Posted February 21, 2011 10:00 am by with 3 comments

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AOL fights very hard to remain outside of the conversation when it comes to being a content farm at its heart.

The recent purchases of The Huffington Post and TechCrunch are given as continued evidence of AOL’s desire to produce more than just keyword driven drivel that is designed to run vacant eyeballs past ads.

Well, the longest experiment of this kind is AOL’s Engadget blog which has been in the AOL family since 2005. To cut to the chase it appears as if there is something out there called ‘the AOL way’ that is making people who are interested in producing quality content seek something other than the fertilizer rich fields of a content farm.

The following quote is from now ex Engadget editor Paul Miller (hat tip to All Things Digital) and it tells a not so pretty tale of what is happens when it appears that a blog is being absorbed into ‘the AOL way’.

“I’d love to be able to keep doing this forever, but unfortunately Engadget is owned by AOL, and AOL has proved an unwilling partner in this site’s evolution. It doesn’t take a veteran of the publishing world to realize that AOL has its heart in the wrong place with content. As detailed in the ‘AOL Way,’ and borne out in personal experience, AOL sees content as a commodity it can sell ads against. That might make good business sense (though I doubt it), but it doesn’t promote good journalism or even good entertainment, and it doesn’t allow an ambitious team like the one I know and love at Engadget to thrive.”

Hmmmmm. That is not really a rave review is it? Miller had been with Engadget for more than five years so this is not the knee jerk reaction of a relative newcomer to the scene.

So what do you think? Will The Huffington Post and TechCrunch start to see some of the same impact as their time experiencing ‘the AOL way’ grows?

This kind of development isn’t earth shattering but it is a warning sign of sorts. Despite AOL’s best efforts to stave off the ‘content farm’ label that appears to be a front facing PR position rather than a corporate direction.

Have you ever heard the expression for TV news broadcasts “If it bleeds it leads!”? The idea being the more sensational the story and the more shock value the better chance of being it becoming a lead story. Maybe in the new Internet world of high volume, low quality ‘content’ we can turn a new phrase today of “If it smells it sells!”?

You have any other ideas?

  • Paul

    I’ve noticed many sites that I have added to Google Reader are posting way more than they did only a few months ago. All of them are competing for who can have the most eyeballs and are slowly draining the lifeblood from their sites. A homeless man standing at a busy intersection, holding up a work for food sign ,receives more “eyeballs” than a bestselling book. Which is a better read?

  • Thanks for that post,

    I have a friend that used to work for AOL over here in the UK and it seemed like every week they were creating some form of ‘new’ content from the latest band. Everything from short one question interviews to intimate shows in small London studios. I hope they can keep some quality in the Huffington Post and Tech Crunch now they are part of this global corporation.

    Keep up the good work and thanks again for the post.


  • It is unfortunate that low quality content is what sells to the masses; however that can only last so long. Eventually they will realize that quality is better than quantity.