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Content farm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A content farm or content mill is a company that employs large numbers of freelance writers or uses automated tools to generate a large amount of textual web content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by search engines, known as SEO (search engine optimization). Their main goal is to generate advertising revenue through attracting reader page views,[1] as first exposed in the context of social spam.[2]

Articles in content farms have been found to contain identical passages across several media sources, leading to questions about the site's placing SEO goals over factual relevance.[3] Proponents of the content farms claim that from a business perspective, traditional journalism is inefficient.[1] Content farms often commission their writers' work based on analysis of search engine queries that proponents represent as "true market demand", a feature that traditional journalism purportedly lacks.[1]



Some sites labeled as content farms may contain many articles and have been valued in the millions of dollars. In 2009, Wired magazine wrote that, according to founder and CEO Richard Rosenblatt of Demand Media (which includes eHow), that "by next summer, Demand will be publishing one million items a month, the equivalent of four English-language Wikipedias a year".[4] Another site, Associated Content, was purchased in May 2010 by Yahoo! for $90 million.[5] However, this new website, which was renamed Yahoo! Voices, was shut down in 2014.[6]

Pay scales for content are low compared to traditional salaries received by writers. One company compensated writers at a rate of $3.50 per article. Such rates are substantially lower than a typical writer might receive working for mainstream online publications; however, some content farm contributors produce many articles per day and may earn enough for a living. It has been observed that content writers are mostly women with children, English majors, or journalism students seeking supplemental income while working at home.[7]

Since the emergence and popularity of large language models, content farms have started using the tools to automatically generate content without any need for human authors.[8]

AI tools make it easy to fill up sites with massive amounts of content. When quality is not an issue, programs like ChatGPT can produce articles at an unprecedented rate. Google Ads provides 90 percent of the advertisements alongside this content, as large internet companies are willing to sustain this sort of business model.[9]

With a rise in these AI tools, AI-scribed content farms are on a rise which spews robot written content to generate ad money [10]



Critics allege that content farms provide relatively low-quality content,[11] and that they maximize profit by producing "just good enough" material rather than high-quality articles.[12] Articles that are written by human authors (rather than by automated techniques) are often not written by a specialist in the subjects reported. Some authors working for sites identified as content farms have admitted knowing little about the fields on which they report.[13]

Search engines see content farms as a problem, as they tend to bring the user to less relevant and lower quality results of the search.[14] The reduced quality and rapid creation of articles on such sites has drawn comparisons to the fast food industry[15] and to pollution:

Information consumers end up with less relevant or valuable resources. Producers of relevant resources receive less cash as a reward (lower clickthrough rate) while producers of junk receive more cash. One way to describe this is pollution. Virtual junk pollutes the Web environment by adding noise. Everybody but the polluters pays a price for Web pollution: search engines work less well, users waste precious time and attention on junk sites, and honest publishers lose income. The polluter spoils the Web environment for everybody else.

— Markines, Benjamin; Cattuto, Ciro; Menczer, Filippo, "Social Spam Detection"[2]

Not only is the content produced by these systems "low-effort," but these avenues are also used to spread misinformation. For example, conspiracy theories regarding COVID-19 were peddled by content farms, encouraging engagement by feeding into the mass paranoia. The websites promoting these ideas often also shroud the identities of those making editing decisions, making it even more difficult to identify an agenda.[16]

Content farms are also criticised for being the source of fake ad impressions,[17] a form of ad fraud, which takes an unfair share of available advertising spending away from legitimate publishers.[18]



In one of Google's promotional videos for search published in the summer of 2010, the majority of the links available were reported to be produced at content farms.[19] In late February 2011, Google announced it was adjusting search algorithms significantly to "provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."[20] This was reported to be a reaction to content farms and an attempt to reduce their effectiveness in manipulating search result rankings.[21]

Gabriel Weinberg, creator of privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo has reported that his search engine makes efforts to block content from content farms.[22]



Since their 2011 appearance on the web, content farms have not yet received much explicit attention from the research community. The model of hiring inexpensive freelancers to produce content of marginal or questionable quality was first discussed as an alternative strategy to generating fake content automatically; this was discussed together with an example of the infrastructure necessary to make content-farm-based sites profitable through online ads, along with techniques to detect social spam that promotes such content.[2]

