How many of you are old enough to remember the Internet when it was new to homes across America? I know it is hard to believe, but there was a time when the Internet was a bit of a novelty and between then and now, it has undergone massive changes. One of the most dramatic changes involves the amount of real information available.
Once upon a time you could put in a keyword or phrase and find dozens of websites full of information. This was the wild west days of the internet, so sometimes you got things that didn’t add up, but over all you found real, honest to goodness information. The sources you found were real, like companies or experts in the field, university articles or lay-sites with solid resources.
During this time frame you could dig a little and come away with some genuine knowledge of just about any topic. It was an exciting time to be online because it was truly a treasure trove of information and connectivity. You could communicate with everybody from everywhere, learn about anything and virtually connect with the world.
Now that the Internet has aged a bit you’d think that it had only gotten better. If you think that, you’re wrong. I dare you to put any topic into your favorite search engine. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now, when you do this you’ll notice an alarming fact, most of your returned results are forum results, question and answer sites and article marketing content repeated in similar forms over and over again.
If you’re still a Google user, and you shouldn’t be, but if you are, you’ll also find the sponsored results and ads of all kinds. So what has replaced real information is a bunch of people answer questions for other people, people talking about things related to what you’re looking for and dozens of other questionable sources. On top of that you have an overwhelming amount of cloned articles so obviously copied from one another that only the titles are changed.
Among those questionable sources are article marketing pieces. These are articles on every topic imaginable that find their way onto sites as legitimate sources of information. They are most often written by content mills that hire writers with no knowledge, just the ability to throw together some sentences around a topic and some keywords.
These dubious articles are then sold for very little and find their way onto websites around the world. Sometimes site owners will change them up a bit so they seem less stiff and generic, but other put them up as is. If you’re astute, you’ll notice this from site to site as you see wordings and phrases repeated. This, my friend is not information, this is the cheapening of the information highway.
Other than kill the Internet as a source of information, article marketing kills the freelance market. The reason is simple, this content is cheap. People throw it together and sell it for pennies. Content mills bid on content jobs on freelance sites and low ball the estimates so much that real writers cannot compete. Do you really want to write 500 words for a couple dollars?
Every time you look up something and see a bunch junk results like Yahoo answers you’re the victim. As a writer, when you can’t find meaningful work because some content mill dramatically underbid you, you’re the victim. I am not sure what we can do about this problem at the moment, other than acknowledge that it is truly an issue. What are your thoughts?