Friday, July 23, 2010

A Few Thoughts About Internet Content Sites

The battle is raging concerning the type of writing known as Internet content sites. That's the type of site, where I write, is. The pejorative term applied to them is content mill or content farm. Some call them content aggragators. I think I'll stick with content site for now.

Those who consider themselves journalists run down the content sites based on: low quality of the information provided; low quality of the writing; low pay for writers; lack of editorial input; and quick turn over of writers. Where are the editors, they ask, who will make sure the story/article is "balanced" and complete, and that the writing is good? Where are the fact-checkers, they ask, who verify that the information given is actually correct?

These are all valid concerns. I can only speak for my experience at Suite 101. Management there says that about 20 percent of those who apply to be writers are actually accepted. Articles are to be 400 to 800 words. Writing is to be based on SEO-search engine optimization--so that people can find the articles. Quality of writing is a secondary concern, but it is not ignored. Suite has no fact-checkers, relying instead on the writers to do it right. Suite is constantly advertising for new writers, and consequently have a lot of educational tools to bring new writers up to Suite style.

Suite does have editor input. I've had about 10 of my 106 articles either flagged for correction or had the editor make minor changes. But I've seen lots of other articles go by with misspellings, grammar errors. Some have poorly constructed sentences, and poor organization of information within the article. Suite 101 definitely has quality issues.

Yet, the site provides a service that seems to be wanted: information. Information that is easily found electronically. Information that may be shallow, but tells just enough that the reader goes away satisfied.

America has changed, perhaps not for the better, but it has changed. Writers need to change with it. Print publications will be with us for a while. Perhaps fewer of them, and maybe more specialized, but they will be with us. I'm not sure the average information reader really cares much about the quality of the writing. Sure they will notice horrendous grammar, but many other things an editor would fix for a print publication seem to be of no consequence to a reader.

Content sites--or maybe they would be better called "Information sites"--are part of the new information supply dynamic that is being tested through the search engine Internet. Whether this is a temporary thing while the world transitions from print info to electronic, or whether it is the future, I don't know. I know that I'm trying it for now, with no plans on quitting any time soon.

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