While writing my Platform Evolution post I gave some thought to commenting on an excellent Infographic about content farms. No sooner did I decide against it than I ran across this excellent post on Publishing Trends about content farms. Then, a day later, a good friend sent me an unbidden and timely link to a post on Making Light, which, among other things, talks about — wait for it! — content farms.
If you’re not familiar with content farms you can get a quick overview here. As a writer, what concerns me most about content farms is that they are to writing and publishing what Ebola is to the human body. If I was an astrophysicist I would also add that content farms are to information and knowledge what solar storms are to communications. And if I was a logician I would say that content farms are to accuracy and reliability what tsunamis are to fishing villages.
Which is to say that everything about content farms is bad, but not equally bad. The worst aspect of content farms is not that they’re the new frontier for spammers and swindlers, it’s that producing so much crap at such an incredible rate renders every single aggregating and filtering mechanism useless.
Google as a search engine for retail products and reviews has been beyond broken for years. (Try searching for “best _____”, where the blank is any product you’re interested in.) Amazon is currently the default search for products, but it’s starting to fall apart as well. (Am I looking at the latest version of the CD/DVD/book I want to order? Is it new or used? Does it ship free or for a fee? Is it shipping from Amazon or some fly-by-night third-party reseller?) And of course the idea that all that ballyhooed user-generated social-media content is pretty much crap is also nothing new.
What content farms do that’s new is automate the production of internet crap by exploiting free labor and making liberal use of other people’s content in a plausibly deniable way. For independent writers trying to attract attention, fighting through the noise pollution generated by content farms may seem impossible, and all the more so as content farms begin to pollute e-book retailers like Amazon. The antidote to this virulent hemorrhage of obfuscating web text may seem to be a gated social networking community, but I think the opposite is true. [ Read more ]