I was quite intrigued this morning when I read Elinor Mills recent article Pay-for-blogging raises questions on news.com. In essence, Mills story examines whether or not Associated Content exists to harvest adsense dollars like so many spam factories out there, or whether it is simply an open publishing forum married to a sustainable business model. As Mills explains:
The company asks bloggers to write on the subjects of their choosing and accepts text, video and audio. Contributors can be paid based on the quality of the article and keyword optimization. In most ways, Associated Content's methods seem fitting for any typical Web site--do your best to get play on Google search results and make money off its advertising. In fact, Associated Content is hardly the only company churning out content to match with Google ads. The success of Google's AdSense program, which matches ads with content on Web sites, and the growth of blogging applications have led to the emergence of pay-for-blogging companies that help match willing writers with sites that want content.Mills continues by explaining that the reason people have been critical of the company revolves around the quality of the material generated. Some of these critics do appear to have valid concerns; Danny Sullivan at search engine land explains that the site isn't quite in-line with Google guidelines despite the fact that the site is co-founded by Tim Armstrong who sits on Google's board, and Kate Kaye is concerned with the various companies that Associated Content has partnered with. As I see it, this debate is not about "quality" at all. For every brilliantly crafted article on the internet there are several thousand that are almost indecipherable, and this is ok. It's also fine by me that much of what I've found on Associated Content is rather lackluster, but I am concerned that the Associated Content's format may encourage not only poor quality posters but writers adept in the skills at manufacturing copy that serves no other purpose than generating results on major search engines. Of course, a simple option to flag questionable content should help remedy that concern. While the various concerns about Associated Content are legitimate, it does not appear that they have manifested at this point in time, and the positive potentials for an open-publishing agency far outweigh these fears which are still on the horizon.