Home Ad-Driven Content – Is it Crossing The Line?

Ad-Driven Content – Is it Crossing The Line?

Yesterday we wrote about how Demand Media produces 4,000 new pieces of content every day – and whether it can sustain quality at that scale. There was vigorous discussion about the quality issue in the comments, including from some of Demand Media’s thousands of freelance writers.

In this follow-up post, we look at the type of content that Demand Media outputs. It turns out that much of it is driven by advertising demand. Again we feel compelled to ask: is this good or bad for the Web’s future?

Demand Media is one of the largest producers of content on the Web
today and is ranked among the top 15 Web properties in the United States. It’s also syndicating content to large media sites like Yahoo. All of this means that the type of content Demand Media is producing will get more and more common on the Web.

Service Journalism

Demand Media claims that its content is not journalism. However, it does compare its model to service journalism (a.k.a. “news you can use”), a concept rooted in the 1960s and common in lifestyle magazines such as Good Housekeeping. This is content such as tips and feature articles about fashion, food and travel.

Demand Media told us that it aims for “useful, usable content.” The content it produces has an “evergreen quality” to it, they say.

CEO Richard Rosenblatt told me at the Web 2.0 Summit last month that Demand Media will be syndicating content more to traditional media properties in 2010 and beyond. They see ‘service journalism’ content as being complementary to not only magazines, but large portal sites like Yahoo.

An interesting observation from Rosenblatt was that Demand Media content is “very similar to Associated Press content.” In other words, it “helps fill the pages” for newspapers, magazines and other media properties.

Matching Content With Ads

What may be more controversial is that Demand Media makes no bones about their content being produced in order to put ads around it. OK, almost every online publisher has a similar objective: to make money with contextual ads. ReadWriteWeb makes most of its revenue from online advertising.

What’s slightly different here is that Demand Media is custom producing content in categories where there is strong advertiser interest. A specific example of that is a YouTube ad program with Target that is currently running. In this channel based around holiday consumerism, content created by Demand Media is featured side-by-side with advertising. Below is a screenshot showing an eHow video entitled “How to Make Cornbread Stuffing,” with a Target ad to the right.

Demand Media told us that advertisers are crying out for new content to advertise against. If a large media network like Yahoo is looking to “create content with ads,” the next step for Demand Media is enabling their customers to “order content with ads.” An example might be something like this: Demand Media produces a how-to article on playing tennis; then sells it to a Yahoo sports site accompanied by tennis equipment adverts placed around it.


Is what Demand Media is doing much different from mainstream media publications or blogs?

One difference is that ReadWriteWeb (along with many other online publications) is a journalism business, so we strive for editorial independence and there is a ‘church and state’ line with advertising. Demand Media isn’t journalism in the traditional sense – that isn’t the reason for its being and the company freely admits that. Demand Media produces content to make money, it’s as simple as that really.

What do you think: is what Demand Media is doing just a natural extension of contextual advertising? Or is it crossing a line where content is too married to advertising?

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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