Demand Media and AOL’s Seed project have been getting lots of attention lately, in part because they’ve both become poster children (although Demand more so than Seed) for the idea of a digital “content factory” — a virtual sweatshop filled with people toiling at terminals for pennies a day, churning out stories about algorithmically determined topics. While Demand has been described as“fast food” content by TechCrunch, Seed got some press recently for a high-profile attempt at “crowdsourcing” content around SXSW by finding people towrite about all 2,000 bands at the Austin conference.
Meanwhile, hardly anyone talks about Associated Content, which CEO Patrick Keane notes has been around longer and is arguably bigger than either of its newer competitors. And make no mistake, Associated Content has been subjected tomany of the same criticisms as Demand Media and Seed about low-quality, mass-produced content. Slate writer Farhad Manjoo, for example, described it as “a wasteland of bad writing, uninformed commentary, and the sort of comically dull recitation of the news you’d get from a second grader.” However, he also admitted that the site got more visitors than many other mainstream media sites, including the Washington Post, primarily because its stories were “bulging with hot search terms.”