My daily blog post today on CharterWave is a scathing review of an article in the current issue of SmartMoney, the magazine of The Wall Street Journal. This magazine from one of the most prestigious brands in journalism has published an article about yacht charter (my primary area of expertise) that is incomplete, misleading, and downright irresponsible. Basic standards of journalism, it seems, no longer apply to titles that win National Magazine Awards.
As I was tossing my hard copy of that article into the garbage, I scanned my e-mail in-box. It contained a Google News Alert directing me to a new article about yacht charter from Associated Content.
“Great,” I thought. “Now I’m going to have an aneurysm.”
Associated Content is a “content farm” that uses search algorithms to determine what online readers are seeking, and then pays freelance writers paltry sums to churn out SEO-friendly articles. What I might have earned, say, $750 to write for a reputable magazine based on my years of experience and expertise, a content farm like Associated Content or Demand Media will pay a random freelancer as little as $15 to produce. These companies make it impossible for expert writers to earn a living, and instead turn content into a commodity produced by the lowest bidder.
So I clicked over to the Associated Content article about yacht charter with serious trepidation, read through it, and determined that it is—accurate, informative, and excellent. I even linked to it for my CharterWave readers. It was exactly the opposite of the SmartMoney article from the prestigious publisher that had probably paid its writer a very good wage, even though she produced four pages of junk.
My 20-year understanding of the world of journalism seems upside-down. Today, at least, the content farm trumped The Wall Street Journal organization in terms of accuracy, competence, and usefulness to readers.
I think I’ll go eat a brownie, drink a barrel of red wine, and pass out on the couch. Maybe the standard rules of the universe have flip-flopped, and debauchery is the new path to becoming thin, healthy, and successful. I might as well take advantage while I still earn enough as a writer to buy decent pinot noir…