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Shawn Amos

Shawn Amos

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Content Is Best Fresh -- Not Farmed

Posted: 03/14/11 06:28 PM ET

Recently, Google helped bridge the technology-content rift. These are good times for those of us who value high quality, meaningful content -- the words, images, and stories we care about most.

For years there has been tension between those who create technology and those who create content. Technology has the benefit of being easily scalable. A few weeks or months of coding can result in solutions that reap huge benefits. The global success of Facebook, Twitter, and Google are all triumphs of technology.

However, the unprecedented growth of these and other Internet-driven businesses could not have happened without meaningful content. Whether created by millions of Facebook users or the paid professional geniuses who write "The Daily Show," content is what makes the Web truly viral. Content is the life blood of the links, embed codes, and cut-and-pasted articles we send around the Internet everyday; it's content that makes us laugh, keeps us informed, and lets us participate in a global conversation.

Content is big business. Yes, technology has the means to carry information across the globe at light speed, but it's the information it carries that has the means to inspire millions. Make no mistake, content is still king. The trouble with content -- at least to some technologists and accountants -- is that it's hard to scale.

Despite all of our technological advances, content creation still requires time, inspiration, and a certain amount of sweat. There aren't any shortcuts. You can't write an algorithm for it. You can't predict it. You can't code it.

This frustrates many digital media denizens, who are constantly seeking ways to get their content without pesky, unpredictable creative nuances. Some content inspires. Some content sucks. Some of it can catch the viral wave while other stuff fails the sticky test and becomes stale as soon as it's posted. This is torture for number-crunchers, who like their spreadsheets filled with clean lines. But it's wonderful for anyone who likes a world filled with the serendipity and magic of the human touch.

When I started Amos Content Group in 2009, I made a simple bet: our handmade, contextual, and authentic content will stand out in an increasingly information-saturated world. Many people have asked me the same question, "How do you scale a company that serves handmade editorial and video content to businesses and brands?" The answer is simple: scale and quality are two different things.

We at Amos Content Group consider ourselves a boutique content creation agency. We believe content that matches our clients' voices and aims should be as contextual and smartly written as possible. Our clients -- including such media companies as Fox Broadcasting and Spike as well non-media businesses, including K·Swiss and Loeb & Loeb -- agree.

What we are not is a "content farm" -- one of the many large companies, such as Demand Media, that crank out homogenized, high volume, mass-produced content on the backs of young writers who may or may not have a passion or full understanding of what they are being asked to write. Sure, companies like Demand Media are scalable, but they offer little of lasting value for either business or consumers. But these farms are too busy playing the SEO game to care.

For those of you not familiar with the SEO (search engine optimization) game, it goes like this: A company decides it can make a bunch of money by "owning" certain Google search terms. Let's take the word "zits." When you search for "zits" on Google, there are a whole bunch of companies hoping you'll click on their site once you see the results.

Let's pretend zits.com wants to corner the skin-care market. In order to be the #1 Google search result for the word "zit," zits.com creates a bunch of stories about zits. It doesn't matter how good the stories are. It doesn't matter if the stories have anything to do with the zits.com Website or its services. It just needs a large volume of stories that somehow relate to the word "zits," no matter how clumsily or inauthentically the connection is made. And often companies like zits.com hire companies like Demand Media to churn out this "content."

You see, until recently, repeating the same type of terms over and over was something that would help a Website increase its Google results rankings. But no more. Now the Internet's most popular search engine has cracked down on these content farms and their questionable practices. Google engineers Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts recently explained why:

"This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites -- sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites -- sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."

Authenticity now counts. Context counts. Google has recognized the secret of success to this arranged marriage between technology and content: keep each other excited with fresh, original, relevant ideas.

Fresh content doesn't exist to game the SEO system. It's the words, images, and stories that truly engage us, make us want to share with others, and creates a bond between us and a brand. Creating this kind of content takes time. There are no short cuts. Writing contextually relevant, authentic content takes a passion for the topic. It requires the ability to use language that speaks not only to the subject but also to the world in which we live.

You can smell a content farm a million miles away. It's as soulless as the corporate farms that churn out cookie-cutter, rubber-tasting filler posing as food. Fresh content, on the other hand is the stuff that brands are built upon. I'm glad that Google is recognizing the fresh content from the filler. Leave it to those technology guys to bring us a giant leap forward again . . . and make the world safer for the good stuff.

 
 
 

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