Demand Media recently unveiled a deal to provide content to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's print and online travel section and hinted at other unions with traditional outlets. Why does it matter?
Few companies cause more worry for journalists these days than Demand Media, which employs 7,000-plus freelancers to crank out thousands of service-oriented stories and videos daily, paying these contributors a paltry $15-$30 per piece.
Called a content farm, Demand posts most of its content on its own Web sites, like LiveStrong.com. It uses complex algorithms that evaluate popular search keywords to find good story topics. "It is establishing that content can be gauged per unit, as opposed to a whole package of a paper or magazine," notes Ken Doctor, author of Newsonomics and news industry analyst for Outsell.
Demand declined an interview request, but Doctor says that what threatens traditional media most is the business model using algorithms to determine the type of news people want, adding that within three years many traditional news syndicates could be measuring content by similar metrics.
Demand, along with rivals like Associated Content and AOL Seed, won't compete with traditional outlets on breaking news, says Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. However, he adds, they're proving that "perhaps consumers don't care as much about quality content as editors traditionally thought."
As the Demand model takes hold, PR will have to adapt, says Jake Wengroff, global director of corporate communications for market research/consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. "With Demand using thousands or freelancers, where would PR people even start their pitch?" he adds. "You can use Profnet and similar services to link up to them, but as far as traditional media relations, there's no obvious role."Three facts:
According to The New York Times, Demand has five times as many YouTube videos than any other source
Demand Media produces 4,500 pieces of original content daily, most of it for its own Web sites
Demand raised $355 million in private capital and in 2008 claimed to generate $200 million in revenue