AOL has announced that its new strategy is to copy Demand Media through automated topic creation and mass outsourcing of writing to freelancers.
According to a report that first appeared in the Wall Street Journal, “AOL is putting the finishing touches on a high-tech system for mass-producing news articles, entertainment and other online content.”
The new system will identify topics people are searching for, them pump out content to match that via a new AOL outsourcing site called Seed.com.
What isn’t clear from the report is how this strategy will affect blogs within the AOL network; CEO Tim Armstrong is talking about revolutionizing content delivery and as one site put it, “largely replacing his editorial staff with robots.” Most of those editorial staff members work across AOL content sites, the core of which use to be the Weblogs Inc network. It would be insanity damaging sites like Engadget for example by replacing existing editorial direction with robots and on demand freelancers (vs permanent freelances writing for the site specifically.) And yet, the idea is being pitched as across the board, suggesting that the existing blogs will likely be driven by automated editorial as well.
The model, the issue with the existing blogs aside, isn’t a bad one and the success of Demand Media shows that. However, the success of the model relies primarily on search results (vs reader loyalty) and that’s a model that is inherently risky, particularly when the model on the scale AOL is proposing to do it, complete with internal linking, is not far removed from search engine spamming.