The frightening future ruled by Demand Media


Demand Media algorithm - Wired.com

Demand Media algorithm - Wired.com

Before Reese came up with his formula, Demand Media operated in the traditional way. Contributors suggested articles or videos they wanted to create. Editors, trained in the ways of search engine optimization, would approve or deny each while also coming up with their own ideas. The process worked fine. But once it was automated, every algorithm-generated piece of content produced 4.9 times the revenue of the human-created ideas. So Rosenblatt got rid of the editors. Suddenly, profit on each piece was 20 to 25 times what it had been. It turned out that gut instinct and experience were less effective at predicting what readers and viewers wanted — and worse for the company — than a formula.” -from Wired’s “The Answer Factory

Wired has just published a fascinating look into the inner workings of Demand Media, a company which describes itself as “The Leader of Social Media.” The details are astounding. The goal of the company is to create more than 1 million pieces of content monthly, through outlets as diverse as eHow, Trails.com, GolfLink.com, and Cracked.com (And here’s what Cracked would look like if it were honest about its content.). The articles, videos, photos are all created by a poorly paid army of freelancers. One such freelancer interviewed in the article, Christian Muñoz-Donoso, previously worked as a wildlife videographer in his native Chile and now, instead, spends his days creating countless short instructional video pieces for about USD$20 each. Quantity is the name of the game. The company currently puts out 4,000 videos and articles each day. Especially interesting, the company derives its subject matter and headlines not from human editors but instead uses an algorithm to determine words and phrases that best draw in views and cause viewers to click on ads. The company has been valued at USD$1 billion with expected revenues of USD$200 million this year. If the company reaches its 1 million pieces of content goal, payouts to contributors could reach USD$200 million per year. Lance Armstrong is an investor in the company. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently commissioned the company to supply the newspaper with a number of travel features. Others see the company and its output as a nefarious hijacker of search engine results and the media, replacing well-researched and fact-checked writing with an endless churning of “good enough”


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