When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

07 March 2006

The Dumbification of Web Content

There is a new and insidious threat to the World Wide Web: a slowly rising tide of "original content" on Internet sites that is at best worthless, and at worst possibly even dangerously inaccurate.

I should know; I've been writing some of the stuff myself.

Understanding what's happening requires a lesson in modern Web economics. If there is a topic in the news, people will be searching on it. If you can get those searchers to land on a seemingly authoritative page you've set up, you can make money from their arrival. Via ads, for instance.

A fascinating article from Wall Street Journal reporter Lee Gomes describes this new racket. Gomes answers a help-wanted ad looking for web authors, and is offered $100 (total) to "write" 50 articles, 500 words each, on topics like "colloidal silver."

What he's really being paid to do, of course, is plagiarize existing material, changing it just enough to fool the not-so-bright algorithms of the major search engines. And this kind of manipulation, left unchecked, will do significant damage to the information ecosystem of the Web.

Read the entire article: Writer Creates Original Content But Is In For A Surprise (Wall Street Journal via CareerJournal.com)

(Also posted at Knowledge Work)

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