain level of objectivity and ethics.  If we are not being informed of what content has been run through a journalistic process, we can’t possibly distinguish that what we are reading is objective, accurate, non-opinion based or true.  This is a problem. 

   I think of this as a newspaper just throwing a bunch of articles from all different sources, whether fact or fiction onto the front page of their paper.  The reader has no idea what is real, or what is just someone’s opinion.  This happens with the assistance of content farms generating so much content, that is rarely checked for accuracy, and the result is a mish mosh of generalized estimations of the truth. 

   While true journalism faces strict deadlines, bloggers and content farming increases deadlines without caring about the accuracy.  The faster you go, the more mistakes you make. 

   We need to figure out the proper way to determine that what we are reading is coming from a reputable source, or not.  I am not saying that reading bloggers posts, or opinion-based material is wrong, but it is not journalism.  It has no characteristics of journalism and it most likely is not adopting journalisms’ core ideology:  To inform and educate the public through an accurate, objective process.