How to profit from long-tail journalism | FT Alphaville

How to profit from long-tail journalism

Google may be stepping into the business of content production and journalism.

As the FT scooped on Thursday:

Google is developing technology that could position it to compete with a new breed of digital media companies that are generating story ideas for the internet by mining online search data for under-covered topics.

Except, not really.

What Google seemingly recognises is that the internet has become cluttered with  “inadequate content” produced by a new wave of digital companies focused on generating ad revenue from click counts.

It’s content that has been produced at minimal cost and short-notice, according to what computer algorithms tell the content generator readers are currently looking for.

What it ends up doing is drawing readers directly to faux websites, rather than useful and insightful articles that actually satisfy their searches. The simplistic sites  prey on the clickability of their ads, structured to appeal specifically to key word searches readers have put into Google in the first place.

A bit like this.

One of the pioneers of the process, a company called Demand Media, is already planning an initial public offering valuing it at about $1.5bn.

The technique as the FT describes goes as follows:

These algorithm-based systems allow Demand and others to pump out stories at blinding speed. Demand alone generates more than 180,000 stories a month on everything from “How to whiten your teeth” to “How to know if your waters have broken”. It contributes five times more videos to YouTube than any other single publisher.

Ed Croft over at Stockopedia has described it as ‘long-tail’ demand-driven content. We like the term.

But what’s really mysterious, is what Google is doing developing an “inadequate content” identifier.

As the FT points out, it’s unlikely to be because it finds the process unsavoury. It’s more likely the search-engine would want to tempt more established media outlets into the same game:

Google’s patent on “identifying inadequate content”, co-authored by some of the search group’s leading thinkers, including Hal Varian its chief economist, details a similar system that analyses search engine queries to spot topics of high interest which are not readily available from publishers.

What Google plans to do with the patent or whether it will build a product is not known. One person familiar with Google’s thinking said it had no intention of creating content to meet the needs it identifies and that there were “no immediate plans” to create a product based on the patent.

But if the world’s largest search engine were to build a system and offer it to all web publishers, as it detailed in the patent filing, the move could upend one of the hottest new fields of digital media creation.

All we know at FT Alphaville is that some financial blogs have been in the “we must drive click counts as much as possible” for a long time already.

But we shan’t name names.

Related links:
The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model
– Wired
Google eyes Demand Media’s way with words
– FT