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Content farm

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Title: Content farm  
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Subject: Ghostwriter, Link farm, Hack writer, EHow, Web content, Yahoo! Voices, List of mergers and acquisitions by Yahoo!, Churnalism, Examiner.com
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Content farm

In the context of the World Wide Web, a content farm (or content mill) is a company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines. Their main goal is to generate advertising revenue through attracting reader page views[1] as first exposed in the context of social spam.[2]

Articles in content farms have been found to contain identical passages across several media sources, leading to questions about the sites placing search engine optimization goals over factual relevance.[3] Proponents of the content farms claim that from a business perspective, traditional journalism is inefficient.[1] Content farms often commission their writers' work based on analysis of search engine queries[1] that proponents represent as "true market demand", a feature that traditional journalism lacks.[1]

Characteristics

Some sites labeled as content farms may contain a large number of articles and have been valued in the millions of dollars. In 2009, Demand Media (including eHow) was projected to be publishing 1 million items a month, then equivalent to four English-language World Heritage Encyclopedias a year.[4] Another site, Associated Content, was purchased in May 2010 by Yahoo! for $90 million.[5]

Pay scales for content are low compared to traditional salaries received by copy editors. One company compensated writers at a rate of $3.50 per article. Such rates are substantially lower than what a typical copy editor might receive; however, some content farm contributors produce many articles per day and may earn enough for a living income. It has been reported that content writers are often educated women with children seeking supplemental income while working at home.[6]

Criticisms

Critics allege that content farms provide relatively low quality content,[7] and that they maximize profit by producing "just good enough" material rather than high-quality articles.[8] Articles are usually composed by human writers rather than automated processes, but they may not be written by a specialist in the subjects reported. Some authors working for sites identified as content farms have admitted knowing little about the fields on which they report.[9] Search engines see content farms as a problem, as they tend to bring the user to less relevant and lower quality results of the search.[10] The reduced quality and rapid creation of articles on such sites has drawn comparisons to the fast food industry[11] and to pollution[2]:

Google reaction

In one of Google's promotional videos for search published in the summer of 2010, the majority of the links available were reported to be produced at content farms.[12] In late February, 2011, Google announced it was adjusting search algorithms significantly to "provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."[13] This was reported to be a reaction to content farms and an attempt to reduce their effectiveness in manipulating search result rankings.[14]

Research

Because of their recent appearance on the Web, content farms have not yet received a lot of explicit attention from the research community. The model of hiring inexpensive freelancers to produce content was first discussed as an alternative strategy to generating fake content automatically, together with an example of the infrastructure necessary to make it profitable through online ads, and techniques to detect social spam that promotes such content.[2]

While not explicitly motivated by content farms, there has been recent interest in the automatic categorisation of web sites according to the quality of their content. [15][16] A detailed study on the application of these methods to the identification of content farm pages is yet to be done.

See also

References

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