Over at AdWeek on Monday, Mike Shields wrote an interesting piece entitled ‘Content Farms: Angels or Devils?’. I re-tweeted the link and I asked the question above: Is just okay good enough for your brand?

If you haven’t read the piece, please take 5 and go read it now.

This trend in article writing is disturbing. On the one hand, you now have a content publishing model that is powered by the people. That’s great, we’re all content producers now, and everyone gets a voice. I’m all for it!

On the other hand, you have websites like eHow and Associated Content that are actually paying (albeit next to nothing) for content on the back of this people-powered model. And that’s where I draw a line on the whole non-expert publishing thing.

You get what you pay for

Just as the days long ago when I was in school and anyone could just re-write the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica and hand it in as their own, anyone today can go to Wikipedia, copy all the information, ‘re-write’ it and publish an ‘article’ on the topic. It’s not professional, it doesn’t require any skill (apart from English), and it isn’t really ethical. It’s certainly not something that should be paid for.

Is it?

I don’t think it is. It is not ethical to pay so little for content that the people producing it basically copy and paste from other sites and re-jig it so that it ‘passes’ a copyright check. It isn’t ethical to aggregate content that you’ve paid (a pittance) for under the guise that it’s ‘user generated’. It is unethical to masquerade as a ‘content network’ when your content and online presence are built on the practice of regurgitating unoriginal content.

Can you think of another industry where advertisers would be so keen to buy up spots without any citations, regulations, or control? Would they be so keen to buy advertising if I copied all the content out of a newspaper, re-wrote it all, and called it the ‘Daily Newsgraph’?

No. That would be unethical, wouldn’t it?

Would you really pair your brand up with something like that?

Apparently, some would:

“It’s not up to me to determine the morality of paying someone so little,” says Eric Bader, Initiative’s chief strategy officer. “I have to evaluate things strategically and ask, does this represent an opportunity for my brand?”

Eric Bader would rather tie his brand up with something with questionable ethics, than to pay what is fair and right for an equal opportunity in traffic.

The quality of unique content

Remember, I’m fully supportive of user generated content. I like being able to go to sites and read real reviews of products. I like being able to learn from others about how to build things, or wire up my sound system. I admire unique and useful copywriting. I admire the people who are so passionate about the subject that they take the time to share it. I thank them for their time and effort.

Truly unique content is a beautiful thing no matter who creates it. It is engaging, relevant and interesting. If it is valuable content and it is worthy of purchase, it should be paid for on the merit of its value. Some of the brands and advertisers in Mike’s article agree.

Would you like your brand to be associated with engaging, relevant and interesting content? Or is ‘just okay’ good enough?

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