The Demise of the Content Mill

sinkingI hate to say we told you so…


…. well.

Yeah. We told you so.

*Content mills are quickly becoming a thing of the past. As evidenced by the unexpected resignation of the founder and CEO of Demand Media (parent company to one of the most well-known content mills on the block, Demand Studios), Richard Rosenblatt. Unexpected is, of course, assumed, simply because they didn’t have someone ready to take his place.

Let’s think on that for a second: he’s the founder of the company, folks. And he bailed.

Sure, maybe there was something else going on here, but if there was some personal family matter or even a new job, there would have been notice given to the company so they could find someone else.

This reeks of a ship taking on water and the captain bailing before it sinks.

Kat and I jumped our own ship two years ago because we knew what was coming. In fact, September marked my second year of resigning my position with a content mill in order to focus my writing solely on Ink’d and trade publications.

And it was the best decision I ever made.

I was one of the first 15 people hired to work with that particular company and I watched it change hands twice and build to over 300 writers in less than two years. By then, I was overworked and under-appreciated. And I didn’t make crap for all the time I put in. I was stressed to the max. The “insider” perspective made it pretty clear what was going on. Namely, I could see right off that the mill mentality crept in without much acknowledgement, and I got out before it got worse.

And this new development in the content mill world, admittedly, puffs me up a bit by confirming that Kat and I were dead on in our premonitions for the future of the content mill industry.

In essence, content mills are dying. There just isn’t room for them anymore.

Where it’s Headed
They’re being pushed out by what one might call “content boutiques.” Companies (like Ink’d, of course), that hire only a few, very talented writers to take on work for a limited number of clients. Limited only because you can’t produce content like a factory assembly line and expect it to be successful, usable and meet ever-changing quality standards set by Google algorithms. It’s just impossible to maintain quality and consistency when your company is cranking out hundreds of articles a day. Who is going to read each and every one to make sure they’re good? No one. Because a content mill won’t pay them enough to do it.

Unless you outsource overseas – and that’s a whole other soapbox (needless to say, outsourcing content to a country where English is not the native language kind of brings the quality meter down even further).

Anyway, back to the boutique thing (sorry, I’m a little passionate about this subject).

When a content company takes the time to adequately appreciate its writers, then those writers will produce quality content. That means:

  • Appropriate, if not stellar, compensation
  • A reasonable time frame to complete articles (i.e., not 100 at $1 each in one week)
  • Copy editors that give both positive and constructive feedback, and work to teach writers to become better at what they do, rather than just meeting their editor deadlines
  • A communication system where everyone feels heard and doesn’t fear losing work if they express concern
  • A company that will stand behind its writers, even if that means losing a client

Because, when you make the writers feel appreciated and wanted, and they produce quality content, then you have happy clients. It’s a cooperative circle of success, as I say.

Cheesy? Yes. Accurate? Absolutely.

So Demand Studios’ stocks haven’t done well since they were opened to the public a couple of years ago and Rosenblatt resigned last week. The logical conclusion is that DS is headed out the door. And if the lead ship is capsizing, you can surmise that the whole of the content mill industry is on the verge of drowning.

Fine by me. Just means more room for Ink’d, and others like us, to shimmy our way into the ranks and establish the appropriate reputation for the content industry as a whole…

Successful. Consistent. Quality.

You know – the way it’s supposed to be.

So, what are your thoughts here? Where is the industry headed? Are content mills on their way out to make room for more specialized content marketing firms? Are you a freelancer – if so, how do these changes affect you?


(originally posted on Ink’d Content)

*A “content mill” (also, “content farm”) is a company that employs large numbers of freelance writers to produce mass amounts of content in a short amount of time. The pay given to freelancers is often compared to “sweatshop” rates – many writers produce hundreds of articles in a week in order to make ends meet. This often results in low quality content that only meets minimal standards in order to optimize search results and, thus, maximizes profit for the company.


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