Garbage Content

Posted: February 16, 2011 in Blogosphere, Consumerism, Corporatism, Economics, Media

TechCrunch has a curious article arguing that Google search results are becoming increasingly useless as marketers and spammers game Google’s search algorithms to direct traffic to their sites for click-through revenue. The central paragraph is at the end:

Content creation is big business, and there are big players involved. For example, Associated Content, which produces 10,000 new articles per month, was purchased by Yahoo! for $100 million, in 2010. Demand Media has 8,000 writers who produce 180,000 new articles each month. It generated more than $200 million in revenue in 2009 and [is] planning an initial public offering valued at about $1.5 billion. This content is what ends up as the landfill in the garbage websites that you find all over the web. And these are the first links that show up in your Google search results.

Many of the referrers to this blog are spam sites offering, among other things, financial advice and tax preparation services. The number of deleted spam comments (lots of porn and gambling sites) is over 46,000, which outnumbers the 381 approved comments by a sizable factor.

It used to be politely agreed that the Internet is for, well, porn. It seems it’s also now for spam. Even Google is acknowledging this fact by offering an extension to its browser, Chrome, that filters out sites created by content farms. I had never heard this term before, but content farms apparently mine popular search queries and automatically create websites designed to attract the attention of web searchers using those terms.

These disreputable practices follow long-established use of bogus reviews on sites such as Amazon.com and Epinions.com pushing products of all kinds. Garbage content isn’t restricted to the Web. Newspapers and TV journalists have long used advertising disguised as news and video news releases. This is not merely blurring the lines; it’s outright misrepresentation. Navigating the information glut and evaluating political rhetoric (just as an example) has never been especially easy. Until trustworthy authority can be established or restored (don’t look to Wikipedia for this), a savvy reader/viewer would be well advised to regard nearly everything he or she sees with a healthy dose of skepticism.

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