In an unassuming mid-rise office building on the Santa Monica cliffs (1299 Ocean Avenue, to be exact), the nation's most profitable "journalistic" machine is hard at work -- churning out those short, un-researched half-answers that pop up, begging for clicks, every time you type a stupid question into Google.
And against your better judgment, you always click.
Congratulations: you've just contributed to the $1.87 billion market-value debut of Demand Media yesterday. Yes, that's more than the New York Times Company. Sad day for journalism; ray of sunshine for the future of Internet economy. [We first wrote about Demand in October 2009: "That New Model For Journalism? It's Here (And It Ain't Pretty)".]
PaidContent.org reports that Demand's stock is already at $22.65 a share, the strongest start by a digital-media company in the last year besides Chinese video server Youku (You just have to outdo us at everything, don't you, China?).
Given Demand's debut and Google's new home in that rad Gehry complex in Venice, it looks like L.A.'s Westside is quickly becoming the next big locale in digital media.
We originally nicknamed AOL's happy-go-lucky line of localized Patch sites "The Wal-Mart of News," but considering the entire lot of 'em attracts fewer hits in a week than we do in a heartbeat, we'll give Patch the nosediving Blockbuster award and bestow upon Demand our top Wal-Mart honors.
These SEO gods know what the American people want -- and they give it to them. For better or worse. Which leads to garbage like "Space-Saving Ideas for Zucchini," "How to Make Trellises From Twigs" and "Best Colors for Mediterranean Men to Wear."
Back in 2009, as noted in the former Weekly post, Steven Kydd, executive vice president of Demand, blogged: "Media isn't dying, its story is just being rewritten. And, we're working to adapt the talents of traditional publishing to the opportunities today's technology brings -- albeit with a sustainable business model the industry needs."
Well, that's one way to look at it.
In light of Demand's success, Forbes blogger Jeff Bercovici has written a damn humorous guide to reading Demand Media "articles." A couple of our favorites:
The Arbitrarily Location-Specific Article
This is an article that tells you how to do something you could do basically anywhere but includes the name of a specific geographic locale in the title in order to push it to the top of search rankings in that locale. Almost never does it contain actual information particular to that place.
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The Article for People in the Narrow Band of Humanity Who Are Smart Enough to Know About Google But Not Smart Enough to Figure Out How to Do the Thing They're Googling
This is pretty self-explanatory.
Also amusing is a comment left by delaidefinette, who claims to copy edit for Demand:
"I'm a sometime copy editor for Demand (yes, I admit it: I'm a hack), and your compilation of Demand drivel made me laugh out loud. I rarely laugh out loud, except maybe when editing an article about pregnancy yoga or a how-to on building barns, or when I see article titles in my queue like "Is Building a Barn a Good Pregnancy Exercise?" and "Can Building a Barn Help Me Lose Weight While Pregnant?" (No, I sure DON'T pick those.) Your analysis was spot on, to the point of poignancy. The editorial world has gone absurd on us."
Keep churnin' them out, guys. We wouldn't want the pregnant women of the world to go barnless, now, would we?