Ugh. So you remember all those style guides you’ve poured over, and grammar checks, and fact checks, and carefully crafted sentences . . . all pithy, witty, snappy, alluring? Turns out the computers are going to take this one away from us, too. Have you heard of content farms? Not so many cute animals running around these places. No, instead these farms are distinctly early 21st century and are responsible for “SEO driven churnalism” (thanks, The Atlantic for that bit of wry).
Another way of putting it is that content farms are pushing journalism away from “good” and toward “relevance”. What’s so bad about that? Who wouldn’t want to be relevant? Well unfortunately for purveyors of good thoughts and sentences, Google relevancy just has to do with moving up in the ranks, not actually being connected in any meaningful way to quality or the real world. You’re relevant if you’re number one. So the Perez Hiltons, the Wikipedias and About.com’s of the world are eating the craft of journalism alive. Google has promised and apparently tried to crack down on content farms in their secret algorithms, but who knows if it’s really working? I doubt it.
In an SEO driven world, where relevant doesn’t really mean relevant, how do you balance quality work with the need to been seen and get paid?