While not explicitly motivated by content farms, there has been recent interest in the automatic categorisation of websites according to the quality of their content.[23][24] A detailed study on the application of these methods to the identification of content farm pages is yet to be done.[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Dorian Benkoil (July 26, 2010). "Don't Blame the Content Farms". PBS. Archived from the original on July 28, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Markines, Benjamin; Cattuto, Ciro; Menczer, Filippo (2009), "Social Spam Detection" (PDF), Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web (AIRWeb '09), ACM, pp. 41–48, doi:10.1145/1531914.1531924, ISBN 978-1-60558-438-6, S2CID 6078349
  3. ^ Driscoll Miller, Janet (February 1, 2011). "Content Farms: What Are They -- And Why Won't They Just Go Away?". Search Insider. MediaPost. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2014.
  4. ^ Roth, Daniel (October 19, 2009). "The Answer Factory: Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model". Wired. Archived from the original on February 23, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2011.
  5. ^ Plesser, Andy (May 18, 2010). "Yahoo Harvests "Content Farm" Associated Content for $90 Million, Report". Beet.TV. Archived from the original on February 2, 2023.
  6. ^ Rossiter, Jay (July 2, 2014). "Furthering Our Focus". Yahoo. Tumblr. Archived from the original on October 12, 2014. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
  7. ^ "What It's Like To Write For Demand Media: Low Pay But Lots of Freedom". ReadWriteWeb. December 17, 2009. p. 2. Archived from the original on February 19, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  8. ^ Thompson, Stuart A. (May 19, 2023). "A.I.-Generated Content Discovered on News Sites, Content Farms and Product Reviews". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  9. ^ Dupre, Maggie Harrison. “People Are Spinning Up Low-Effort Content Farms Using AI.” Futurism, Recurrent Ventures Inc, 2 July 2023, futurism.com/content-farms-ai. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  10. ^ Quach, Katyanna (May 2, 2023). "Misinformation tracker warns 'new generation' of AI-scribed content farms on the rise".
  11. ^ Patricio Robles (April 9, 2010). "USA Today turns to the content farm as the ship sinks". Econsultancy. Archived from the original on April 13, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  12. ^ Reinan, John (July 19, 2010). "I'm still waiting to make a bushel from my 'content farm' work". MinnPost. Archived from the original on July 27, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  13. ^ Hiar, Corbin (July 21, 2010). "Writers Explain What It's Like Toiling on the Content Farm". MediaShift. PBS. Archived from the original on March 30, 2017.
  14. ^ MacManus, Richard (December 15, 2009). "How Google Can Combat Content Farms". ReadWriteWeb. Archived from the original on July 28, 2010.
  15. ^ Michael Arrington: The End Of Hand Crafted Content. In: TechCrunch vom 13. Dezember 2009.
  16. ^ Marr, Bernard. “The Danger of Ai Content Farms.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 Oct. 2023, www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2023/05/16/the-danger-of-ai-content-farms/?sh=82f8e3b4fcab. Retrieved February 28, 2024.
  17. ^ Buzz, Carles (September 25, 2015). "How to Build a Content Farm in 20 Minutes". Vice. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  18. ^ Radsch, Courtney C. (2023). Content Farms and the Limitations of Copyright for Independent Media (Report). Centre for International Governance Innovation. pp. 16–17.
  19. ^ Wauters, Robin (July 23, 2010). "Google's New Video Ad Highlights How Content Farms Rule At The Search Game". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on April 13, 2021.
  20. ^ Singhal, Amit; Cutts, Matt. "Finding more high-quality sites in search". Official Google Blog. Blogspot. Archived from the original on February 26, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  21. ^ Guynn, Jessica (February 26, 2011). "Google makes major change in search ranking algorithms". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 27, 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  22. ^ "The Search Engine Backlash Against 'Content Mills'". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved February 28, 2023.
  23. ^ "Discovery Challenge 2010". ECMLP KDD 2010. 2010. Archived from the original on April 9, 2011. Retrieved April 22, 2011.
  24. ^ "Joint WICOW/AIRWeb Workshop on Web Quality". dl.kuis.kyoto-u.ac.jp. 2011. Archived from the original on February 14, 2020.