I was recently reading a Wired article that profiled a company called Demand Media.
The company is one of many companies that are seeking to become a “content factory”. Their goal is to automate the production of web content that is carefully targeted to capture the most high value traffic from the search engines. Both answers.com and aol.com, for example, are going after similar models.
Demand Media makes two boasts: 4,000 pieces of content a day and algorithm for identifying topics for authors to write about. Peter Kafka has recently noted that Demand Media is probably more valuable than the New York Times.
How much content does it take to be considered a thriving content factory? According to a recent profile from ReadWriteWeb, here are some numbers from the most popular content sites:
ehow.com (owned by Demand Media): 4,850,000
I am in no way trying to imply the sites such the NY Times, Washington Post, or Wikipedia are comparable to the content factories. I bring it up to show how rapidly the content factories are growing. Michael Arrington has written an interesting post about how the content factories may indicate the decline of “hand-crafted content”
I write all this to compare the content factory approach with the approach that we have embraced at HubPages: what I would term the ‘content community’ approach.
Rather than a factory environment where content is owned by the host site, we provide a crowdsourced environment where the copyright stays with the author. The author is not limited to a one-time fee for writing content but is entitled to monthly payments based on the ad revenue generated by the pages written (60% of ad revenue generated by an article goes to the author).
Are HubPages hubs higher quality than the content factory articles? It’s definitely our goal to keep raising the quality standards at HubPages. Hubscore has gone a long way in promoting quality. I think that we can do more.
I bring all this up because even if the content factories are starting to get lots of attention, I think that the future lies with content communities. I believe that ultimately authors will want to retain the copyright for their best stuff. It is always more fun and rewarding to be part of a community rather than a cog on a wheel that turns according to a master algorithm.
To be fair, eHow, which is owned by Demand Media, operates as a content community so it is quite possible that in the long run, Demand Media will move more in this direction.
Additionally, its questionable whether the content factories will be able to keep up their current search traffic levels. John Battelle believes that Google will be working hard to put a stop on their influence. John believes that “2010 is going to be a very interesting year.”