The piece came out in March, so this blog post isn’t exactly timely. But Demand looks like it’ll be around for awhile, so what the hell.
As author Dan Fletcher explains:
“Founded in 2006, [Demand Media] runs a slew of popular Internet portals, including eHow.com, Cracked.com and Livestrong.com, that receive 100 million hits a month — more traffic than any of the digital properties of Disney, NBC, ESPN or, yes, Time Inc. The company, based in Santa Monica, Calif., is also directing an army of freelancers to write stories that appear in traditional media outlets, most notably in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s weekly travel section, and a Demand executive says more deals with large off-line brands will be announced soon.”
Fletcher goes on to describe the “finely tuned assembly line” that allows Demand to crank out a ridiculously high volume of content:
- An algorithm chooses profitable keywords.
- An editor writes a headline incorporating those keywords and specifies article length.
- A freelancer researches and writes the article.
- The article is checked for plagiarism, fact-checked and proofed (sometimes returning to the writer for revisions) before it is posted to a Demand site.
Each step of the way, someone is paid a little something (and I do mean little) for his or her effort. The editor, for instance, earns a few cents per article. And the writer? Well, beginners make as little as 3 bucks.
The result, offers Fletcher, “is a company that’s able to produce profitable content on a scale that traditional news organizations can only envy.”
Obviously, Demand’s model sparks major questions about quality of content. But what really perplexes me is this: Who can afford to write and research an article for, say, $7.50? Suppose you spend a half-hour doing the research, an hour writing and 15 minutes on revisions. That’s one-and-three-quarters hours, or $4.29/hr.
Now, you can live pretty high on the hog if you’re taking home that kind of coin in Zimbabwe. But I assume there aren’t too many Zimbabweans who can write coherently in English. Maybe I’m underestimating Zimbabweans. Or maybe I just write too slowly.
In any case, I hope Demand never sets its sights on producing content for corporate websites. Because if they do, I’m going to have to slash my rates dramatically to survive. (Gulp.)